Leader writers at The Independent got very excited this morning at the town hall-style meetings being held by Nick Clegg:
"When national politicians do not perpetually put themselves about in the modern way – announcing daily initiatives against telegenic backdrops; volunteering to debate on the BBC’s Today programme; offering up some segment of their domestic lives via a webcam – they lay themselves open to criticism for not doing their job. Such is the presumed importance of taking a high media profile in this day and age.
As we report today, however, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, has spent his first 14 months in office taking a more softly-softly, more old-style political approach. Less visible on the national stage than Gordon Brown and David Cameron – which perhaps has as much to do with the preference of most media for a duelling style of politics as with any absence from the front line – he has been assiduously tending to the grassroots.
In only a little more than a year, he has held no fewer than 30 town hall meetings all over the country – an average of two a month – and he travels to them by train, second-class. The audiences consist of local people; they are not packed with party loyalists, nor are participants vetted."
All very exciting I’m sure but David Cameron has managed to hold similar town hall meetings (21 in total, see below) and have national media impact. The Conservative leader’s Cameron Direct meetings have been a big success. I know from Robert Halfon that the tickets for the Harlow meeting were all taken up before flyers advertising the event had even been distributed. One advert in a local newspaper was enough to attract 250 attendees. These meetings are a real help to the party’s efforts in target seats. Meetings held outside elections – like literature – tend to be more winsome because they are viewed as less obviously vote-grabbing. The people who come tend to be community influentials – priests, charity group leaders and so on – and they have time to influence others in the constituency if they were impressed. Iain Dale scored the Direct meeting he attended very highly. My favourite Direct moment was when David Cameron was asked if aliens had visited Earth. Watch the Tory leader’s response here.
Brentford and Isleworth, 07/07/2008
Sutton and Cheam, 28/10/2008
Brigg and Goole, 05/09/2008
Barrow in Furness, 13/08/2008
Yorkshire and Humber
York Outer, 18/09/2008
East Renfrewshire, 07/11/2008