The Guardian – Murray. Middle class hippy. Almost a gay icon’: I could actually win this election. The realisation came as something of a shock. It was not really part of the original game plan. Two months ago I arrived here alone, standing forlornly with my rucksack on Blackburn railway station, in the midnight snow. I wanted to make a stand on principle against illegal war, and against Jack Straw’s decision that we should use intelligence obtained under torture. I wanted to get some national publicity for these issues during the campaign, to counter Tony Blair’s mantra: “Let’s move on” from the war.
(Am I the only one to find this mantra insulting? I think I’ll rob a bank to get some campaign funds. When the police come to take me away, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s move on. OK, so I robbed a bank. Whatever the rights and wrongs, that phase is over. What is important is that we all come together now and get behind the really great things I’m going to do with the money.”)
Today, however, the campaign HQ is buzzing. Sixty-two local people have so far delivered leaflets for us, in many cases just to their own street. Last night nine volunteers from London were on spare beds and sofas, and 11 more are coming at the weekend. Last weekend, the flood of volunteers included Poles, Ghanaians, Swedes, Canadians and Kiwis.
The Green Goddess is about to go out on yet another mission with a leafleting crew. It is a great campaigning vehicle – a huge free mobile billboard with a big crew cab. It blasts out our campaign song, Hit the Road, Jack Straw by The Rub. The lyrics are really funky: “Yeah, shout out to Blackburn from the rest from the rest of the country/We’re hopin’ the people in that fine constituency/Can see the new world order ain’t no good for humanity./ So hit the road, Jack Straw, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more … ”
The campaign is not popular with everyone. One irate voter called me a middle-class hippy. I was pretty chuffed, having aspired to membership of both for years. I also had an argument with yet another council flunky. This one told me I couldn’t park the Goddess outside the town hall to campaign around the shopping centre. I pointed out that Jack Straw regularly does just that. The notion of democracy still seems difficult for some of the authorities here to grasp.
I did some canvassing around the gay bars which are centred, wonderfully, on Mincing Lane. An enthusiastic young man called Geoff told me I was “almost a gay icon, which is really impressive, seeing how you’re ugly”. Put that on my stone when I go: “Craig Murray. Middle-class hippy. Almost a gay icon.”
Robin Cook came to Blackburn to support Jack Straw this week, presumably in a desperate effort to get a place in Gordon Brown’s eventual cabinet. Deeply sad. Cook spoke to a strictly limited audience of around 60. The BBC were not admitted, but the Guardian were, up for the day alongside the Murdoch press for a piece on Jack. They accompanied him on a tour that featured carefully staged spontaneity. The everyday activity stumbled across included interracial street football. One local Asian, Vaz, told me he had not seen this in 30 years.
Massoud had let his Labour party membership lapse because of the war. The local party plainly didn’t notice, because he was rung and told to be shopping in Asda during Straw’s hack-accompanied walkabout. Perhaps that was what Labour offered Asda as an incentive to let them do it – extra shoppers on a Monday morning.
Next week we are anticipating an even stranger source of support for Jack. Local rumour has it that the Saudi ambassador, representative of that fine democracy with a great human rights record, is coming to Blackburn. He and Straw, it seems, will address a meeting of Muslims hosted by the Lancashire Council of Mosques, chairman one Ibrahim Masters, a major Labour party fixer in Blackburn. Announcements are expected of Saudi largesse for the community. Election interference? Perish the thought.
The man who called me a middle-class hippy gave me a note saying, “Don’t forget our dead troops.” I can’t. Much more poignantly, neither can Reg Keays or Rose Gentle. That’s why we are standing.
‘ Craig Murray is standing against Jack Straw in the general election for the Blackburn seat. This column will appear in G2 every Thursday until the election. www.craigmurray.co.uk