Tim urged us to think of reasons to be cheerful this morning, so, despite being the living proof of PG Wodehouse's dictum (that it's never hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman and a ray of sunshine), I thought I'd comply. While Tim and his friends found a source of joy in the existence of Sarah Palin - the gift that keeps on giving - my own succour, on this Day 1 of the Brown Recession, came closer to home.
There's a by-election to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on 20 November, in the Mile End East ward. I got the summons from Peter Golds, that remarkable force of East London nature, and since I used to live in the manor (down the old Roman, in fact, up in Bow), and seeing how Mr Keith had to work, I thought I'd wander over. (In fact I was in two minds about whether or not to go last night, but found myself shouting "Mile End" (correctly) to answer a question on Mastermind. Don't tell Richard Dawkins or the other Tory Humanists, but that settled the matter for me).
I fully expected to find Peter alone this morning, with a sackload of leaflets, and a depressing list of polling districts to conquer. When I lived in Bow, there were no Tory councillors in Tower Hamlets.
Ha! Keep up Archer. There are now eight Tory councillors in LBTH and little doubt over which party has the upward momentum. Nine local Tories turned up to leaflet. Nine! I know out there in the wilds of west London or the leafy redoubts of suburban England, nine volunteers would leave you inquorate for the agenda-setting sub-committee of the F&GP ward meeting: but in Hackney or Tower Hamlets, Newham - out of a general election cycle - it's little short of astonishing. This wasn't people being bused in for a general, this wasn't the (admirable) sight of wannabe PPCs turning up to do their bit - it was just nine East End Tories who thought "It's Saturday morning, and I'd really like a swim - but socialism doesn't take the morning off to bob around in the Lido, and nor shall I" [(c) Assembleymemberperson Boff, who also came today].
It seems that that the increase in active support we all felt in London during the mayoral election wasn't just a flash in the celebrity pan. Something's changing out there. People want to deliver leaflets again, they want to form branches, they want to be involved in selecting candidates and they want Tories elected in places we haven't dreamed about for decades. And I think that's a pretty good reason for Tories to be cheerful.
(If you can help with the campaign, please contact me on the email address here, and I'll pass your details onto Peter Golds - or search for "Bethnal Green and Bow Conservatives" on Facebook).