Keeping a campaign blog might seem like an odd thing to do. After all, most political candidates want to keep their plans and strategies close to their chests, lest the opposition is looking. I’m not worried about that; the opposition can look all they like. These are my reflections, experiences and anecdotes from the campaign trail… maybe a bit more interesting than a leaflet! Less politics (for that, check out my key campaigns section), more feeling!
First Day of the Campaign – Weds 6th November
Formally campaigns kicked off today, although in truth, my team and I stepped into gear the day and election was called. We’ve been ready (or ready-ish) for a while now. We are all volunteers and thankfully, all friends (so far! Who knows what madness elections can drive people to). I have an agent, a campaign director, a diary lead, someone who heads up door-knocking schedules, another who runs polling day, I have a proof-reader (although I write all materials myself), a team who deliver posters and garden stakes, our local party secretary who deals with phone messages, emails and letters to our local office and many, many other volunteers who deliver, canvass (knock on your door), phone bank (call you!) and let their living rooms become filled with party paperwork for weeks. I feel lucky to have lovely people around me to get through these busy weeks with; I am going to have to keep feeding them sausage rolls, party rings and wotsits to keep them going though! Basically, the closer you get to polling day, the more the campaign room looks like the detritus from a child’s party.
Today I’ve visited a care home, phone called local members to firm up volunteer commitments and we knocked on doors in Tower Hamlets in Dover; yesterday we were doing the same in Middle Deal. At the weekend, we had loads of doorstep conversations in Walmer. There is no area we are aren’t going to knock (time and rain allowing!). People sometimes say to me ‘Oh, don’t go there. It’s far too Tory,’ but I honestly think politics and how political identities are formed is changing. It is changing fast. I’ve asked my canvass organiser to schedule some of the villages that Labour hasn’t knocked in decades – Church Hougham, here we come – this should be fun! What’s also been so nice is to have members and non-member volunteers come from outside our constituency. We’ve welcomed amazing men and women from Thanet, Canterbury, London and Dartford, including today the inimitable socialist-force-of-nature that is Councillor Kelly Grehan. Maybe there’ll be a chocolately prize for the volunteer that travels the furthest to campaign with us (ps – this is not a flag for my sister in Abu Dhabi to get on the first flight!).
Doorstep conversations have ranged from ‘a plague on all your houses’ (well, obviously not Mercutio himself, but you get the idea), to doors that close swiftly, to people who are really up for political exchanges, debates and (polite) arguments. Today I met non-voters, Labour, Conservative and Brexit Party supporters. I also met one man who still rates UKIP and I think, although I might be wrong, that there was one Lib Dem supporter too. Some areas have higher returns for minority parties, but generally, as this is a CON-LAB swing seat, people tend to vote tactically if they want their vote to count.
Over the past few days I’ve had some sad conversations too. Yesterday I met a retired Fire Fighter who was furious (rightly so) with what Jacob Rees-Mogg had said about Grenfell victims lacking common sense. We place trust in our rescue services, who is turn place trust in other officials (in this case the local authority) not to break build regulations. We trust councils to provide safe homes. The blame is not with the victims here. I echoed this resident’s disgust at the arrogance and insouciance of Rees-Mogg’s statement.
Another lady invited me in to feed my baby. She told me her son had died the previous week. Holding my own baby as she told me what had happened had me in tears. I hugged her. That’s all we can do in times like that.
Another door I knocked on was an older gentleman. His son answered the door and said his dad was very ill. I said I’d be happy to sit by the bed, have a cup of tea and talk politics at him, if not with him! (I knew his dad was very into politics) and we agreed we’d set that up! I continued to knock on doors up the road, but when I came back the same way half an hour later, two paramedics were taking someone out of that same house – I need to go back and drop a card in; I hope the older gentleman is okay.
Moments like those I’m describing above play on your mind, but sometimes ordinary life gets in the way:
On Monday, after a busy morning at our offices sorting leaflet schedules and key messages over a key team meeting, I get a call from my child’s school; he has to be collected as he’s got a tummy bug and a bag of messy clothes (nice!). I need to pick him up early. Just as I put the phone down to the school, the plumber calls, he’s found a leak and needs to remove the new tiles in the kitchen (noooooo!!!) – that’s why my boiler’s pressure has been collapsing to 0 for weeks! I have been wearing socks in bed! Then, whilst loading my washing machine (which also leaks btw) with said dirty clothes, I hear that a friend is in QEQM with a bleed on the brain after being hit by a firework and I message his wife to say if they need me they know where I am. My mother-in-law has been looking after my other children and when I get them home, I snuggle up with my daughter and watch His Dark Materials on IPlayer.
When it finishes the news is on and Farage is on the telly. ‘Do you know who that man is?’ I ask my daughter. ‘No’ she says, then after a pause, ‘Is he one of the Gobblers?’
I hug her tight and get ready for 5 more weeks of this!