It is a strange old election. Barry Gardiner is running a campaign that at first glance makes him look like an Independent candidate relying on a personality cult to get himself elected. This pamphlet bears no red colour and you have to search for the sole mention of the Labour Party embedded in the text. It is all about Gardiner's family life.
Children leaving Fryent Primary School who were upset when Barry's red balloons ran out were bemused to be offered large stickers of Barry's smiling face instead. One boy angrily demanded where he could find a blue balloon...
The Liberal Democrats are conspicuous by their absence - presumably they are all concentrating on Teather's campaign in Brent Central. Harsh Patel is saturating the constituency with a plethora of leaflets which are distributed by an army of teenagers. This could be counterproductive as residents have started complaining about the junk coming through their letter boxes. It is noteworthy that this effort hasn't resulted in a forest of Tory posters.
It may be straws in the wind, or deliberate misinformation, but a senior Tory encountered whilst leafleting said that 'It was turning out better than I thought it would be', while a Labour Party member, charged with telephoning supporters said he had found it hard to motivate people.
Atik Maliq, erstwhile Conservative and Democratic Consertvative councillor, seems to be concentrating on getting his posters into shop windows, though a barbers in Preston Road has both Conservatives, Patel and Malik, in their window. Malik faced a front page blast from the Willesden and Brent Times last week which reported an unspecified allegation against him and revived comments he made about Sharia law and the whipping of unmarried women who engaged in sexual activity. Any publicity is good publicity?
Meanwhile the demise of the Democratic Conservative Group remains a mystery. They were apparently set up to contest five wards and had collected all the requisite signatures. One version has it that their leader Robert Dunwell, deciding at the last minute that he could use his time and skills better elsewhere; the other that their nominations were deemed inadmissable because of the use of Conservative in the title and there was no time left to redo the nomination forms.
I was leafleting outside Kingsbury Green Primary School with the Independent candidate, Jannen Vamadeva and witnessed a wonderful encounter. A mum came running up to collect her child and paused to look the tall, Obama-esque figure up and down. She took in his full glory and said, 'Gaawah! I'm goin' to vote for you anytime!' On the way out I tried to interest her in some policies even though I could not match Jannen's appearance.
Canvassing in Brent North reminds you that Wembley is built on hills and my calf muscles are developing well. Traversing the hills you can imagine what the countryside was like before Metroland was built but you also see how the original suburban concept has been vandalised. I lived on the Vally Farm estate (the area between Kingsbury Road and Fryent Way) as a child and remember the treelined roads and front gardens full of scented flowers. On the whole estate I could find only a handful of intact front gardens. Most had been turned into car parks without a blade of grass, flower or shrub in sight. The rowan trees that used to line Crundale Avenue have all gone. On Barn Hill someone who had retained their garden told me that residents had been complaining about the cherry trees spilling their blossom on cars and wanted to rid of them!
Meanwhile I am finding a positive reception amongst many voters and the TV debates seem to have revived interest, albeit in personalities rather than policies. They seem to have turned every other person into a political pundit. One voter, who lives in a house called Camelot, claimed the media were ignoring the fact that governments were made in marginal constitiuencies rather than the percentage vote and predeicted a small Tory majority.
Discussions about 'wasted votes' are coming up regularly but I urge people to vote Green on the basis of their principles, because every party has to start somewhere, that local Green councillors could make an enormous impact, and to demonstrate after the General Election that a high Green vote emphasises the need for a proportional voting system.
We are a small party with no big business backers and need all the practical help we can get. If you can volunteer in the last couple of days please get in touch.