I really like Aylesham. I like hiding away in Jam and Roses, where my agent and I sat for an hour today filling in our paperwork; I like the chippy / café on the square, where I’ve had chips and gravy and a cup of tea more times than I can count; I love the old school, now the Workshop Trust and visiting BeChange and the café there and I also love the people of the village. The people of Aylesham are a wonderful mix of old mining families, people with musical Geordie accents (with an unmistakable Kentish twang) and folk more recently moved to the new estate, mainly (but not exclusively) it seems from around Canterbury and South-East London.
Knocking on doors in Aylesham was really interesting. I’m not going to lie, we certainly had people come to the door and say they’d be Labour since they started to chew solid food, but that this time they were struggling. I had great chats with 6 people who started like that; we heard the line a few times that Corbyn is a friend of the IRA (absolutely not true, this is Daily Mail waffle, based on the fact that Corbyn’s approach to peace and reconciliation is nuanced and thoughtful; he talks to all sides to bring them to talk to each other). Remember, it was it was Michael Gove who called the Good Friday Agreement – the 1998 peace and power-sharing agreement now governing the north – ‘a mortal stain’, a ‘humiliation’ for the British army. Jeremy Corbyn voted for it.
So, despite so wavering on doorsteps, what we found was that even when households were unsure about voting Labour, they said they’d never vote Tory. Most of the folk we spoke to came around and said they would vote Labour after all; it was nice to speak to us, they said. Nice to see us out on the doorsteps again (our councillors are great round here), nice to see a candidate with energy (all that tea!), nice to vote for change.
Some of the most interesting chats I had were about immigration. I spoke about the Shamima Begum case with one lady for 20 minutes. Another seemed to think Labour’s immigration policy was to let absolutely anyone in (not true, we want a system that prioritizes movement for those who we need to work in our NHS and social care; basically, this will apply across a range of jobs, skills and professions where applicants have proven and tested skills. People coming to take up specific job offers, where it can be shown that those jobs cannot be filled by workers already resident here, will also be able to come here). Without certain people coming into the UK, our hospitals and social care sectors will be drastically understaffed. We must not forget this.
Lots of people took posters today. Lots of people wanted postal vote forms (winter election!) and we felt pleased with our efforts when after some hours, the team headed back to the chippie for more tea. After that I whizzed to meet my mum and dad for a cup of tea (see – more tea! I live on it!) and had one of those classic election moments where I bumped into the Conservative candidate for Canterbury in a café. We both agreed that we couldn’t wish each other luck, but we did wish each other well (keep it friendly people!)
Friday was more of an admin day. I’m still working on some of the content of our election addresses, but I also went into Deal for coffee and to hit the charity shops (I get this from my mum – I love a good charity shop). I caught up with my campaign manager and the rest of the core team and then had an afternoon with my children.
At around half past eight, my phone suddenly went crazy. Beeping, ringing… beeping and ringing. It was the BBC South East, then the Sunday Times, then the local press… they had heard, had I? Mr Elphicke was stepping down and [wait for it] the new Tory candidate was Mrs Elphicke. What did I have to say about it?
Well, we hadn’t expected that. In all truth, I thought Johnson would give Mr. Elphicke the whip back at the last minute before candidate paperwork had to be in. Now, I’ve never met Mrs. Elphicke, so I don’t have anything against her personally. Politically, I don’t know much about her either. She wrote a report on housing for the Cameron government, which didn’t seem to be wholly put into action at the time but had some laudable aims and is clearly an educated, erudite woman, but – as she claims – she’s been campaigning for the Conservatives for decades and so, in effect, has been part of the neglect and cuts agenda which has blighted our district. She seems to have been a banking lawyer in London back in the day and she stood for a seat in Suffolk in 2010, only to be pipped to the position by Matt Hancock.
How she was selected here also remains a bit of a mystery. Until yesterday, on his website Mr Elphicke was declaring himself to be ‘the candidate’. Now to become an empanelled Conservative candidate takes months and months (although perhaps she was still empanelled from her Suffolk tilt). Anyway, more questions than answers perhaps.
As I said in the statement I put out online and to the press, ‘candidates with a surname other than Elphicke are available.’ On this (and maybe this alone) myself and the Brexit Party representative agreed!