"Hello Stranger," - that was how the newly promoted North West Elections Officer Clive Jefferson, greeted me yesterday morning as I turned up for leafleting duty in Castle ward in Carlisle. Clive reminds me of one of my old schoolteachers at Steyning Grammar School who whenever he spoke to you seemed to be reprimanding you, even when just saying "Good morning Wingfield".
Clive's greeting did make me feel guilty for all those leafleting sessions that I have missed in recent months, and it had the effect of pushing me into a marathon (for me anyway) 4 hour 10 minutes stint to ease my conscience and try to make amends.
Leafleting is a great morale booster and moral yesterday amongst our sixteen activists out and about in the city was sky high. At ten to ten, Allerdale organiser Paul Stafford and I met up with Castle ward candidate Alistair Barbour and his team of Natasha, Glenn and Gary and by mid-day, with the help of four Scottish activists who had popped o'er the border to lend a hand, the ward was completed.
Meanwhile in Belah ward, candidate Tony Carvell along with Brian and Clive, had already made a start, and at mid-day our team of ten moved on to Belah for the rest of the afternoon. Clive then met up with Kevin and friends who had come across from Penrith and they went into the city centre to set up the now regular British National Party stall.
By two o'clock, I was shattered and had to call it a day, but the rest of them were still in full swing and thousands of leaflets must have been put out.
Let's now have a closer look at the two wards we are contesting in Carlisle on March 5th.
In Castle Ward our candidate Alistair is taking on the three main parties and a Green candidate, who was out and about puting out his leaflet just in front of us. The Conservative candidate is a former Labour councillor who has also stood as a Lib-Dem candidate and the Green candidate is another former Labour councillor. The Lib-Dem's candidate's parents are both Lib-Dem councillors and the Labour candidate was a councillor nearly ten years ago.
Last May, this was the result in Castle Ward:
Jim Tootle (Lib-Dems) 562
Christopher Southward (Lab) 299
Charlotte Arnold Conservative 206
Simon Osman (Ind) 202
I can report that Alistair is working hard within the ward and is already canvassing on a daily basis. He told me yesterday that he's getting a good response and is encouraged by the feedback he's receiving on the doorstep. The BNP have never fought Castle ward before.
Belah ward, on the other hand, we did contest in 2007 where we polled 5% of the vote. This is a big ward right at the Northern end of Carlisle with a large Tory majority and on the face of it doesn't look too promising, but after two hours in the ward yesterday I get a very distinct feeling that we are going to do well here.
The Tory candidate is still embroiled in controversy over a 'porn-watching' reprimand he received when he was a city councillor five years ago. His selection has caused a split in the local Conservative Association and this could well effect its campaign here. Labour, the Lib-Dems, Green and Independent candidates also standing could well start to take Tory votes if the dispute escalates and gets more publicity.
Last May, this was the result in Belah Ward:
David Morton (Cons) 1,212
Elaine Thomson (Lab) 431
Stephen Gash (Eng-Dem) 176
2007: Con 818, Lab 482, Ind 399, BNP 96, Eng Dem 96.
I believe that because of the damaging publicity about the Conservative candidate - two big articles in the local newspaper - the Tory vote could be halved and that would make it a very interesting contest.
And finally, yesterday in Belah, while leafleting with candidate Tony Carvell, I had to take a confession. Tony, who originally hails from Liverpool, admitted that he was once a keen supporter of the Anti-Nazi League and used to go along to their concerts.
"What could I have been thinking of. All those wasted years when I should have been campaigning for British Nationalism," he agonised. He was very contrite so I accepted three 'Hail Mary's' and gave him absolution.
All in all it was a very good day, so keep an eye on these elections as I think we will do well here and help push up that all important percentage vote in the North West constituency for the Euro Election on June 4th.