Thursday, April 15, 2010

Testing the Pulse: Dagenham & Rainham

I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours this afternoon campaigning in Dagenham & Rainham for my friend Simon Jones, who is seeking to oust Jon Cruddas. I was out with a team of eight canvassers (including Baroness Noakes) in a fairly nice part of the constituency on a new housing estate. I can report that none of us came across a single BNP voter, or if we did, they were keeping it to themselves.

I only encountered one Labour voter, but she said she wasn't sure who she was going to vote for because although she liked Gordon Brown, she thought Jon Cruddas was a useless constituency MP. There were quite a few 'undecideds' but the interesting thing was that they all seemed very engaged and without exception said they were going to watch the debate tonight. The good thing about the Conservatives I encountered was that they were enthusiastic Conservatives rather than passive ones. Two houses took posters, which always makes a canvasser feel good. The final lady I spoke to said she would vote for the Christian Party. I gently explained that David Cameron was a church goer and the candidate was a Catholic. "Good try," she laughed!

This is a constituency worth watching on election night. The punditerati believes Jon Cruddas is safe as houses. I don't. Simon Jones is one of the party's best campaigners and has been in situ for nearly four years. He is a local lad and knows the patch like the back of his hand. We know Cruddas is worried by the mud that he's throwing at Simon. The Labour switchers we encountered today were hard line. They reminded me of the people who switched from Labour to the Tories in the mid 1980s. They are disgusted with Labour, who clearly don't represent their aspirations any longer. And then of course there are the Labour switchers to the BNP. No one knows how many of those there will be, and most of them probably wouldn't admit it on the doorstep. But make no mistake, they are there. But we shouldn't over emphasise the popularity of the BNP here. They can't find enough candidates to fill the three vacancies in each seat, so the worry of them taking over the whole council on 7 May is perhaps not as great as it once was.

But the Labour campaign here is in real trouble. They have terrible, amateurish leaflets and literature. Much of it is risographed and looks awful. They don't seem to have the local activists you need to fight back against the BNP, and if rumour is to be believed, they are relying on a last weekend influx of huge numbers of UNITE members to pull it round. I suspect local people won't react well to that.


Anonymous said...

But if you read any of the local Labour activist blogs (Newham, Tower Hamlets etc) they all claim to be going out on the "knocker" in Barking and Dagenham every night! And most claim Labour support is rock solid... go figure!

Martin said...

I enjoyed your usage of the word "punditerati", which I have duly noted in Wordnik.

John R said...

Iain, as you've now seen a number of different areas and spoken to ordinary voters in each, what's your feel for the likely result?

Dan Hannan has commented on his blog that he still sees a solid Tory win. Is that your view as well?

Steve C said...

Iain, I'm not at all sure about this supposedly large group of 'floating' or 'don't know' voters. I just don't believe that there is more than 10 or 15 % of those that will bother to vote who are truly open to being persuaded to vote for one party or another by a TV debate, or a chat on the doorstep.

We will be lucky to get a 70% turn out and, of these, how many will not have decided who to vote for many weeks or even months ago? Very few I think.

And then, what about the 'undecideds' in 'safe' seats -doesn't matter too much who they vote for anyway.

Be careful about what people say to you on the doorsteps. I, for one, always lie to pollsters who accost me in the street or by phone about my voting intentions because it's non of their damned business who I vote for! Sure I could just refuse to answer but the 'naughty boy' comes out in me and I take the chance to make a bit of mischief. I think many others are equally economical with the truth when asked about these things - particularly when they say they haven't decided who to vote for. The vast majority know full well!

Anonymous said...

The name Dagenham takes me back to the days of that smooth talking champagne socialist Bryan Gould who in 1980s and early 1990s was associated with this place as an MP. After Labour Party elected the Welsh Windbag Kinnock Gould was active for some time in some capacity in the electioneering aspects of the Party. Left Britain after he failed to move up to the deputy leadership of the party. Was only a tutor for a short period in Oxford before his civil service days, coupled with his leftist credentials were enough for the rabid leftist Labour PM of the NZ to appoint him as the vice chancellor of Waikato University. Was contributing to Guardian ranting about the rightward shift of Labour even as the VC of the University. I e-mailed him once asking him to concentrate on the Maori education (rather than British politics) which was the reason Waikato university was expanded. He did not like it.

Scary Mary said...

You mention that Simon is your friend but I think this clouds your judgement. He isn't the right kind of candidate for the seat, because lovely as he is, he is wetter than a very wet blanket (not politically but personally).

Robert Brown said...

What you should have explained is that every Labour voter they have located in the past you would not have knocked on. This is why parties can claim to have clear support on the doorstep.

Anonymous said...

If someone says they are voting "Christian Party" I wouldn't shout Catholic credentials because most evangelicals would vote for the BNP before they would vote for a Catholic.

There's a lot more anti-Catholic prejudice than you might think ought there, especially as a lot of evangelical Christians (who are most likely to vote for a "Christian" party) are fed a constant diet of anti-papal and anti-catholic rhetoric and hyperbole from the pulpit every Sunday.