After a breakfast meeting with campaign supporters we continue with our canvassing programme until the late afternoon, only stopping for a quick sandwich at the Rising Sun in Mill Hill. It is a very warm day and I have taken the precaution to wear sun block, so I don’t look like I have been cooked on the campaign trail.
In the evening I attend the second campaign hustings of the election. The first drew some bad feeling from the audience towards one of the other candidates so I was looking forward to see how this one would take place.
The hall was completely filled with local people and one of the stewards told me that this was the most anticipated event that he could recall in years. Questions about the economy, cutting expenditure and the Leaders’ Debates were all raised but of most interest was Andrew Dismore justifying his own expenses. The first was that he said he does not claim for staying away from his main home but when prompted on the £19,028 he claimed on a mortgage free property in 2002/03 he said he did not but the expenses for that year had been lost. All the figures can be checked here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/andrew_dismore/hendon What upset people the most were the claims made by Andrew for food. When asked to justify this he said that the hours he worked meant that he had to eat in Parliament and as such he claimed the money as expenses. The audience’s response to this defence was ridicule. One lady, who had been visibly supporting the Labour candidate, shouted out that he should take a lunch box to Parliament. This was the first time that people had been able to publicly comment on the previous MP’s expenses and they were not impressed. Let me make it clear that no-one accused him of wrong-doing but I interpreted those present saying that morally they felt he should not have made such claims.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the meeting was the reaction of the audience to the issues raised. The chairman asked people to show their appreciation and support for various views and they did so. Two direct questions were asked of the audience. The first was whether people supported a change to the electoral system from the first pass the post to that of Alternative Voting. The overwhelming number – over 95% of the people in the hall did not want to see the system change. This echoed my own opinion, as I had previously been asked and was in direct contrast to both my Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents. The second question asked of the audience was whether the first of the Leaders’ Debates had changed their voting intention. Not a single person said that it had but about 5 people raised their arms up and down, indicating they were waiving from their original choice. This mirrored our canvassing in the Mill Hill ward, with no real change in the people that we have spoken to sticking to their re-election choice.
The debate was enjoyable and for the first time the public were able to ask questions. It’s interesting to see how some people are using scare tactics and I think it was magnanimous of the Liberal candidate to tell people they should vote how they wanted and not be exploited by such tactics.