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On the campaign trail

PAUL DONOVAN

STANDING as a Labour candidate in the local council elections has been an enlightening experience.

There has been the regular knocking on doors, canvassing people’s opinions. The reception varies from those that shut the door in your face to others who ask you in for a chat and a cup of tea.

There are many problems, like the couple stuck on the top floor of a block of flats, one with cancer, the other blood clots. They want to move to a ground floor flat where getting up and down is less difficult.

The question of anti-semitism in the Labour Party has made life difficult with a number of Jewish voters who now close the doors — this despite one of my fellow candidates being Jewish himself.

While anti-semitism is no doubt a problem in the Labour Party, and other political parties as well, it is curious that the issue just surfaced a month before local elections, with the party being predicted to do well.

The attacks on the leader over ludicrous allegations of being a Czech spy and  then for his wholly sensible approach towards Russia and events in Salisbury all came in the run-up to these elections — coincidence or what?

It is one of the challenges of the doorstep to try to bring the conversation round to policy and away from the personality focus of the media.

When it comes to election time, some seem to switch to X-factor mode, with the focus on personality. Then, things like homeless on the streets, a million plus going to foodbanks and a crumbling NHS somehow get lost. We need to get the voter thinking about those issues.

At local election time the challenge is to bring the voter to the level of the local. This particularly includes the massive cuts made in local authority budgets, which, in Redbridge where I am standing, amount to 44 per cent over the past few years.

Budgets have been slashed, yet some people expect the same level of services without paying more for them. The local Conservatives have the audacity to start petitions calling for the reinstatement of services cut due to the actions of their government in making the original funding restrictions.

It is all something to be countered on the doorstep and in the local media. The support of fellow party members is another impressive thing.

The Labour Party really is a volunteer army. People come and give their time freely to help get members elected. They knock on doors, deliver leaflets, attend fundraisers and donate generously.

Until you really take part on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult to appreciate just how much ordinary people give to get Labour candidates elected.

The contrast with the Tories is stark. Backed by big business, they are never short of funds and so do not have the same volunteer ethos. It is a real David versus Goliath battle and, thankfully, David often comes out on top.

At the moment things are looking good for Labour in the local elections. There have been distractions, but the Tories have their own little local difficulties, not least the Windrush crisis.

So, while they have no doubt profited from some discord within Labour ranks, the old nasty party has once again reappeared baring its teeth for all to see.

So it’s on to the finish line tomorrow. Things are looking good for the three Labour candidates in Wanstead Village, but never count your chickens as they say.

Come Friday, we will all know. Till then, its back to knocking those doors and delivering leaflets.

Paul Donovan is a Labour Party candidate for Wanstead Village ward in the Redbridge Council elections. You can find more of his work on paulfdonovan.blogspot.com.

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