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Sunday 23rd April: Saturday was a beautiful day! So of
course on Saturday I was uselessly at work in northern Italy
. Sunday it rained all day, so of course I
was out canvassing in Hoxton and Queensbridge wards in Hackney. What’s this,
you say, why not the ward where you’re standing, Graeme, ie Victoria ward
(right on the park, you know, with the lovely canal – "little Venice"
they call it when it reaches Maida Vale, of course here it’s just the Regent’s
canal; I dunno, why isn’t Maida Vale known as Hackney’s estuary? There’s no
justice is there?). We’ll talk about
Victoria LATER (candidates: yours truly, yours
truly’s other ‘arf (the mighty Keith), and Steven Farquar). Here’s a quick
summary of the day. We were delivering pledge letters to postal voters (if
you’d like to canvass with us: meet at the Cat and Mutton pub, Broadway Market
E8, Monday 24th or any other evening, 7pm; call me on 07740 089 855 for
directions, it’s 12 minutes from Bethnal Green tube. You don’t know what fun
sin can be, until you’ve spent a night with Hackney Conservative Federation).

Sunday 11am: I’m at the Beehive pub in Hoxton. This is
the sort of pub I love, for all the sort of reasons I can’t write about on a
family website: it’s in the east end, it’s very popular, it gets quite busy.
Very friendly. Today I notice that there is quite a large Polish clientele. I’m
of the opinion that the influx of Poles is the best thing to happen to London
in decades. Zeinab arrives (candidate in
Haggerston) and we wait for Alexander (candidate in Queensbridge) to turn up in
his big sexy car. Zeinab tells me how she’s getting on in
Germany, working on her dissertation (in German,
about Turkish immigration: Zeinab is, frankly, amazing) – she misses
London! Alexander arrives out of breath (of
course; I swear that man has lost 3 stone in this campaign already) and
apologises for the letters not being organised into streets. Apparently they
were, but someone’s PA left the sorted ones locked in an office, so they had to
be restuffed last night (and who doesn’t love a last-minute stuffing?). Will
(candidate in Dalston) and Dominic (candidate in De Beauvoir (I bet you didn’t
know we had anyone with as posh a name as that in Hackney (De Beauvoir, not
Dominic))) turn up, as do Andrew Boff (candidate in Queensbridge and for the
Hackney mayor) and Dean (candidate in Hoxton). Another Alexander (another
candidate in Hoxton) joins us later. We set off. In the rain.

I’m doing bits of
the Wenlock Barn estate. It is here that last year I came closest to being
punched, by a member of the Hackney Independent association. I think I knocked
him up too early on a Saturday; he’s actually a really sound bloke. It amazes
me how much what you’d think of as the "hard left" has the same
strategy for Hackney as we do: real empowerment for the people who live here,
and a focus on the residents who need it the most (our canvassing is an example
of this: we tend to deprioritise the leafy streets for the council estates).
It’s just their tactics that we disagree with. But we come together as, I hope,
a powerful coalition to protect the people against the whims of the venal
NewLab council, over issues as diverse as the selling of leases on the Broadway
Market (New Labour: "Sorry that you’ve spent your life working to improve
this area, we’ve sold the lease to a foreign estate, now b***er off") or
the London Fields lido (New Labour: "We realise belatedly that we stuffed
up by closing every pool in the borough to make way for the now-failed white
elephant in Clissold, we promise to spend more years talking about what to do
next, and you the voter will actually be invited to some of the
meetings!". Hackney Conservatives: we’ll re-open the London Fields lido,
pronto). I meet some folk just hanging around on a Sunday ("What you doing
delivering mail on a Sunday then? Oh the Conservatives – good luck"). It
feels good, but there has been a liberal presence. I see some of their
literature hanging in letterboxes, and of course leave it there.

We reconvene up at
the Dove on Broadway market (best Belgian beers in
London and great food). Paul, the guvnor, is a
Tory voting convert in local elections who demonstrates the "Boff"
effect (there are a number of "Boff for Mayor" posters in the shops
on the Broadway market too). He is sick of the way the council treats the
businesses who are trying to make Hackney a better place. I see a couple of
friends who have just broken up: always a tricky one that isn’t it? Fortunately
the needs of the election take precedence ("Socialism doesn’t take time
off to commiserate with friends") and so, after some of the Dove’s best
vegetarian burger, chips, and a half pint of Leffe blonde, and we’re back out,
in Queensbridge this time.

I won’t predict
anything until May 5th, but Queensbridge even LOOKS better since Andrew became
its councillor, in his spectacular by-election victory last year. Tony Blair’s
London ward: we went from 4th to 1st on a 25%
swing. People are sick of Labour and sick of being told how to organise their
lives, and are starting (I hope) to recognise that Hackney Tories aren’t an
extension of big business, but a group of locals who want to empower as many
other locals as possible to make Hackney a better place. The afternoon went
well: but if you want to be part of the Hackney revolution, then get in touch
on 07740 089 855, and I’ll give you directions. Let’s Get Labour Out Of Hackney.