Eddie Todd, the independent candidate for Doncaster Central, likes to present himself as the Donald Trump of the town. A self-made man, he’s had a more than an interesting career. A forthright, no-nonsense Yorkshire-man who, oddly for somebody wanting to be elected, doesn’t care about what people think.
Todd, a regular at Doncaster Market, stands outside chatting to two men. Both converts to the “man not the party,” one is much more sceptical about his chances of victory than the other in the die-hard Labour seat.
“They just re-elect the same people,” one says as the older man insists that he has faith in Todd.
But just as the former airshow pilot and inventor come motorbike-mogul starts to talk, a voice from the background interrupts him.
“Eddie, the pen here says you’re Mayor,” a butcher outside the market shouts, pointing to some election merchandise from Todd’s previous bid to become the town’s Mayor last month.
Leaving school at 14, Todd began work in the abattoir that supplied the butchers in the market. “I carried probably 10,000 lambs in there … running in with four lambs in my arms at once. I was so strong that when I was 24 I would have put my weight to weight for any man.”
The butcher, half-way through his self-rolled cigarette, interrupts: “That’s what we need. We need working class men, ones that know what we are against.
“Every trader [in the market] would walk tomorrow, they’ve had enough. Half of it’s empty, the councillors then come around and say it’s booming. Do you know anybody that leaves a successful business?
“Doncaster Market employs 600 people. If it was a factory that was shutting down they’d be uproar by MPs about losing 600 jobs. But the council just don’t care.”
As Todd starts to talk about how he is able to run rings around the lawyers, solicitors and accountants that are “pretending to run Doncaster,” the market trader hurries off back to work and I get chance to ask him about his plans for Doncaster.
As you would expect from an airshow man, he likes to put on a performance. One of his central plans, should he win, is to make Doncaster into a tourist attraction. After going to London, headhunting the best publicity man he could find and understanding what is expected of him as an MP, he would go to the United States.
To do what? To visit Disneyland. He’d meet with the bosses for advice on how to make Doncaster the tourist trap of the country. “I’ve brought American’s here and they love it,” the outspoken business man insists, highlighting how easy it is to travel around the country from the town.
“Doncaster is the centre of the universe for me,” he says, exuding his pride and passion.
This is where his motivation comes from – that and his more than apparent dislike of the council, seemingly after planning disputes combined with a series of other disagreements.
“Businessmen like me hate having to deal with the council. I spoke to a man who works in the House of Lords, I went on holiday with him, and he said that the problem with Doncaster is that it’s over governed.
“Go and have a look at the council meetings. Get yourself a beer and get yourself a brandy. Because you’ll drink the beer and you’ll need the brandy after. They haven’t got a clue.”
‘Politicians were bullied at school and now they want to bully everyone else’
Lamenting on the current state of politics, he lambasts Ed Miliband and the political class: “He was brought here because it’s a safe seat. He’s not interested. Not a bit. They’re interested in [being] jobsworths. They’ve been jobsworths all their life.
“They’ve been bullied at school and now they want to bully everybody else!”
But, despite this, he seems to have a place in his heart for Labour’s Rosie Winterton who’s held the constituency since 1997.
“She’s a lovely woman. She doesn’t seem to be your normal MP. She seems alright, but the things that she’s done, she hasn’t done anything. She’s not a diplomat. She’s not sold Doncaster. She’s not started developing it. It’s just her saying ‘more jobs, more houses, more for the NHS,’ all this rubbish that they think people want to hear. But where’s the money coming from?”
Keen to highlight his regular charity trips to Africa, he says now is time to help Doncaster.
“I decided that two months ago I wanted to get into a position where I could help Doncaster and Doncaster people. That’s it. I don’t need to glory hunt. I don’t need to earn any money. I’m as fit as anybody.
“I’m prepared to get people to spend money and develop Doncaster providing that the idiots that are on the other side of the fence aren’t blowing it away because we’d be pissing against the wind then, wouldn’t we?”
‘Doncaster. The biggest doss village of the world’
But his policies go further than turning the town into Donnyland. Amongst his plans he wants to see business rates and rents on council owned shops reduced by half, as well as the complete overhaul of the local council. He also wants to see something done about the prisons surrounding the town.
“Doncaster is on the doldrums, surrounded by three prisons. When they come out of prison where do they go? Doncaster. This is the biggest doss village in the world. They’re all coming on the train to cadge in Doncaster.”
Another thought of his is to set up what is essentially a speed dating service for the towns singles.
“A woman said to us, ‘Eddie, what are you going to do for us if you get in?’ I said, what do you mean, you’re working?”
After telling him about her being single, struggling to pay her electricity bills and rent he told her: “What happens if we start up a club and we get all these men that are on their own and all these women that are on their own and you get coupled up.”
“She might get a nice bloke.
“She said that she doesn’t want anyone. Well, if I wanted to live on my own I’d get a job and earn a living. At night I’d get a sponge and a bucket and go wash cars down the street or wash some old dears windows.
“I’m telling you, they’re all sponges around here. They’re all wanting handouts and the money’s gone.”
“I can deal with anybody”
He mentions his campaign is going very well, but he’s not stupid. He knows that it’s an uphill battle, but even then he’s eyeing a role in Doncaster’s public life. This time it’s Doncaster Council’s Chief Executive, Jo Miller’s.
“If I don’t become an MP should they take me on as ambassador working for them? Should I go behind the scenes and say this is what we should do?” he asks.
“I can deal with anybody,” Todd says reassuringly.
Walking back down the market strip, two of his campaigners diligently hand out leaflets and pens to passersby and even as he talks, members of the public stop Eddie and collect a leaflet. Lots of people around the market know who he is – but even Todd probably knows that he’s lost.
A former airshow pilot, wannabe-Trump businessman who becomes a borderline conspiracy theorist at times, Eddie Todd is, it seems, bizarrely more in touch with voters than he first appears to be.
From the way he speaks to people to even some of the social attitudes he has, Todd is the antidote to politics. Humorous, outlandish, approachable, friendly, unafraid to upset, with bags of personality, he’s someone you’d be happy to have a pint with.
If he gets into the Commons he probably won’t fit in. The era of the ‘professional politician’ has arrived and it’s difficult to see how Eddie Todd fits into this mould, one he wouldn’t want to fit into it in the first place. But maybe that’s what the people of Doncaster want.