You could sense the wind of change in the air, and I’m not referring to the kebab shop next door to the UKIP campaign office. When two car loads of keen Kippers arrived in Clacton yesterday from Thetford branch, we saw the throng of press and cameras before we saw the office. Douglas Carswell was somewhere under a scrum of reporters, including Sky’s political correspondent Joey Jones, notepads and cameras recording his every word. Unnoticed by the cameras, a van passed by, the driver beeping his horn, shouting “UKIP” out of the window.
Having received our instructions and two boxes of letters from the inestimable, invaluable Lisa Duffy, we hit the streets. Our precious payload was a personal letter from Douglas Carswell, addressed to named recipients at each address. So while this was necessarily slower to deliver than a normal leaflet drop, it added a personal touch that was very well received. In the letter, Douglas wrote about needing his constituent’s permission to change party, and focussed on local issues; campaigning for more GPs, completing the new seafront project, pushing for improved train services.
UKIP certainly edges ahead in the battle of the window posters. In the first area we covered, near the town centre with mainly large houses divided into flats, only “I’m backing Douglas” and a few Labour posters could be seen. I did not see one poster backing the Conservative candidate.
We soon dispatched the first two boxes, and having stopped for coffee (and in the case of one activist who shall remain nameless, a slice of Marrot Cake, which is carrot cake made with marrows), we collected more letters and another map. This new area, featuring large detached houses, was noticeably more Conservative. Billboards and posters for Giles Watling (unlike our esteemed Mayor of London and aspiring Tory leader, I do know the name of the Tory candidate!) were in evidence here, but so too were the “I’m backing Douglas”.
Douglas Carswell was very welcoming and stopped to talk to us. Michael Crick, in a fine example of the art of barrel scraping, took to Channel 4 last night chiefly to criticise Douglas for saying hello to two ladies as he passed them on the street, but not stopping to talk to them. Well, despite being clearly extremely busy, he took the time to stop and talk with us. Having checked him for any physical signs of the four-on-one kicking he received courtesy of the BBC in the “Battle for Clacton” show aired on the previous evening, we shared a joke or two and he was warm in his appreciation of our efforts.
Literally everyone I spoke to said they were voting UKIP. One couple arrived at the campaign office desperate to vote, but having recently moved to the area it was too late for them to register. Interestingly many were “voting for Douglas” and had followed him over from the Conservatives. Wisely the letter we were delivering recognised this, saying that though Douglas had changed parties, “if you re-elect me, you still get me”. I did see one group of three Conservative activists, and gave them a cheery wave, but no Labour or Lib Dems were to be seen. I saw more funeral parlours (1) than I did Lib Dem posters. I suspect that this could be their tenth lost deposit since 2010.
UKIP’s greatest enemy in Clacton is perhaps one we haven’t faced before; complacency. Every single vote is important. However with Harriet Harman visiting Clacton today, I suspect the UKIP campaign office will see a run on the last few “I’m backing Douglas” posters, and all will be well. Fingers and everything else crossed, the houses of parliament could be a brighter shade of purple on Friday morning. Good luck Douglas.