Although I'm officially 'on a break' from social media until after the elections to focus on campaigning a couple of people have actually asked me could I do a post about how I think the local election campaign is going. Well go on, since you twisted my arm!
So what are my thoughts? Well I can only speak for my own experience out and about in both my own ward of Whitley (with excellent candidate Kelly Edwards), and where I have been helping out - which is primarily the neighbouring ward of Church ward, a Conservative seat that we are aiming to win, with our hard working candidate Paul Woodward (although I have been talking to people in battleground wards like Redlands, Katesgrove and Caversham as well as in Labour areas like Southcote, Minster and Norcott too).
1. The mood has changed
In the autumn I felt there was a lot of uncertainty and worry regarding the coalition. Now there is downright anger. I've had people say to me on several occasions words to the effect: "I know some people who voted Conservative last year, they won't make that mistake again", I've heard stories of Labour candidates being chased down the street to be thanked for delivering their leaflets and one report of Conservative MP Rob Wilson being shouted at in the street, in a nice bit of a Conservative-held ward.
2. People, especially young people, want to help Labour,
We are getting new people out helping, who have never been involved in politics before and many of them are young people. Today for example with Andy Burnham (who was great!), because we had offers, we held an impromtu canvass session. As well as existing activists two people who are not even members helped out - one who knocked on doors with us and another who took away a pack of leaflets to do, saying he'd help for the whole of election day as well. Both were under 30.
3. The opposition is scared but the coalition, locally, is holding together
We have set ourselves some pretty big targets and we have wards in our sights that the opposition don't expect us to take, and maybe we won't take them all. But we have them worried and they should be. The local Conservatives seem to be doing no campaigning that might hurt the Liberals: not just in the Libdem-Labour marginals but even in the ward which should be a Tory-Libdem marginal, but may end up with Labour in either second place or even winning. Meanwhile the Libdems are, inevitably mostly focused on trying to save their seats, but where they have tried to go outside their currently held wards seem to be focused on Labour seats. Their rhetoric is all anti-Labour and they are not even trying to follow their national counterparts in distancing themselves from each other. They are also playing dirty with some really personal attacks. We'll know next week just how much.that tactic works or whether it will backfire on them.
4. We wouldn't be where we are now without good candidates
Residents want to vote for a councillor who will be good at representing their area. My experience in this campaign suggests that politics is continuing to get more about personal qualities, despite Clegg-mania leading to such disappointment. People who are undecided have often been swayed by hard work and someone who listened to their concerns and responded to them properly.
It's also one of the reasons I have been out in all weathers to support our candidates (yes Matt, that sleet that disintegrated our petition outside George Palmer school was probably the worst!). I and others have been doing it because I really think they will do a great job for Reading, and be a lot better than their opposition: Paul for example works with disadvantaged teenagers, knows how to relate to people and has done a huge amount of casework even before he has (hopefully) been elected. This in contrast to Church ward Conservative councillors who consistently come bottom of the 'league table' for number of pieces of case work and a candidate this year doesn't even live in Reading borough and describes himself as a 'regular driver through the ward' in election leaflets. (Yes he really did! It hasn't gone down well). This is partially selfish - I want to be able to work with someone who cares about the area and the issues that matter to me.
We still have probably thousands of pieces of literature to get out and more people to talk to before election day but I believe we can get rid of one Conservative-Libdem coalition at least this May in Reading!
If you want to help us get a Labour council elected in Reading, any time between now and close of poll we've got something for you to do - just drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org! It is going to the wire as there are just a couple of marginal wards that will make the difference.