After a six hour journey, and an exhausting day, I have finally got home from Crewe. The day did not get off to a good start, when my Telegraph TV Camerawoman Debra and I arrived in the town centre to find that Miss Great Britain had taken to her bed. Interview number one cancelled. We then did some Vox Pops in the street, showing voters four Labour election leaflets, which are among the most disgraceful I have ever seen. All they did was thrown cheap personal abuse at the Conservative candidate in the most purile and idiotic manner. John Harris had it right, when he described New Labour as the new 'nasty party' in the Guardian. Anyway, we interviewed about 25 people and most of them were appalled by the leaflets. Out of the 25, six were committed Labour voters who intended to go to the polling station next Thursday and vote Tory. Two more said they had only voted Labour because of Gwyneth Dunwoody, but wouldn't be doing so again. I don't pretend this was a representative sample.
We then interviewed William Hague, Edward Timpson and the chairman of the local Tory Party, Donald Potter. I take back what I said yesterday about not seeing any posters. Nantwich and the surrounding roads and plastered with Tory posters, in exactly the sort of houses which in previous by elections would have been plastered with LibDem posters.
The other interview was with Eric Pickles, who has been masterminding the Tory campaign. After we had finished someone came up to me and started asking me about the campaign and what was going to happen in the next few days. Bizarrely, this person had mistaken ME for Eric Pickles! I ask you. Mrs Pickles, I suspect, would not be a happy lady.
So, after a day and a half what do I make of things in Crewe & Nantwich? I'd make the following points...
- The Conservative campaign is the best organised I have ever seen
- The number of people pouring into the constituency to help has to be seen to be believed
- I didn't see a single LibDem or Labour campaigner on the streets in the entire time I was there
- The level of personal dissastisfaction with Gordon Brown is palpable
- There is a level of disgust at the Labour campaign
- It's the first time I have heard the phrase: 'I've voted Labour all my life, but...' since the days of Margaret Thatcher
- Press interest in this by election is huge
- The lobby is split. Half believe the by election is in the bag for the Tories, half think it's too close to call
- The Tory campaign is trying hard to manage expectations
- Turnout will be crucial. The Tories have to get their vote out in the outlying villages & in Nantwich. If turnout is low in Crewe and high in Nantwich, it's good news for Edward Timpson
- What happens to the LibDem vote us crucial. If they have given up (and decamped to Henley) it's not good news for the Tories. There is a type of Labour voter that will never vote Tory, but may vote LibDem to poke Brown in the nose.
- If anyone is going to Crewe over the next week do visit an Italian restaurant called Giovanni's. It's the best meal I have eaten anywhere in many months. And the Premier Inn is highly recommended too!