Like most active Conservatives I have been on the receiving end of plenty of emails in the past couple of weeks asking me to lend a hand with the by-election in Rochester & Strood. Mostly, these have been Team 2015 bus tours starting from London, which are aimed at the younger crowd. For this election, I’m delighted to say, there hasn’t been a repeat of the peremptory demand that we received in April from the Chairman’s office to go to Newark – or else. I suspect that the message has got back to the powers that be that we candidates are volunteers too.
Anyway, with no court booking and no urgent written work to do I headed off to Rochester yesterday. The party is running three separate campaign centres each manned by CCHQ staff. On the wall is a white board where we are asked to sign our names. The one in Rochester is so full I had to stand on a table to add my name near the ceiling. I was sent off delivering target literature in the Rochester South ward.
There wasn’t much sign of opposition activity. One or two Mark Reckless posters in windows, more for our candidate Kelly Tolhurst, only 1 person admitting to supporting Labour and none with the dreaded yellow diamond on display. According to the press UKIP have a 10 point lead. If that’s right then UKIP supporters are keeping their powder dry until election day on the 20th. We are fighting hard and we have lots of boots on the ground.
Reading our literature,it is clear that a decision has been taken to attack Mark Reckless’ credibility. For the first time so far as I am aware an “attack ad” has been produced taking Reckless to task for backing a planning issue whilst an MP and now opposing it. One of our leaflets pushes Kelly Tolhurst’s local credentials (which are excellent) but also highlights the fact that Reckless came to the area to fight the seat and used to work in the City.
This does seem a tad unfair. Reckless fought the old Medway seat in 2001 and 2005 before winning the re-drawn Rochester & Strood seat in 2010. By now I would have thought he is entitled to be considered as local. This isn’t Switzerland, where I once met a chap who had moved there 50 years previously, spoke German with a Swiss accent and had taken Swiss citizenship but was still referred to as “the German”. There are plenty of good reasons to vote Conservative at this by-election that have nothing to do with Mark Reckless and where he grew up, and I would like to think that the party could leave attacks on people’s backgrounds to the Labour party, who regularly attack Cameron and Osborne for their backgrounds, and which ran a vicious campaign against Edward Timpson in Crewe & Nantwich in 2008.