Labour canvassing Lib Dem/Tory Battleground
Out and about today in Hedge End was Hedge Ender Andrew Helps, the Labour Candidate for the Botley and Hedge End division in the forthcoming County Council elections, to be held on 2nd May.
The Labour campaigners had also hired the Hedge End 2000 Centre for the afternoon, inviting local residents to come and meet their candidate.
With the Lib Dems routinely claiming on their campaign leaflets that Labour can’t win in Hedge End, Labour are currently busy leafleting and campaigning in the parts of Hedge End where a Labour campaign leaflet through the letterbox has previously been something of a rarity.
“Over the years our manpower has diminished and we haven’t had the people available to do that. During the by-election, we had people coming from all over the country, so it was a bit different.”
“We’re trying to change that, with leaflets going out. We did a leaflet in Botley, to see if we could do that area with the manpower that we had. Then we decided to do a leaflet in Wildern and Botley together. It’s all about trying to build up the resources now.”
When asked about the 1.9% increase in the Borough Component of Hedge Ender’s Council Tax, which the Lib Dems claim is “frozen”, Andrew said;
“Yes , I’ve heard about this. It’s very interesting. I know that anything they print in their newsletters has to be legally factual. Anything they print in their newsletters that isn’t fact, you can actually write back to them.”
“I don’t know if you’ve got the one from Mike Thornton, but I read here on the front ‘Your local Lib Dem Team around Hedge End is here as always – keeping going after the elections when the other parties have gone home to London, Surrey or just disappeared.'”
“Now actually that statement is false because they’re talking about candidates. London John O’Farrell, Surrey the UKIP lady Diane James, disappeared I think they’re talking about Maria Hutchings because nobody’s heard from her since…” [n.b but Eastleigh News have..!]
Pointing to a chart on the Lib Dems campaign leaflet which showed the standing of the parties, Andrew then continued
“And obviously this stuff here. Their sources are for the General Election 2010, they’re not using any update. They need to use facts and graphs which are appropriate to the election that is being contested. This is a Hampshire County Council election not a General Election, so they need to use the facts for that.”
“If you’re going to run something about Hampshire County Council and you’re going to put the figures in there, they need to be of the thing you’re talking about. Its not relevant, that graph, to anything else. That graph should relate to the last County Council elections.”
“Obviously I think they’re doing that just to show this whole thing of ‘Labour can’t win here’, which actually we’re trying to change. Over time, we can do that.”
Asked about strongholds in Hedge End, Andrew explained;
I did some leafleting this morning and had three or four houses, out of those that I did, say ‘We haven’t heard from you in a while, but we think the leaflets are brilliant, we used to vote Labour but quite like how you’re talking so I would like to vote for you’. I think there is a change here, but it just needs to be coaxed out, getting those areas to talk-up. A lot of people are just voting Lib Dem to keep the Conservatives out.
I think there is a lot of tactical voting here at the moment, because I don’t think people particularly want the Conservatives in at the moment.
When asked why people should vote for him, to vote Labour, instead of voting tactically, Andrew replied;
I always say on the doorstep, rather than say ‘vote for me’, which is a bit boring, I say ‘vote for the person who has the most policies which you want’.
At the end of the day, I can say ‘vote for me’ as many times as I like, but people aren’t going to heed that unless I’m talking about things which are interesting to them.
I think if you hit subjects which are interesting to people and they really want those subjects then they will vote for you. I think it’s just trying to get that mentality into people, that if you don’t vote Liberal you may get the Conservatives in this time, but its a slow winning war. If you don’t give us the opportunity to get there, then you’re never going to see a change. You’re just going to be stuck in this constant cycle.
Returning to the Council Tax issue, Andrew suggested;
In terms of the actual promise on the Lib Dems campaign leaflets, that would need a letter to the Liberal Democrats saying that the facts are untrue, sending a copy of your actual Council Tax bill, showing the actual increase. Obviously you can promote it within the news, which usually gets people acting a lot quicker as they don’t like a bad press…
I phoned up Mikes Office about the other issue [the chart] and I got letter back about something completely different, the map on the back. I don’t know what’s going on in that office. Is there no communication whatsoever…?
Moving on to multi-hatting Councillors, observing that Andrew was standing against Cllr Ruprt Kyrle who is currently Hedge End Town Councillor, Botley Parish Councillor, Eastleigh Borough Councillor, Hampshire County Councillor and Eastleigh’s Mayor, I asked Andrew if that was a healthy situation. He laughed and then replied;
There’s got to be a point where somebody’s got to realise that how can you be for that particular area if you’ve got multiple hats. You can’t say that you’re for Botley then working in Hedge End for something else. You think, well, whose interest are you actually interested in. Are you interested in your other ward or are you interested in us.
The politicians need to realise that you need to stick to what you want to do and not have these multiple hats, because it doesn’t give the voter the choice. It’s just ‘Oh I’ll vote for him because I voted for him last time’ and then eventually you get these people with multiple hats and you don’t know who they’re standing for, are they standing for us, or are they standing for the other place that they’ve been elected in. It’s just kind like, well, ‘not sure‘…
After confirming to Eastleigh News that he felt there was a conflict in that sort of multi-hatting, Andrew further volunteered;
I would probably stand in the Borough elections, if we didn’t have anybody else to stand, just to make sure that we have somebody standing at every single election.
At the end of the day, if you’ve got someone standing in every election, it shows a prominence to everyone that actually there is Labour here, they are doing stuff, they are standing every time. I think that’s something we’ve got to make sure that we do.
I could be construed as one of these multi-hatter persons who wants to stand for everything, but I would only do it if I wasn’t already a Councillor. I am not a Councillor at the moment. I am a single-hatter at the moment.
I wouldn’t stand for things unless I knew it was something that I really wanted to do and Hampshire County Council is one of the places where you can get a lot of knowledge and help a lot of people locally.
Andrew then gave an example of an issue that concerned him, saying;
One of the things that I’ve found, which I think is quite appalling actually, is that money has been spent at rail stations like Winchester, Southampton, to put in bridges to provide disabled access, but stations like Hedge End and Botley have no disabled access.
To get to the other platform in Hedge End you have to go over a hump-back bridge, which is dangerous enough. When cars go over it they have to beep their horn, because otherwise they can’t see the other person coming. If you’ve got a disabled person going over there in a wheelchair, its only a matter of time before someone crashes into that. Its something that needs to be sorted.
Its something that I would like to look at. An issue that I’m concerned about.
On large majorities, like that currently enjoyed by the Lib Dems in Eastleigh and Hedge End, Andrew agreed that all political parties chase that situation, but the current situation is unhealthy and that more opposition was needed, saying;
Yes, I do think so. Its been like this for a while. People have been saying to me on the doorstep, I don’t vote Conservative, I vote Liberal to keep them out.
Because they haven’t really heard from us over the years, which we’re changing slowly, its a long battle to change that, but I think that people will start to be swayed.
Hopefully those people who are tired of the Liberal Democrats and the same old same old things and the multiple leaflets which come through doors maybe six times a month, sometimes…
I’d like to think that I would only deliver one leaflet every quarter. I think that’s a sustainable amount. We can say over the last three months we’ve done this. That way you’ve got enough material for your newsletter without it looking a bit drab.
With the large majority, I think people are ready for a change. It’s just that we need to coax that change out of them and get them to vote for us.
Speaking on the issues that are central to his campaign, Andrew explained;
I decided to choose issues which I thought were brilliant in the area, but I also thought that if these are the right issues that people need to think about, that’s also right.
The one that most people are going to be interested in is Boorley Green.
I did a bit of research. If you have 1400 new houses and in this day & age you’ve got about two cars per household, that’s an extra 2,400 cars on the roads of Hedge End. And we know during rush-hour, that dual-carriage-way, Tollbar way, is way over-subscribed. Its queuing at rush-hours. That can be fixed quite easily, but I don’ t want to say too much in my newsletter just in case the Lib Dems get hold of it and they start trying to do my plan…!
On the new cycleway in Hedge End, Andrew observed;
It’s ludicrous that the Council spend charity money on this cycle path then have to dig it up again when they do the Maypole Roundabout. They knew they were voting for it, they knew it was coming up.
I spoke to someone this morning. There are two big containers in Lower Northam Road that the Council said were only going to be there for five months, but they’ve now been there for eight months. This bloke said, ‘I’ve asked the Council but they haven’t reponded’.
If you look at it, it looks like all the work has finished and they’ve abandoned it. It looks like it’s just left there.
If you’re going to do something, make sure you work on it all the time.
This bloke said that what annoyed him more was that when he had his wall done, the bricks were put on the grass verge outside his house and the Council asked him to move them immediately. It seems like there are two-rules here, one for the Council one for everybody else. Double-standards.
I ‘ve asked him to email me, as we can certainly help push issues like this towards the Council.
I then asked Andrew what he would say to people who were reluctant to vote Labour because of what they saw happening under the last Labour Government, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, where lots of debt was accumulated and the country effectively bankrupted. To people who were worried about the same thing happening at County level. Andrews reply was;
Everyone is different. Every person who is voted in, they may be standing for the party but they are their own individual as well. We’ve got to remember that within every politicians life there will be good and bad things that they’ve done. So we’ve just got to weigh-up the good and bad parts.
Personally, if I were to get in, I would try to make sure that things like bankruptcy wouldn’t happen, because I don’t think its healthy for an economy where we run out of money or have to keep on borrowing stuff to actually make this work.
Then again, I don’t agree with some of the slashing of services, which quite frankly don’t need to be slashed sometimes when they’ve got plenty of money.
There’s got to be a healthy balance between what you keep as reserves and what you use to keep services going.
I’m a big fan of people’s mobility. I think its very important to keep people getting out and seeing people. Sometimes these people who go shopping, that’s the only time they get to see somebody, which is vital…
Andrew currently works for IBM, has previously worked for Sainsburys Supermarkets, and went to Fareham College and Kings School in Winchester. He has been a member of the Labour party since February 2012 and this his first election. He also said;
I feel like I’m a very helpful person, I like to be helpful, which drew me into politics. I wanted to be the kind of person that people come to and be the person who does something about it rather than sitting there and saying it’s not viable. I’ll do my best to make sure that things that I think are viable go through.
On the campaign so far, Andrew said;
I’ve had excellent help from a lot of people in Hedge End and we are on target to finish before 2nd May. We’ve obviously made decisions on areas where we deliver leaflets and where we don’t, to make sure that our leaflets are channelled into the right areas, but we will hopefully have all of the areas completely canvassed before the election.
I asked Andrew how he would feel if his campaign was not successful, but if he pinched enough votes of the Lib Dems to let the Conservatives in. After a gentle sigh, Andrew replied;
It’s a two-barrelled thing. It’s very much if you don’t vote for us you get the same people you got last time. If you do vote for us you’ve got that possibility of having the Conservatives in. But then again, how many votes are we going to take off the Conservatives. We don’t know until we actually do this sort of stuff. Its got to that point where people have to realise do they want more of the same, or can they handle a couple of years of, four years of…, that’s quite a long time actually!…., and get the change afterwards. It’s a do they, don’t they situation.
Thinking about the other dynamic in this election, where a Conservative victory in Hedge End would strengthen the Conservatives position in Hampshire, Andrew replied;
Yeah, and I that’s something which I presume that a lot of people are worried about, that if they vote for myself, they might get a Conservative candidate that strengthens Hampshire County Council’s position.
But saying that, it looks like we could probably win Eastleigh West. From what I can see they’ve got a strong Labour vote there. I’m hoping that with the campaign work that they’re doing in Basingstoke, we may be able to get a few votes from there.
I can see that people might vote the same way that they always have done, because they’re stuck in their ways and they always will vote that way and that’s entirely up to that persons decision, its their right to vote.
I won’t be asking them who they voted for, particularly on election day, because I don’t think its the right thing to do.
I never give my voter number to the parties outside on Polling day. Do they need to know that I’ve voted…?
Do we need parties pestering people to go and vote. If they want to vote they would go and vote themselves. People don’t vote because of some things that happen, like they get pestered every 5 minutes to go and vote and there’s so much bureaucracy behind it.
I made this leaflet so that it was easy to read, would flow and people could read the bits that they wanted to read. I thought that would be the best way of communicating with people. I’ve had some good responses.
Any increase from last time is a bonus.
During the by-election some said we weren’t that good. OK, wait, we didn’t put much literature out. But, saying that, the Lib Dems lost a large majority and so did the Conservatives. UKIP gained a majority, but we never lost a majority, we actually increased our majority by 0.2%. Now when every big political party was losing percentage and we actually increased ours, I think that’s quite a feat. These little gains will help us to our main goal.
I’d like a big swing, but we have to live in hope and just carry on the way we have, carry on leafleting and people will then start thinking that they are actually here and doing something rather than this mentality at the moment of ‘I haven’t heard from them so why would I vote for them’.
I closed by asking Andrew if he did find himself one of the few Labour Councillors on Hampshire County Council, would he attend every Council meeting. He said;
I wouldn’t guarantee to attend every single Council meeting, because you have to take account of things like sickness and holidays, but I would make sure I would attend more than half.
If in a minority, I’d go anyway just to put my awe-in. If you get to that point where people aren’t pushing your stuff through, at least you can say your newsletter I’ve tried pushing it through, its in the Council meeting minutes, but they won’t vote for it.
There are four candidates in the Botley and Hedge End Division of the Hampshire County Council elections on 2nd May. They are;
- Ian Bennet – Conservative
- Andrew Helps – Labour
- Rupert Gregory Miles Kyrle – Liberal Democrat
- Steve Robinson-Grindey – UKIP
The full list of candidates for the Hampshire County Council elections, that are standing in the seven divisions within Eastleigh, can be found here on the Eastleigh Borough Council website.
Due to the electoral boundaries, some Hedge Enders are in the West End and Hedge End Grange Park Division. The candidates in that division are;
- Pete Luffman – Labour
- Sarah Lyon – UKIP
- Paul Andrew Redding – Conservative
- Bruce Robert Tennant – Liberal Democrat