Essex MP's bid to win New Hampshire, USA
AN MP spent his New Year rubbing shoulders with American political giants as he joined Hilary Clinton's campaign for the US presidential candidacy.
AN MP spent his New Year rubbing shoulders with American political giants as he joined Hillary Clinton's campaign for the US presidential candidacy.
And now parliamentary colleagues are joking that it was Simon Burns, MP for Chelmsford, who was responsible for the extraordinary about-turn in the former First Lady's fortunes when she shocked pundits and politicians alike by winning the New Hampshire Primary.
Conservative Mr Burns flew out to the US on New Years Eve to begin working for the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire, where his duties included telephone canvassing, issuing invitations and even chanting slogans on street corners.
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But the highlight of his time there was when the trio he calls “Bill, Hil and Chelsea” arrived in the state after a poor result in the Iowa caucuses.
“By sheer good luck I managed to get in the front row - I was only six feet away from Bill and Chelsea, and about 10ft from Hillary.
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“As soon as the speeches were over they came forward to 'work the room' and, as I was so close, that meant me as well.”
Mr Burns said that in the wake of the Iowa result, won days before by rival candidate Barack Obama, some in the Clinton camp were not so much worrying about whether she would lose New Hampshire, but by how much.
But he said any gloomy feelings soon lifted at a rally when the results started coming in shortly after polling closed. At no point was Clinton's lead overtaken throughout the entire night.
“It was a massive surprise,” he said. “It was unbelievable in the auditorium. When she won everyone was ecstatic.”
Mr Burns, a keen follower of the Kennedy family and a self-confessed “Clintonista” for around 15 years, said his Tory colleagues in the House of commons had got used to the perhaps surprising idea of one of their MPs being a keen Democrat.
But he explained: “To say the Republicans are the equivalent of the Conservatives and the Democrats are the equivalent of Labour is just too simple.
“Bill Clinton is in favour of capital punishment, he balanced the US budget and Hillary wants to cut taxes for the middle classes. Those are Conservative values.
“The Democrat Party goes from the liberal wing of Ted Kennedy right through to the right wing attitudes of some southern congressmen. Meanwhile the republican Party has shifted to the extreme right.”
And he added that he rejected any notion he had played a key role in swinging the Primary in Clinton's favour.
“That's just tosh,” he said. “But I am very pleased she won and if in even a very, very minute way I helped, then I am proud of that.
“It wasn't me that won it, it was her, with her policies and hard work.”