I am heading up North now to help in the Dunston and Teams by-election. Normally this would be a dead cert for the Labour party but they seem to be in a state of terminal decay in large parts of Gateshead. This ward seems to be one such area. Their situation is not helped by the fact that this is the only ward in Gateshead in which the BNP is active. A low turnout for Labour poses dangers for them. Whilst I don't expect the seat to change hands, there remains the danger that a small shift in votes from Labour to BNP could have a grossly disproportional impact on shares of the vote and could create the impression of a BNP bandwagon where one does not actually exist.
If the BNP appear to do well simply because there is a low turnout, Labour will have to accept much of the responsibility. In heartland areas they simply take the voters for granted. As an organisation, they fail to engage and communicate with people. Hardly surprising therefore if even their core vote fails to come out.
There are lessons for us as well. If we do not get into these Labour heartland areas as a grassroots campaigning organisation, people will drift off into apathy. So if a fringe party turns up, and campaigns on community issues - just as the BNP are doing (there is no mention of immigration, race or any other favourite BNP issues in their literature, it's all about the local school closure, decent housing and parks) some people will look to the new arrivals as the home, at least temporarily, for their votes. Where Labour are failing on the ground, and with such a decayed organisation, they clearly are failing to have a presence in the communities they represent, it is our job to move in and replace them. The problem we have is that we are stretched. And that leaves an opening for the BNP to move in, hide their true character and win over some of the disaffected.
I'll report the byelection result tomorrow evening on the blog.
On a completely different issue, the washing machine in my flat in London has broken down. So when I turned up at Cowley St this morning with a suitcase packed full of dirty laundry, a few eyebrows were raised. I'm shipping the washing up to my house in Gateshead and if I ask nicely I'm sure David will deal with it. So I will have clean shirts to go to Bournemouth next week as an observer at the Cameron Love Fest. Oh joy!
And finally, it took me ages this evening to sort out the Gateshead entries for the Northern Regiion Campaign awards - closing date is Friday. If after spending a good chunk of Sunday and this evening on the entries, we win nothing, expect a few expletives.
And finally finally, I sent out an email this evening to a 600 homes in Blaydon constituency inviting them to a coffee morning in my house on Sunday 8th Oct at which Fiona Hall our MEP is the guest. A bit of an experiment as I have invited people to send in questions about her role and what the European Parliament does. A sort of quiz your MEP session. We will be publishing the replies (possibly by video on Youtube and by email newsletter). If this format works and we get a reasonable respone from residents, I'd like to see it extended it to others a well, such as MPs and PPCs. In effect have an informal venue and invite people and anyone who can't make it can send in questions and we broadcast the result. People who come along will be able to ask questions themselves.
We have just passed Newark and I haven't eaten so this entry ends now so I can go to the buffet car!
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