Political correspondent David Allkins writes about taking the message of Every Vote Counts from the grass roots to politicians at a national level. He travelled north to meet candidates standing for election in the Trafford area of Manchester.

Manchester is actually the furthest away that I’ve travelled so far for this role, given that I live in the tip of Cornwall. I flew from Newquay to Manchester, and when I landed and told airport staff where I was from, one asked me what the surfing was like there!

This week, we filmed a piece at the United Response supported employment centre in Trafford. The local MP there happens to be Kate Green, the Shadow Disabilities Minister. After talking to the grassroots last week, I thought it would be a good idea to take their message to politicians at a national level.

John Cooper, my producer and our campaigns manager, set up interviews with candidates standing in the constituency. Our press team had also arranged for Nikki Fox, the BBC’s disability correspondent, to meet me and cover my reports for Every Vote Counts.

A stimulating visit

I met John after passing through the maze of corridors that is Manchester airport and we braved the roads to get to Delamere Toy Library in the Flixton area of Manchester. Here we met our first interviewee, Councillor Lisa Cooke, the Conservative candidate for the seat of Stretford and Urmston.

The Toy Library is designed to be a place where children with learning disabilities can learn to interact with other children in a stimulating, sensory environment. The library’s toys had been put back in their boxes, but we could still see glow-in-the-dark planets in a corner. Lisa Cooke had suggested the place as it is a voluntary organisation that she supports.

The next day was the busiest. Myself, John and United Response’s senior press officer Xanthe Breen headed to the United Response Trafford HQ for a day of filming. We arrived before everybody else and recorded our ‘set-up shots’: pieces of film that establish where the report is taking place.

The first thing we did was meet the consultants working on Easy News magazine stories, Jermaine, Sinead and John. Ali Bishop works with the consultants on Easy News and Laura Stott manages the centre. They all made us feel very welcome, and we spoke to everyone about what they thought about the election.

Starring in a BBC report

Later that day, Nikki Fox and her BBC crew arrived to interview me about the Every Vote Counts campaign. She helped me to feel at ease during the interview. We filmed the BBC who were filming us (it was like a making-of documentary!) and both of us got on with our reports.

I spoke to Kate Green, the Labour Shadow Disabilities Minister, for my next film. Her brief covers all the issues that I’m raising about people with learning disabilities having the opportunity to vote and accessible information. After Kate left, we managed to record some more material with Nikki Fox and the Easy News consultants, as well as an interview with Louise Ankers, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the seat of Stretford and Urmston.

The last person I spoke to was Joanne Hyde, the Deputy Returning Officer for the constituency. She told me what the local electoral services are doing to ensure that all their staff are aware of the issues raised by Every Vote Counts, and how they are ensuring that people with disabilities can vote.

All of the candidates that I interviewed were very professional and helpful in responding to my questions. It’s great to know that our campaign’s message is getting across and that my role is really helping to do this.

This was one the busiest filming sessions yet, but also one of the most rewarding. I would like to thank BBC disability correspondent Nikki Fox and her cameraman Steve, the Easy News team, the staff in Trafford and all the other people who graciously gave their time to be interviewed.

Watch my latest video

This week, my film with the candidates in Stretford and Urmston reports on what politicians are doing to ensure people with learning disabilities can exercise their democratic right to vote.

Take a look:


Nikki Fox and I are currently coordinating on my next film, where I show her reporting on Every Vote Counts and she reports on me carrying out my role as political correspondent for BBC News. Watch this space for details of the transmission date!

Follow my reports online

You can keep up to date with my weekly reports and interviews here on the United Response blog, and watch them all via our dedicated political correspondent YouTube playlist.

David Allkins, political correspondent.