I was in Castle Point this morning, canvassing for Labour on the King's Park estate - a 900-home mobile home park on Canvey Island which is populated mainly by ex-East Enders and hence a relatively good Labour area.
I was down there to repay debts in shoe leather owed to the team who worked for me in the 2005 General Election, and took a couple of other Hackney councillors with me, although our main twinning effort is with more marginal Thurrock.
I'll be taking a day off work on Thursday to help their polling day effort.
We were working to keep the last remaining Labour Councillor on Castle Point Council - an authority we controlled as recently as 2003.
- the only time Blair was mentioned it was positively
- looking at the data, the core vote doesn't seem to have shifted much since the General Election
- voters in the South East are still obsessed by immigration - virtually the only national issue anyone raised with me
- the Labour Party is at its best when it's up against it - when you are expecting a kicking but people still turn out and pound the streets because of old-fashioned virtues like comradeship and solidarity
- the "thin Red line" of Labour troops is perilously thin in a lot of places and we need to develop a real organisational plan for keeping us a 628-constituency national party and supporting and building CLPs that don't have a Labour MP or large group of Labour Councillors - Deputy Leadership candidates please note
- the voters are blissfully unaware of how big a kicking they have already given us - choosing tactically to punish a party you want to send a message to is all well and good but the people I was canvassing had no idea that the party they were punishing was already down to its last councillor locally
- in rural and suburban areas once you take away that handful of Labour councillors you are left with a pretty unpleasant vision of local government and actually an extinction of progressive voices and values in local civic life - you don't just get rid of the local face of Blair and Brown, you get rid of any voices holding public office making a case for tolerance, fairness, liberalism and social justice
- our guys didn't really get a very long "moment in the sun" as one of them put it to me - they waited 20 years to take control of the council, and 47 years to get their second ever Labour MP - and held the one for just 8 years and the other for 4 (and Neal Lawson begrudges them both - see previous post below)
Back from Canvey and turning to the newspapers:
The PM is being very sensible about the election of his successor.
John McDonnell is ecstatic about being on 9% in a YouGov poll of Party members (it strikes me as a bit desperate to be celebrating being more popular than Meacher or Charles Clarke). I shall take that as a license to be ecstatic that Hazel is also on 9% in the equivalent Deputy Leader poll.
More seriously her numbers are going in the right direction - up 2% since the previous equivalent poll of the same panel - whilst Alan Johnson who is competing with her for roughly the same pool of votes, is down 3% - Hilary Benn's supporters are highlighting these shifts so they must think they are significant.
I find the 36% rating for Hilary a bit bizarre - the only Benn supporters I've ever met are Alex Hilton, AKA Recess Monkey and an MP who rang me and asked me to work on Benn's campaign. Who are the 36%?
Also, if the rumours are true, and Benn, Hain and perhaps Harman get knocked out at the nomination stage because of their low support in the PLP, where will their 36%, 15% and 13% go?
Over at the Observer, there's an excellent editorial stating the obvious but forgotten facts:
"dysfunctionality is an electoral turn-off. Voters want to be governed by a party that speaks out to the nation with confidence, not inward to itself with bitterness. That alone cannot account for Labour's anticipated meltdown on Thursday. Perhaps 10 years is just too long. Perhaps it is simply time for a change.
But that means impatience for new faces, not necessarily a new direction. The two political constituencies that have been most hostile to everything Mr Blair does are the unreconstructed left and the misanthropic right, one nostalgic for class war, the other pining for a fictitious idyll of little England.
The overwhelming majority, meanwhile, want neither revolution nor reaction. They like gradual change. And Britain has been discreetly transformed: the minimum wage; free nursery care; tens of thousands more teachers, doctors and nurses - with higher wages; the working families' tax credit; the right to six months' maternity leave and two weeks' paternity leave; a statutory right to flexible working hours; the disability rights commission; the Freedom of Information Act; civil partnerships and the repeal of Section 28; restoring self-government for London; devolution for Scotland and Wales; the Human Rights Act; peace in Northern Ireland. Mr Blair's government has given millions of people unprecedented freedom to live as they choose and given them the wealth and security to do it.
Britain is better off after a decade with Tony Blair in charge. Wealth has been created, and wealth has been redistributed. That is what Labour governments have always hoped to do. It has happened without a brake on global competitiveness. That is what New Labour hoped to do: build a vibrant market economy with a generous welfare state; economic freedom and social protection. That is Blairism.
So on Thursday millions of voters will go to the polls intending to bury the Prime Minister. In time they will find many reasons to praise him."
Also at the Observer, Denis MacShane earns my wrath for his positive remarks about Sarkosy. Sorry, Denis, but surely a basic rule of solidarity between Socialist International and PES sister parties is that when your comrades in the PS are in the middle of a close-fought election campaign you praise their candidate, Segolene Royal, not the right-winger she is up against.