On Saturday morning, around 100 activists gathered in and around the new UKIP Clacton HQ, in Station Road, just 100 yards from the station and 100 yards from the Tory Party HQ, for the “Grand Opening”. Some local press were present, but the activists gave a rousing welcome to Stuart Agnew MEP who cut the ribbon. He produced a letter that Douglas had written to him at the start of the long process of Douglas considering jumping ship, nicely handwritten on House of Commons headed notepaper.
Douglas also got a rousing welcome for his brief speech, where he said how gratified by the warmth with which he (and his wife) had been received into UKIP, both locally and nationally. He also said we must be respectful to people with opposing views. And, all the while, cars driving by were honking their horns with people sticking their upped thumbs out of the window.
Then, we all got our marching orders from Darryl Pitcher, Lisa Duffy’s assistant, mostly for some basic canvassing – i.e. determining voter intentions. I ended up as leader of a team and four of us bundled into my car, David from my own branch, Geoff from North Norfolk, and Marion, a local recent “defector” from Labour, with two different types of leaflets, canvassing sheets and window posters.
We had about 500 houses to do in a modern estate a little over a mile from the station, some houses backing onto countryside. They were a mixed bag of some social housing rising up to “posh” four-bed detacheds, most of the latter with Chelsea Tractors outside them. What we found was astounding – 60-80% of the residents who opened the door were positive about UKIP, the odd waverer, but we gave them the ammunition to help them make the right decision. The enthusiasm to vote was astounding too, at least two-thirds of residents said they would be voting, so turnout could be high for a By Election. OK, there were the odd few Tory faithful who were displeased with Douglas’ defection, but they were very much in the minority.
Frankly, I have never been on the receiving end of so much positive feedback from voters and it made me feel we had finally “arrived” – however, perhaps Clacton is exceptional, and we will have to work a lot harder for our votes elsewhere.
So, if you can get to Clacton, if you can spare a day for campaigning, please do. You will be rewarded with the extremely uplifting experience of strong public support for our party. If only we could bottle the “Clacton Spirit” and give it away to the rest of the country, we’d be on a winner!