In the first of a new series which follows MEP candidates on the campaign trail, Bill Etheridge tells us about his week. Bill is the #3 candidate in the West Midlands region
Monday 17th February
Phone calls start from 9am. Jim Carver rang concerned about the arrangements for the fundraising lunch planned for Friday at Worcester Cricket club. We are keen to ask the press along but want to make sure that we only invite people who will give us at least a reasonably fair hearing.
Several other callers rang one after the other to discuss administrational matters around the West Midlands. None of the calls were particularly urgent but when taken one after another they took up virtually the whole morning.
Emails sent out to promote fundraising events around the region.
Public meeting tonight with Neil Hamilton in Harborne, Birmingham. Approximately 100 people crammed into a church hall. Less than half of the people there were known UKIP members or supporters. Several people in the crowd told us they were abandoning the Conservative party at least for the Euro elections as they felt the time was right for a jolt to the political system.
People from every different section of society and many different ethnicities all united in their desire for change. A truly exciting evening with a great atmosphere and a revolutionary fervour in the room.
Tuesday 18th February
Constant stream of phone calls from 9am onwards. One of the hardest parts of our campaign is combining the duties and concerns of a Regional Organiser with those of a candidate. Unfortunately we have no choice but to do this due to the disgraceful behaviour of our previous MEPs who left the party and took their funding and most of their staff with them. We are now left with a totally volunteer team trying to cover a huge area with next to no funds but a very large supply of enthusiasm and good will.
Leaflets dropped in with volunteer campaigners in the Handsworth area of Birmingham.
UKIP West Midlands Regional Committee meeting on the evening. Largely positive feedback from the regions. A couple of branches needing extra support and guidance are being helped. Main issue is the need for fundraisers to raise money to fight an effective campaign. Several events planned around the region but much more needed
Wednesday 19th February
Meeting in Wolverhampton at the Great Western pub at lunch time with chairmen of Wolverhampton and South Staffs branches. Plans under way for a major public meeting, a leafleting drive and at least one fundraising evening.
Evening meeting of Dudley & Halesowen Branch. A serious chance of winning council seats here so plans need to be formalised and actioned. The meeting was fantastic. The branch has a full slate of council candidates for May and have begun going out saturating wards in groups of ten or more working under the title of “The hit squad” and delivering large numbers of leaflets. There was a real feeling of excitement and revolutionary fervour. Over 30 people in attendance and a spontaneous collection to help with the Euro election campaign raised £200.
Thursday 20th February
A quieter day today. Leaflets delivered to volunteers in Birmingham. Many of these volunteers are not party members or even very political but they want to do their bit to work for change.
A lunch with our volunteer press officer to organise a series of press releases across the region. We are having good results from targeting local issues across the West Midlands.
Yet more phone calls and emails regarding administration issues.
Friday 21st February
A big day of fundraising and campaigning today. The first event was at Worcester Cricket Club where Neil Hamilton was the guest speaker talking to a room full of local members, supporters and business men. While it was a successful event it was still sad to look out at the most beautiful cricket ground in the country and see it under approximately 4 foot of water.
In the evening we travelled over to Telford where a UKIP Farming and country matters event was hosted by Jill Seymour and Christopher Gill with guest speaker Stuart Agnew MEP. After a long day we had raised some money and made some new friends.
I checked my phone at the end of the day and found half a dozen voice mails from calls I hadn’t been able to take all chasing me about matters of administration. I responded to all of them by email when I returned home in the hope that people will get used to communicating by email rather than the time consuming phone calls that are making it very difficult to fit in all of the campaigning we need to do.
Finance continues to be the biggest challenge we face in our campaign but we are confident we can overcome any obstacles with the huge wave of public support we have behind us
Very pleased to see that comments I made to the local media about the need for a straight forward In/Out referendum on our relationship with the EU have made it into a large article into a large article featuring well known local political figures
I have managed to have a weekend free from UKIP activity and spending some time with the family. It may be my last for a while.