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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Oldham East and Saddleworth - a foot soldiers viewpoint

On Monday, three cars, each full of Scottish Liberal Democrats set off from various parts of Edinburgh heading South to Oldham East & Saddleworth to assist Elwyn Watkins to become the next MP for the good people down there.

This is the first Parliamentary by-election for a while where I haven't been part of the core team, ovbiously because of our key elections in May and it has felt odd.

I don't feel guilty though, I've done my fair share including Glasgow East, Glenrothes and Glasgow North East in the last two and a half years since being in Scotland.

However, once dawn had broken and Tebay had provided us with our nourishment we were eager to get on and the one thing that was noticeable as we drove into Oldham, sorry, not noticeable, very bloody obvious was that the Liberal Democrats were winning (hands down) the garden stakeboard battle.

In fact we had counted over twenty before seing any for Labour - which I was somewhat surprised at - UKIP have a few, mainly on pubs but it was definitely the Lib Dems winning overall.

We did spot a couple of random Tory ones during the day and one green, but hundreds of Lib Dem diamonds, all over the place.

So, that was a great motivation and we hadn't yet got to the HQ.  When we arrived there I left colleagues signing in as I went to say hello to my colleagues from the Campaigns Department and activists I know from here, there and everywhere.

WOW, that place was rocking and buzzing, Monday morning and already over 100 keen activists through the doors and more importantly, back out the doors and delivering, no time for tea or coffee!

The rest of the group had a photo while I was quickly catching up with people, then a quick word with my boss and a handshake and hello with Elywn before heading back out onto the streets armed with thousands of leaflets and letters to deliver.

We had been sent out to Shaw, and once again it was the Lib Dems winning the garden stakeboard battle, but also the window poster battle - more evidence of Labour here, but not much more and no sign at all of any other parties.

Once again, like May the people were supporting the Lib Dems, it appears the journalists who have become obsessed with this constant barage of criticism against our party have not made their anger known here.

It's funny though, because the media have become obsessed now with saying if we lose on Thursday then that's a bad day for Nick Clegg - why? 

We don't hold this seat, it is a Labour constituency, so if we don't win then what does it prove?

But, let me ask those journalists this, if we do win, and from what I saw we have an incredibly good chance of doing so, what does that say about the Labour Leader, the choice of the Unions, Ed Milliband?

Again, if we do win it, what does that say about Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats and coalition government (the media down South don't get coalitions)?

Anyway, back to the actual campaigning, I spoke with a few people as we were out delivering, no one refused the leaflets although I did have a couple of people check I wasn't from Labour before accepting them and everyone seemed to know or know of Elwyn, a great omen for Thursday.

The leaflet we were delivering was fantastic, I especially enjoyed the bit reminding people what the Labour Party, which Ed Milliband has been part of before leading, he does seem to forget everything that happened pre-May 6th 2010 for some reason.

1997 - Gordon Brown sold off Britain's gold at a twenty year low price
1999 - Labour offer a miserly and insulting 75p increase in pensions
2001 - Labour incompetence leads to a £10 million tax credit bungle
2003 - Labour takes Britian into an illegal war with Iraq
2007 - Labour announce they will double the basic rate of tax from 10p to 20p
2007 - Labour let bankers run riot - we are all paying the price
2008 - £3 billion benefits overpaid

We rally have forgotten some of this stuff and before all the Labourites jump on my back, yes they did introduce some good things over the thirteen years but your own leader seems to have a selective memory at the current time so I'm entitled to select the things I want to select.

Also, let us remember why this by-election is happening, it was called after disgraced former MP Phil Woolas was found guilty by two High Court judges of knowingly lying to voters in a last-ditch bid to hold his seat at the General Election.
And as Liberal Democrat councillor Jackie Stanton said, "It is disappointing that neither Ed Miliband nor the new candidate have apologised for their disgraceful campaign in May."

Very disappointing - same old Labour.

Good luck to Elwyn Watkins on Thursday and to all of my friends and colleagues that are there as well, your hard work and dedication deserves nothing more than a victory, and the people of Oldham East & Saddleworth deserve nothing less than an honest, hard working MP, let us hope for their sake it is Elwyn Watkins.

As I sit and type this at 5am in the morning I am tweeting with a couple of friends who are working on the night shift in Oldham - that is the side of elections the public don't see or realise even.  We are paid, like everyone else for a 37.5 hour week, but not only do we always end up doing way more than that, we work some exceptionally unsocial hours at election time - but we do love our jobs.

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