Mark's campaign notepad and other stuff

Notes from the writer/LibDem parliamentary candidate for Somerton & Frome

Election Day -7 & -6: On My Radio, On My Radio

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I thought things went well yesterday. Even more new supporters coming out for the first time, another assured performance by Nick Clegg in the final leaders’ debate, good poll showings…

…But today was even better. My first (political – I used to give my tuppenny worth on trainers – I remember when Zoe Ball was a researcher!) radio appearance along with the other candidates and I think and hope I gave a good account of myself and the Liberal Democrats. Unlike the hustings I thought we had a good strong debate about issues and policies, not personalities. Four good candidates, all wanting to fix things, but with different views on how to go about it. Eddie Nestor did a fine job in the Chair.

I believe the only big issue which didn’t really get a good airing was housing – we should have made more of the fact that Westminster has more empty homes than any other London borough – 5-6000 depending on the estimate; only about half the social housing stock managed by the Almo CityWest homes is still in the public sector, there are chronic overcrowding issues and of the 400 council homes in need of refurbishment for over a year, only 4 have been recommissioned. But there’s only so much you can cram into a few 15 minute chunks, as Eddie kept telling us.

What really made my day was going back to our election HQ afterwards and finding out that in my absence more volunteers than ever before had come along. We’ve got our long weekend’s tasks well underway, and I’m looking forward to a whole three bank holiday days of mega campaign action. This is what real change means.

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Written by markblackburn

April 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

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Election Day -10 to -8 Hustings and Japanese Journalists

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Getting too busy to blog now, its more and more manic, with absolutely no let up in the support for and interest in the Liberal Democrats, which I predict will surge higher after tonight’s final leaders’ debate.

I am spending all my time answering constituents and journalists, delivering and canvassing. The hustings was my first ever, and I was pleased overall; strong start on the economy and strong finish on crime, with a bit of a wobble in the middle caused by random heckle. Onwards and upwards.

Last night a journalist following the elections one of the main Japanese news agencies shadowed me – he saw canvassing “warts and all”! Mostly very positive feedback but one fairly extreme “a plague on all your houses” reaction.

Tomorrow you can hear all the main three candidates on BBC London 94.9 Drivetime, and I believe that’s the last joint public engagement before the election…

Written by markblackburn

April 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

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Election Day -11: Marathon campaign

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Yesterday morning on my way to our campaign HQ I saw a boy of about 13 walking along my street wearing a Lib Dem sticker – he certainly wasn’t old enough to vote but just seeing him seemed to summon up what’s going on at the moment – 500,000 newly registered voters, most of them young, with a belief that at last real change could be on the way.

This close to the election you might be surprised to hear that I gave myself the afternoon off, but I went to watch my brother and others running the London Marathon for the British Red Cross. We’re all very proud of him – just turned 50, stranded in the US by the ash until Friday evening, and still got round in a very respectable 4 hr 38.

Hope it also went well for my mate Andy who was running in the Virgin caterpillar and Marcus – the small but perfectly formed cartoon museum. The Marathon was a real festival of spirit and achievement and shows just what London can do, fantastic performance by all. One day I’ll relive my glory days of 82 and 83…

The Red Cross reception afterwards coincidentally took place in the National Liberal Club – first time I’ve been in there for non-political reasons since we got married in 1993!

Written by markblackburn

April 26, 2010 at 11:20 am

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Election Day -12: Sex and Gambling

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Well, that headline should get a few more readers, but don’t get excited – the revelations won’t come until after I’m elected as MP for Westminster North…

First of all, another great day’s canvassing, delivering and everything else involved in running a campaign, with yet another record turnout of helpers. While visiting a newsagents in Westbourne Grove, I got a hello and a smile from someone I’m 99% sure was the sex writer and TV personality Tracey Cox – I hasten to add there were lots of other people out there in Bayswater introducing themselves and saying encouraging things.

When I got home after a very long day’s traipsing the streets, I found my own election address in the letterbox, at last. There’s something surreal about finding a letter addressed to you from yourself. Once I’d got over the “do I really look like that?” moment I was pretty pleased with it. Well done Ben the agent.

And as for the gambling, a few weeks ago Ladbrokes had me at 100-1, and now they’ve slashed the odds to 12-1. In another 12 days, who can tell what the odds might be?!

Written by markblackburn

April 24, 2010 at 9:18 pm

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Election Days -15 to -13: Nick Clegg’s fault!

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It just gets crazier and crazier! In a good way. Email inbox bulging with offers of help, phone incessantly ringing with same and enquiries from every sort of journalist – local school magazines to national TV stations. And then there’s thousands of leaflets to deliver and doors to knock on.

Been out on the streets every day – saw the Tories again last night but no TV crews around this time!

This afternoon we were out and about in Westbourne Grove, where we’ve been highlighting the plight of local retailers who feel they get a very raw deal from the Council, and they gave us a great reception. This was particularly gratifying as we had a reporter and photographer from the Wood & Vale local paper in tow! Voters approaching unsolicited and wishing us well, and Tory scare tactics not working – the local business community wants the best heads working together.

Right now I’m writing as I’m waiting to be summoned to Acton to pick up our leaflet to deliver this weekend – latest ETA 9.30pm. We had a record turnout of helpers last weekend and I’m really excited about this one – I hope we’ll have even more coming out to help. And I need to have something for them to deliver!

Written by markblackburn

April 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm

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Election Day -16: Meeting the BBC and my Conservative opponent.

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Yesterday evening was entertaining – you couldn’t make it up. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems often see each other while out campaigning, and I’ve bumped into Karen Buck a couple of times, but up to now Joanne Cash and I have missed each other on the streets of Westminster.

Until last night. Our Lib Dem team started at one end of the street, and soon we saw the Tories coming from the other, with none of other than Joanne Cash among them. As the BBC were filming us Lib Dems doing our work, the inevitable happened, and when the two parties met halfway up the street, the cameras were there to film it. I don’t know what the BBC will end up showing, but all I can say is we didn’t stand around chatting!

This blog is now being read by a record number of people. Hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of light relief after the factual content of the last few days!

Written by markblackburn

April 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm

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Election Day -17: Education (Last in a series of four policy statements)

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Too many children are still leaving school without the knowledge and skills to be successful. Finding a good school is a struggle, lessons don’t always stretch the brightest or support those who need more help, and classes are often too big for teachers to control.
Every child is different, so schools need to be free to teach children in different ways and get the very best from them. Liberal Democrats want every child to get an excellent education because it is the best way to get on in life, get a good job, and learn about the world.
We will cut class sizes, set teachers free to spend more time in the classroom and raise standards in every school with more money for things like one to one tuition and classes in the evenings.
For those youngsters leaving school, university is getting more and more expensive. To get a degree, young people are saddled with thousands of pounds of debt when it is tough enough to get a job, get on the housing ladder and make ends meet.
Liberal Democrats are the only party which believes university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost. We have a sensible and affordable six year timetable to achieve this goal.
Westminster has one of the greatest disparities between the privileged and the disadvantaged of all the London Boroughs. By pursuing the above education policies, Liberal Democrats would seek to redress this imbalance by helping to give all Westminster children a fair start in life. All our policies are costed and realistic; they will make a difference.

Written by markblackburn

April 20, 2010 at 8:02 am

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