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We are entering what could be called the ‘fog of war’ phase of the campaign. Speculation is rife as to how well each party is doing and what they are doing in different wards. Will Labour’s vote fragment as in the general election of 2005? Will the Green’s spring a surprise? Will the Lib Dems make in roads into traditionally solid Labour wards? Is our vote increasing in the areas where we need to win? Nobody really knows the answer to any of these questions but they are questions which are pre-occupying the local candidates of all the main parties here in Camden right now.
In the Regent’s Park Ward we delivered 5,500 elections newsletters over the Easter weekend. As many who have delivered in large council estates will know it is good to deliver early so that the trades buzzers give you access to the tower blocks. Once inside the high concentration of letter boxes gives you a sense of ‘delivery momentum’ an essential rhythm for the successful deliverer. To the extent that local people here have not seen very much of the Conservatives in the last few years we have had some positive feedback on the newsletter; a few people have said to me that it is good that we are putting up a fight here; that we haven’t completely abandoned the place to Labour.
A lady rings me after receiving the newsletter. She says that she has been having some trouble with her neighbours who are noisy and harassing her. She has cancer of the colon and is in severe pain; but can’t get any sense out of the Camden housing people. I take her details and say I will try and see whether I can help. She says that she might be able to get me one or two additional votes from some of her friends that have all lived in and around the area for a twenty or thirty years. It is common complaint that I keep hearing again and again here; that Camden’s housing and repairs service is a complete shambles and is letting down some of the wards most vulnerable people.
Campaigning always tests the strength of your political motivation and challenges the nature of that motivation. In the last week, pounding the streets here, it has struck me that we, as Conservatives, campaigning in areas like Regent’s Park, are seeking permission from people to once again be trusted as a party that is on their side and that they can relate to. It is not an easy task; but is an essential task if we are to rebuild our strength and challenge Labour’s hegemony. For here in this rock solid heartland of Camden’s brand of Labour politics there are simply too many people being let down, passed over and they can’t see any alternative to the status quo.
Tony Blair made a visit to Camden this week. Most of the Labour councillors didn’t want him to come fearing that his presence would probably cost them votes. Hopefully his presence would have pushed a few more traditional Labour voters to want to make a protest vote or simply not vote at all. The news from the more affluent end of the ward is that Sven Goran Erikkson is putting his Regency House on the market for £3million. Though he’s not on the electoral register I thought he might like to read our newsletter so I popped one through his letter box. I hope his decision to sell up is related to his post World Cup career uncertainty and not to do with the content of our newsletter.