A parliamentary by election was called at the end of November in the Feltham and Heston constituency due to the sad death of sitting Labour MP Alan Keen.
With Feltham being on the borders of Hillingdon, this has given me an early chance to become involved and help out in a live campaign for the first time since joining UKIP in October.
The national party were quickly in to their stride, and over twenty activists were out distributing 5000 leaflets on Sunday 27th November before the encumbent Labour party had even announced their choice of candidate.
Saturday 3rd December saw a concerted push, with many senior party members out to support candidate Andrew Charalambous. I arrived outside the main entrance to the shopping centre on the High Street at 10am to find a stall already in place, and many shoppers stopping to talk with activists dishing out a four page newsletter and glossy A5 leaflets with Andrew’s picture on the front.
The familiar face of Nigel Farage was in the thick of things, greeting the public and cracking jokes in between photographers and journalists turning up for video interviews. The Daily Express were in attendance in the form of Political Editor Patrick O’Flynn to view events, and London MEP Gerard Batten arrived to add his weight to the canvassing around ten minutes after myself.
The young UKIP element were also in evidence, with Sanya-Jeet Thandi popping back to the campaign table to collect folded newsletters on more than one occasion – Myself and a Feltham branch member were furiously folding paper and adding flyers to keep up with the demand as the locals gathered to see what all the fuss was about.
Having heard many comments on the net regarding UKIP being ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘The disenchanted OAP arm of the Tories’, it was great to see activists from all age groups and sections of our society on the stall.
Unfortunately, with the press and cameras in attendance some elements we would wish to avoid started circling. Members of the BNP started hovering around on the periphery, handing out leaflets to the people attracted towards where we were pitched. Local UKIP members decided it was best to move on rather than our presence attracting people towards them, and as we started to pack up London BNP organiser Steve Squire decided to put their campaign table right next to ours as ‘we are here every week’ and ‘there is room enough for both here’.
I stayed behind with our trestle table until a pick up could be arranged for it, which came courtesy of Harry and Laura from young UKIP passing by and getting on their mobiles to hurry things along. A scuffle broke out just before the van turned up as one of the young UKIPpers commented on the union flag on the BNP table being somewhat at odds with the BNP standing a Uruguayan who volunteered to fight for Argentina during the Falklands war being their Mayoral candidate for GLA 2012. Mr Squire took severe exception to this (probably because Carlos Cortiglia was there in attendance with him) , and after pointing out that in his opinion this was a slur generated by Gerry Gable of Searchlight, he proceeded to shove the young man in the chest and threatened to ‘sort him out’.
Considering that Mr Squire had tried to tell me earlier about the BNP being ‘slurred’ by the media, this was probably not the best way to prove it. He had also commented that the UKIP immigration policy would result in ‘all the whites leaving and being replaced with foreigners’ , to which I replied that if that was the case could he please put George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Len McCluskey on the first boat out, and if he was so worried about this then why had he, as London GLA organiser, put up a Uruguayan for Mayor of London? Answers on a postcard please, Mr Squire….
Getting the message out
Back at the party offices, I walked in to a hive of activity. A map of the constituency was on the walls, and party activists were furiously working on getting leaflet drops set up. I was impressed to see senior party officials getting their hands dirty in the organisation and envelope stuffing, including our candidate (left) whilst the media were dropping by to interview Nigel Farage who was still there and pitching in.
I had been told prior to joining that Nigel is not afraid to roll up his sleeves, and was impressed when he asked me if I was alright after being left alone with the campaign table – In the midst of all the interviews and press attention, he took the time to enquire after the wellbeing of an ordinary member. Would Milliband,Clegg or Cameron have done so?
After a cup of tea in the cafe next door, I was passed a set of name addressed leaflets and given an area to post them in. Loaded in to my shoulder bag I set off to deliver them, grabbing a handful of newsletters on my way out. Yet again, I passed a long standing member of the party on the way out (Toby from Spelthorne) who was back for more leaflets.
UKIP must have had over forty members out yesterday, with the signing in book showing that people had travelled from all over England to participate. Local election polls are putting us ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the seat already.
From the effort I saw yesterday from all members of the party, we deserve a result – What’s more, England deserves a result from a dedicated bunch of individuals who put their country and their people ahead of personal gain.