Pillar of the community or community pillock?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a stranger spell in my life as these few weeks leading up to tomorrow’s election. As far as this blog is concerned, while writing this and other blogs is what spurred me to stand, it seemed better to pipe down for the poll.
That said, there’s not really been the time. Although the date of the council elections has been known for years, and while the campaigning period formally began at the end of March, the whole thing suddenly took on jet speed the day Gordon Brown confirmed the general election date. Now, it’s nearly all over. I’m actually being Bad Green right now, taking the night before polling day off to see Drugstore for the first time in years, at the ICA.
Then tomorrow, it’s up early for the weirdest day of my life – a combination of milling around at polling stations and, somewhere in the middle of all that, sadly, attending my grandfather’s funeral. He used to work at the old East Greenwich Gas Works on the peninsula, the site of which I’ll return to late tomorrow night for the count, which will finish at heaven-knows-when. Over the past few weeks I’ve delievered and canvassed the house where my grandmother grew up, and two Green Party posters are on display in the riverside street where her family lived. A couple of days ago, I even got to speak to the gentleman who lives in the house where I grew up. My parents left him with the tallest tree in the street when they moved ten-and-a-half years ago. I could only leave him with a card asking him for his vote.
What will happen? I haven’t a clue. I’ve been delighted by the number of people who’ve said they’d back us and moved by hearing of people who’ve said they’ll back the Greens simply because they know me and they believe can trust me. A disorienting feature of standing for election is that it makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes. I’m touched to discover that I seem to have come off okay in that regard. I could write a book about the whole experience, I really could.
We did well at a quickly-organised hustings held by the Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce, where the two personable Tories who showed up floundered a bit and two of the Labour candidates found themselves distinctly unpopular. The Lib Dems sent only one candidate, but he did pretty well – strange that a party which is so weak in Greenwich is fielding a good candidate somewhere they’re not bothering to campaign in. Politics, eh?
Greenwich Labour did send out a “dodgy graph” with the hilarious claim that a vote for another party would let the Tories in – when the Conservatives haven’t won an election in the area since 1968. It reflects badly on Labour’s three candidates in Peninsula that this nonsense was issued in their name, and shows how scared the party is of losing the ward.
But does anyone have the power to usurp an arrogant Labour clique that’s lost touch with the people it claims to serve? Tricky. Labour currently hold 33 out of the 51 seats, with the Tories on 13 and Liberal Democrats on 2. Blackheath aside, on the whole the Tories traditionally struggle north of Shooters Hill Road, which bisects the borough. There’s an outside chance of a hung council, though. I reckon the Tories will definitely gain odd seats – single seats in Kidbrooke with Hornfair and Blackheath Westcombe. Shooters Hill is also likely to fall to them – if it does, it’ll be down to the energetic Simon Emmett, seeking to replace a Labour councillor who decided to take a lengthy mid-term sabbatical in Australia. The Lib Dems will seek to pick up a seat from Labour in Middle Park & Sutcliffe and have their beady eyes on Greenwich West. The Greens are targeting Peninsula, while sadly the performance of the BNP in Eltham West in 2006 can’t be written off – but the emptying of the Ferrier Estate could change the fortunes of this ward, and maybe the whole borough.
In other areas, Labour can put their feet up – publicity for Charlton ward doesn’t even feature the usual map showing the party’s achievements in the area – because, I’d suggest, there are none to report. I’ll be interested to see how the Conservatives do in Charlton; despite a couple of howlers their publicity’s been pretty good- it’s almost as if they’d been reading this blog for ideas. If only their candidates hadn’t been so thin-skinned when I took them to task over having a pop at local schoolkids.
The general election – hatred of Gordon Brown, fear of the Tories, Clegg-mania – could play havoc with any of this, though. Personally, I might as well have bet my immediate future on the 2,000 Guineas at the weekend (good thing I didn’t, actually, I got a duff tip). There’s a risk of losing badly and coming out looking a bit of a pillock, but the chance to contribute something more than criticism is one I won’t regret taking. But now it’s down to you – get out and vote, and choose wisely. See you on the other side.