Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Day 2
When I say “Day 2” I don’t really mean Day 2, of course. It’s just the second day I’ve been out with the canvass team. In fact we’ve been in Campaign Mode for over a week, delivering leaflets, attending functions, knocking on doors, calling people up. Outside of “Official Campaign Days” the rest of the Campaign is always a frenetic ongoing mass of activity.
Three teams were out today. My team were in Foul Anchor in the morning while the other two leafleted in Leverington. Then we all moved to Leverington for canvassing later in the day. We didn’t have the glorious weather of Day 1, but the rain held off until lunchtime and by then we were inside, drinking tea and eating ham rolls at the day’s HQ in Four Gotes.
Leverington is the largest of the villages in Roman Bank and has a very diverse mix of people who call it home. I’ve always enjoyed canvassing Leverington because I know a lot of folks there and also because there’s never a dull day – something interesting always happens.
Three things stick out in my mind about today’s Campaign. The first was that I encountered some UKIP-Con switchers. This is new for me. Until their meteoric rise last May UKIP weren’t really “a thing” in most places, but when we did encounter their supporters it was usually because they had switched from the Conservatives over some national issue; gay marriage, our EU membership, spare room subsidy – whatever the angry cause of the day was. UKIP have enjoyed some electoral success, but that has come with a price – public exposure. Although the local press are still giving them a mostly easy ride, there has been such a series of gaffs, problems and criminality that even a friendly local media can’t completely protect them. So it is that we’ve had to create brand new codes for our sheets; the UKIP “waiverer” and the UKIP-CON switcher. We don’t mind. We just shake their hands and say: “Welcome home.”
One of my colleagues encountered that most rare and exciting of creatures; the Campaign Troll. Most people, even those who don’t support your party, are polite and friendly at the door. Even the grumpy ones can usually be won around by a polite: “Well thanks for your time, have a great day!” But there are some who are just perpetually furious with your party and want to tell you – loudly and angrily – about all the things they hate. The list can include things which have nothing to do with you, things that a different party did, things you have no power over, things that happened decades earlier or even before you were born, and occasionally things that never happened at all and have apparently been invented out of thin air. I call these people Campaign Trolls, though they do not usually live under a bridge. Under a cloud, maybe. We had one of these today. Initially he told us that he used to vote Conservative, but had switched to Labour and then to UKIP. After telling us at some great length what he disliked about Margaret Thatcher, Immigration, Tony Blair, Immigration, Young People, North Sea Oil, the NHS and, for some reason, the Royal Jubilee celebrations, he brought his argument to a powerful conclusion: “I called your candidate six months ago,” he said, “And what did she do? Nothing. Useless, she is. Useless.” When we pointed out that our candidate is brand new and has never been a District Councillor before he looked a little embarrassed. We tried to give him an easy out by saying: “I’m sure it was just a mistake, perhaps you meant somebody else,” but he was having none of it. “She is a Parish Councillor,” he said, hitting triumphantly on the wording in her leaflet. “That’s why I called her!”
“She’s a Parish Councillor in Newton,” we gently pointed out. “This is Leverington. Leverington has its own Parish Council.”
“Well,” He roared, “It doesn’t matter anyway! You’re all the same. That’s why I never vote.”
“But you told us you voted Conservative, Labour and UKIP…”
The final surprise was in a quiet and pleasant little back road in Leverington. I had just finished a lovely Conservation with an older lady about the new Tesco (she was very keen on it) in Wisbech when a colleague rushed up to me pointing excitedly at his canvass sheets. “Look, look!” He said. I stared at the columns and there, amongst the Cs and Us and Ks and Ss (Conservative, Undecided, UKIP, Socialist) there was a single “L”. My colleague had circled it for emphasis. “Wow,” I said. “An L? What IS that? How strange.” So rare now is it to have Ls on our canvass cards that finding one is a little bit like when a trainspotter sees some really obscure engine. The rest of our team approached muttering “Oohs” and “Ahs” at the strange sigil which adorned the column. “Who’d have thought?” I said. “We’ve found the only Liberal Democrat In The Village.” We considered some sort of protection order. It’s not that we are particularly big fans of Liberal Democrats, but when something is this rare and endangered we have a duty to protect the last of its kind. After all, who wants to live in a world where Liberal Democrats are extinct? Oh. Wait…. : )
The Independent Candidate Erbie Murat has chosen to go for the “no frills” approach with his literature and printed a plain piece of white paper on a single side. That’s cool and kinda “old school”. I like it. Colour and design are less important than message, right? Erbie’s main message is to tell everybody about his “Honesty & Integrity” and also to point out his great and long experience in local government both in Peterborough and Wisbech. You’d think that with all those years experience he’d know how to write a proper election imprint. It’s a pretty tiny thing since he did include his name and address and the abbreviation “p&p” which may stand for “printed and promoted by” or may stand for “postage and packing” – but those Election Law folk are sticklers for the rules and his imprint is not formatted correctly. Clearly he didn’t mean anything by it – and I’m certainly not going to be reporting him to the Electoral Commission for such a small mistake. But for somebody making their pitch on how experienced they are, it seems a little careless. After all, the correct format is explained in the information pack you get when you become a candidate.
I found the UKIP leaflets fascinating. It’s a little scrappy purple thing that has no policy or plan whatsoever and simply says: “We tell the truth” in various ways over and again. I chuckled at the bit that says: “a trait that is common amongst all UKIP Councillors – the truth” and I wondered – did anybody tell Lagoda? I mean – he’s Independent now – but he wasn’t over the course of the previous year while he was telling everybody how innocent he was. Also noticed that Alan Lay seems to think that he is standing for “Roman Bank Wards” – it’s one District ward Alan. Just one. Not a whole bunch. #sigh God forbid anybody chooses to elect Lay again – can you imagine how many letters to the paper we’d have then? The Wisbech Standard would need a new section, “Letters From Lay.” :)
All that aside it was a thoroughly enjoyable day in Leverington talking to local people and just enjoying the the sights and sounds of the village. Already looking forwards to our return visit next week!