Sunday, 11 December 2011

The final push in Feltham & Heston

 Yesterday saw the start of the final weekend of campaigning for the Feltham & Heston by-election.

There are nine candidates standing, and this was an opportunity to get their message out during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.  After leafletting last week, I managed to tidy myself up for this week’s assault on the electorate (left, apologies for the curtains!)

I arrived at the campaign headquarters on the High Street around lunchtime to see Nigel Farage on his way out as I pulled in to the road next to the office. The office was a hive of activity as I entered, with the formidable operations officer Lisa Duffy getting everyone organised. Three activists were manning phones at the back of the office dealing with both outbound and incoming calls, whilst yet more new leaflets had arrived bearing the slogan ‘Kick them in the Ballot Box’ on the front.

Lisa assigned me the task of doorknocking in one of the wards, and armed with a clipboard,list of electors and some of the new leaflets, I set off towards Bedfont. (That will serve me right for wearing a suit!) The familiar figure of Harry from Young UKIP passed me on the way out, coming back for another batch of leaflets.

Driving up the High Street, the yellow UKIP stand was plainly visible outside the front of the main shopping centre. A few yards down, the BNP had pitched up and had their GLA Mayoral Candidate, Carlos Cortiglia, pacing back and forward in front of it with a megaphone. Some ten yards further on, The English Democrats had a wallpaper pasting board out with a St George Flag stuck to the front and some leaflets on the table.  I decided to pull up in to the car park around the corner and pop back to have a chat with our members manning the stand.

Walking past the ED stand, I stopped to have a word with my former colleagues Janus Polenceus and Mark Twiddy. Mark was reluctant to talk and walked away, but Janus was happy to shake my hand and advise me that the campaign was going well for them. The leaflets had turned up (Which had been a worry for local candidate Roger Cooper when I last spoke with him), and he advised me that they were getting a good response. I bade farewell and walked past the BNP to where our UKIP stand was positioned (Right)

Activists on the stall had come from as far afield as Yorkshire, and they had positioned leafletters at strategic points on both sides to catch shoppers entering and exiting the complex. Whilst I chatted with them, the BNP battle bus pulled up in front with loudspeakers on full – The familiar figure of their London Organiser Steve Squire was in the front seat, I shouted up to him and asked if he was up for a spot of boxing again this week to which he just smiled and laughed.

Taking my leave, I then collected the car and set off to my destination just before the Clockhouse Roundabout.

The road I had been allocated was a fairly common suburban close, and after adjusting my tie in the wing mirrors I started to knock on doors. What I found were many people with similar worries to those I had canvassed previously when out before the 2010 General Election. Law and order was a common gripe, with some of the residents complaining that they had reported antisocial behaviour and damage to cars with descriptions and registration numbers of the perpetrators to the Police, and had got no reply or been told that their compliants had been noted and then no action was taken.

One lady spoke to me at length on the doorstep as to how she had no intention of voting as nothing will change – She pointed out that she had three children in their late teens and early twenties who were all working but couldn’t find or afford places to live, whilst immigrants from Heathrow were being placed in housing locally by the council. This was a theme I came across at many doors, but it was good to hear the residents blaming the system for the problem rather than the immigrants themselves. UKIP’s message regarding immigration and prioritising local residents for housing may have motivated some of these people to get out and vote for an alternative on the 15th, it certainly seemed to make people who were initially disinterested start to talk about what they wanted for their families.

Further doorknocking yielded views from the locals on corruption (I Won’t vote for any of them, they are all on the fiddle with their expenses), lack of local parking, failure to repair broken pavements and anger at the amount of money being sent abroad whilst we are suffering cutbacks at home.

These are all areas where UKIP policy can make a difference, and those that stood and chatted with me on the doorsteps seemed fairly receptive to the message.
One gentleman informed me that he would be voting Tory, at which his wife shouted from behind, “I’m voting for you lot, and if he’s got any sense so will he!” Hopefully, I have not caused a domestic in that household!

Another lady advised me that she couldn’t decide whether to vote for our candidate as ‘he is not very attractive, is he?’ I advised her that neither was Winston Churchill, but he got the job done!

Walking past an alleyway to the next batch of houses I caught the unmistakeable smell of Cannabis smoke in the air. Looking to my right, I saw three youths down an alleyway puffing away in plain view without a care in the world, seemingly backing up what the residents had already told me about the breakdown of law and order locally.

The next door I came to I was invited in by the pensioner whose house it was, who had just arrived back from a shopping trip with her daughter. She very kindly made me a cup of tea and allowed me to thaw out a bit whilst telling me her story, and all about the unruly behaviour of some of the local youths such as those I had just seen. She had already spoken with our candidate the previous week about this, and had been impressed by his attempts to get answers from the local authorities for her. Her daughter pointed out that there were no youth facilities locally, and whilst this was no excuse for the behaviour of the minority of the youngsters who were causing the problems it would certainly help to take some of them off of the streets.

Back to the Office

With time marching on, I bade my farewells and started to drive back to Campaign HQ. The three stands were still in evidence at the front of the shopping centre, and the two English Democrat activists had now been joined on their stall by the familiar trilby wearing figure of Roger Cooper, their London Chairman and candidate for this election.

Our activists had been joined by more high profile party members, the unmistakeable figure of Winston McKenzie now prominent on the stall. Further on, Gerard Batten MEP could be seen out canvassing within a few hundred yards of the office.

I pulled in to the side road again as Nigel Farage was pulling out for the second time, and we waved to each other as we passed (Was it something I said, Nigel?)

Inside the office, Lisa was still nose to the grindstone getting everybody organised. Andrew Charalambous was now sat at the front desk, canvassing by telephone, whilst more activists were still talking away on the phones out back.

I passed across my voter sheets to Lisa, and apologised for not getting more doors done (I had spent some time talking to a number of the locals, and had probably only got around 30 doors). The good news was the message was well received by a number of those I had spoken with, and one lady advised me that she had already voted for us by post.

Word had also come in that for a second week running there had been an altercation involving the BNP, although this time it had not involved pushing and shoving with our youth branch. Some eggs had been thrown, and we had been told that one of the Tory campaigners had been arrested.

Leaving at 4pm, another upbeat day was rounded off by the news that we still looked to be ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the local polls and heading for a massive increase in our share of the vote since the General Election in this constituency in 2010.

The Election for Feltham and Heston is this Thursday, 15th December. If you can help over the next few days, please pop along to our campaign headquarters at 107 High Street, Feltham, Middx, TW13 4HG