The Guardian – Our man in Blackburn: As you read this, the polls will be open. The voters of Blackburn will be streaming out in their happy thousands to vote for me and to consign Jack Straw to political oblivion. Or not, as the case may be.
The campaign continues to produce its lighter moments. A postman told one of my canvassers he was voting for that nice Mr Rigging. We were stumped by this, until we realised that our election communication is headed: “You can beat Labour vote rigging.”
I was delighted to be approached by a whole crowd in the pub last night wanting my autograph. I was overwhelmed by my own popularity and thought I was home and dry. Then I discovered that they thought I was “that bloke that’s shagging Sally on Corrie”. I don’t know who that actor is, but evidently he must be a man of great good looks and charisma. Now that Ian McKellen is on Coronation Street, I console myself that being mistaken for one of the cast is socially acceptable.
One of our slogans has been “British Bulldog, not Bush’s Poodle”, which has the advantage of confusing people entirely about the political direction we are coming from. This at least gets them to open the leaflet and read more. It was devised by Edward, who used to work for Saatchi and Saatchi. He claims it appeals to both left and right. It could, of course, alienate both instead. I suppose we’ll soon know.
My mate Matt was canvassing when he was attacked by the two largest poodles imaginable. The unrepentant owner of these gruesome animals declared herself deeply offended by the jibe at poodles. Happily, the militant poodle front seems outnumbered by the gratified bulldog owners.
Getting a platform has proved difficult. The local council has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide public meeting rooms in schools, community centres, etc. We had Moazzam Begg on Sunday to talk about his detention in Guant’namo, and we had to hire a private ballroom. The council claimed they couldn’t staff a public room over the bank holiday, but community centres were used by Straw for public meetings on the bank holiday Monday.
What’s more, on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend the Returning Officer tracked me down to Puccino’s cafe, where he told me that there had been a complaint that my posters did not meet the legal requirement for a publishing imprint. I pointed out the publishing imprint to him, and he vanished. There seems to be no shortage of energy for stifling democracy, but less for promoting it.
Straw refuses to meet me on a platform. The cathedral organised a so-called hustings on Sunday from which I was barred. The BBC has rubbed salt into the wounds of its refusal to give me election coverage by putting in requests from four different programmes to interview me after the polls are closed. I did eventually get a confirmation that a central BBC decision had been taken not to cover my campaign. Helen Boaden, head of news and current affairs, replied that the BBC could not cover me because its regional political team “was unable to assess if I had significant electoral support”. Why are they unable to assess it? What are they being paid for? So if anyone hopes to see me on election night, you will have to watch on ITV.
It seems to me essential that Straw is punished for the illegal war, for the decision that the intelligence services should regularly use information obtained under torture, for the dossier of lies on Iraqi WMD. At least in Blackburn Labour must pay. The argument that it did well on employment and health, as advanced by Polly Toynbee, is precisely the argument deployed in favour of Hitler and Mussolini. I don’t see how any self-respecting person can vote Labour, no matter which orifice they cover with their fingers.
So how will we do? Well, surprisingly well. There is real anger at the war. People don’t like liars. And Straw is plainly very worried. Unlike previous elections, he has not been out to marginals to support other candidates. Rather Gordon Brown, Robin Cook and even the Iraqi deputy prime minister have been here to bolster him. Neither the Lib Dems nor the Tories see this as winnable; they have not brought in a single big hitter. Of whom is he scared? Me.
Blackburn people have plenty to protest about. I have offered nothing but honesty and hard work. I have no idea if that might prove enough.
Anyone want a Green Goddess, slightly used?