By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter
I wonder who does the location scouting for these big, ministerial speeches. George Osborne’s today was delivered in a building development that ceased, er, developing in 2008, but where construction started again last year. So, y’know, the economy has turned a corner, etc, etc. But it mostly reminded me of the Chancellor’s speech in a Morrisons depot in Kent in April. His appearances are ever more considered and camera-friendly.
By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter
2010 - 2011 Outturn: £2,544,200 b
2011 - 2012 Outturn: £2,473,000 b
"Unprecedented reductions in spending on public services" - Paul Johnson, Institute of Fiscal Studies.
This is my last blog before D-day. I hope you have enjoyed being a part of the journeys of the Pickles Reasonably Priced People Carrier (PRPPC). It’s been a great treat for me to bring the readers of ConHome with me as I toured every corner of the country.
You may remember that at Spring Forum I made you a promise. I promised to roll up my sleeves, fire up the PRPPC and join our campaign on the ground and now we’re just a few short hours away from polling day.
90 seats, 10,000 miles, 370 tweets, 146 cans of diet coke, 53 cans of Red Bull and several Premier Inn’s later, the PRPPC takes its last stop at Brentwood and Ongar today.
In every seat visited I’ve found the energy and enthusiasm of this campaign infectious. The country is crying out for change and it is our team who are leading that charge. From the tip to the toe of this country I have been proud to support our Parliamentary Candidates and I know tomorrow they will make us proud.
As Party Chairman I can only say how moved I’ve been by the warmth of the reception that I and my colleagues have enjoyed in every seat up and down the country. To the thousands of supporters who have given their time and effort to make us to welcome, thank you.
To the professional staff both in CCHQ and offices across the United Kingdom I also want to pass on the thanks and appreciation I’ve received from all the candidates I’ve met on the road. I can honestly say, the team in CCHQ and the team in the field are the best bunch of people I could have wanted to work alongside. They too have made me proud.
Our campaign material has never looked better, our communications never sharper, our campaign discipline never tighter, so to everybody responsible, I say thank you.
To put it in context the London team alone has managed to X-ray 500 sacks of mail, answer 26,000 phone calls and wash over 40,000 mugs!
Operationally, I don’t think I could have ever expected it to go well as it has, a truly exceptional achievement.
Tomorrow, I know that for all of us it will be the culmination of years of hard fought political work. We always knew this election would be fought on a door by door, street by street and constituency by constituency basis and it has been, but we can’t stop now.
Sorry Tim, but its now time to step away from the computer, except for polling day purposes, and out into the street, we need your help now to Get Out The Vote.
Together, we can win.
I have just completed another two days campaigning in the Midlands, it’s now over 10,000 miles since my campaign started and the questions on the doorstep haven’t altered a jot: Do you want five more years of Gordon Brown or do you want to put David Cameron into Number 10?
My Midlands tour, started bright and earlier in Lincoln with Karl McCartney on Bank Holiday Monday and ended in Coventry South just now with Kevin Foster. I was looking at a mixture of seats, marginals and our new targets. If you were in any doubt of the wisdom of our new targets, just look where Gordon Brown and senior Labour figures are also campaigning. We are both going for the heartlands vote – Labour heartland.
The added twist is that Labour are now openly preparing their leadership contest which will surely follow on Thursday - although there must be a question as to whether Ed Balls will be in a position to enter the contest. I am sure he’s mulling over his options in his contemplation suite bankrolled courtesy of the taxpayer.
But something peculiar is happening in Labour heartlands. There is a strange mixture of confusion and disgust by their tactics. The scare tactics on pensioner benefits and tax credits seemed to have some initial success but have now backfired on them.
I did a TV interview in Cannock town centre with our candidate Aidan Burley followed by a walkabout – a risky thing to do as the Prime Minister found to his cost in Rochdale. The hard-bitten journalists that followed us were genuinely surprised by the number of people that came up to pledge their support for the Conservative Party and were quite happy to be photographed endorsing our candidate.
Just compare this to the Labour PPC Susan Woodward who happily tweeted saying she was taking the day off to get ready for polling day. I doubt that she’ll be very popular with Labour HQ when they read this blog and I very much doubt she’ll be getting a Christmas card from the supreme leader or the Prince of Darkness.
This morning I had the best start to the day by campaigning with Edward Timpson who many readers of ConservativeHome got to know through the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. It was in Crewe Town Square that Mr Brown got a kick in the ballot box. Crewe and Nantwich showed that if people who vote for Labour all their lives vote for change, they get a Member of Parliament that they can be proud of, that will work hard for the constituency. During my visit today I met many people who had voted Conservative for the first time at the by-election and were proud to be voting Conservative again at the General Election.
This election started as a tight election and remains so. Every vote is going to count. Every pledge must be followed through. We need to get ready to give that extra effort over the next 48 hours. If we do, we can get David Cameron through the doors of Number 10 and we can start to use his energy, values and leadership to get things moving again.
Just completed two days in the West Country touring through our marginals. Am on a train back to London where I will host a watch Party for the Leader’s Debate at CCHQ.
I reported yesterday of activities in Devon, today it was Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
There is a real humdinger of a battle taking place here with senior figures of all the main political parties touring. You would have felt that with all the talk of the polls Liberal Democrats would feel secure in the West Country. Well they are not, largely because Liberal Democrat political control is no stranger here; they have had decades of it.
People here have seen no progress, no improvement and they have seen nothing different, just an old, tired party that has taken them for granted. Last June they were kicked out of power in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and from what I have seen on the doorstep there is no desire to return to old voting habits.
There is of course no doubt that because of the make up of the seats, it’s going to be a very tightly fought election which will be won constituency by constituency, street by street, on the doorstep. Chatting in the farmers' market in Taunton early this morning, as the stall holders were putting out their wares, it was clear that rural communities felt neglected by Labour and wanted to have a powerful voice in government.
In Bristol North West I missed seeing Alan Johnson by minutes as we were canvassing on the same rain-soaked streets. There I met Charlotte Leslie, familiar to every candidate who has purchased literature through the central pack as she is the principle template. Here is a candidate well at ease within her community and clearly well known and liked.
I stopped off with Richard Graham, our candidate in Gloucester, revisiting the sites of the recent flooding; it was very good to witness communities pulling together after such a traumatic event. Mark Coote in Cheltenham seems well organised with a young and energetic team working hard for victory.
At the top of a very steep hill in Stroud I met with Neil Carmichael and some of the oldest Labour placard carriers I have ever seen, they were very polite and well mannered and seemed to accept that the tide was going out for Labour.
I ended my tour with a rally with my great chum Wilfred Emmanuel Jones in Chippenham - and as I left they were departing to deliver another piece of Conservative literature across Chippenham.
Each day now is vital, we need to get every pledge out, and we can bring the change that our nation so desperately needs. Let's go to it.
I started the day with my new favourite soap - the Labour press conference. The resilient Prince of Darkness was back, down, but not out after yesterday’s disastrous performance. I almost felt sorry for his Lordship. He looked rattled as his eyes darted around the room sizing up the enemy. Thankfully for him there was not a nokia in sight.
One of my chums at CCHQ who goes along to make sure everyone behaves and hands out the odd bit of literature highlighting Labour’s record in office had some of his work confiscated by a Labour spin doctor. Apparently all documents of high level importance must be rubber stamped by our supreme leader.
The highlight today was seeing my friends at the Mirror holding Labour to account on spreading yet more lies about our policy on CCTV. This was definitely not in the script but all great moments are unscripted.
After the Prince of Darkness called time and the credits rolled, I raced down to the West Country to carry on my doorstep offensive. The south west is a key battleground for us and a stunning part of the country.
I love this part of the world and am always struck by the warmth of the people. As I said yesterday, the doorstep always gives you the best insight into what people are thinking and today there were more telling comments.
One disgruntled voter in Plymouth said to me “the problem with Labour is that they think Plymouth is Portsmouth, they just don’t know where we are.” This government thinks a one size fits all policy that rides roughshod over local communities is the answer. Memo to Gordon: It isn’t.
Next stops on the Pickles roadshow were Newton Abbot, Exeter and North Devon. Again and again on the doorstep the same subject came up. More and more people expressed deep frustration at the barrage of stealth taxes they’ve been hit with over the past thirteen years. And for what they asked me? I am sorry to say as much as I tried I couldn’t find a credible answer.
After all of the media coverage on Gordon Brown’s comments today, I suspect my favourite soap may be off air tomorrow. I must say I hope it’s allowed back on our screens before May 6th. The life and times of the Prince of Darkness is compelling viewing. I am sure there’s a book in it. But that’s another story.
Tea with Pickles.
It was a lovely way to the start the day. A name check from the prince of darkness, sorry, the prince of stability, as he now likes to be referred to at Labour’s morning press conference. Not many people know this but we’ve got history. More than thirty years ago we both served on the British Youth Council. His Lordship sent me out to the Soviet Union in an attempt to convince me about the merits of communism. I didn’t fall for the spin but I am eternally grateful that the prince of darkness, sorry stability, let me back into the country.
I also have to say it was not my dear Lordship’s finest hour as he waged war on journalist after journalist who dared to utter the truth this morning. My favourite moment was when Lord M attacked Adam Boulton sniping at him: “Adam you are not standing for election.” Andrew Neil fired back “neither are you Lord M.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Watch the clip here.
And what could be a more fitting way to finish off this Soviet style press conference than by locking journalists in at the end and forcing them to witness what I can only describe as a masterpiece in scaremongering from Lord Mandelson with his latest Party Election Broadcast. It nearly didn’t happen as the Prince forget to run the tape and was walking out the room when he was called back by a worried Labour spin doctor ... sadly it wasn’t Alistair Campbell. I wonder if our supreme leader gave his Lordship the nokia treatment afterwards for losing control of what was meant to be a carefully choreographed set piece?
I have to say I was surprised to see Ed Balls making a guest appearance at this wonderful event. We know he’s practically spending every waking hour in Morley and Outwood battening down the hatches fearful of the relentless surge in support for our great PPC there Anthony Calvert. It was in that vein that I was back in the north today pushing the Conservative message in more Labour heartlands flirting with going blue. I always think the doorstep is the best barometer of the public mood and there’s definitely something dramatic happening in traditional Labour areas. Peter I am pleased to tell you they’re going blue.
Doesn’t really matter how many times Mrs Pickles or I come to Scotland, it never fails to stir the senses and revive the fondest of memories.
But this time it’s different – it’s just got a lot more serious. There’s a real urgency in the air. An urgency to see ‘real’ change, an urgency to get rid of this redundant force called Labour.
“It’s time to turn the borders blue” was my rallying cry on my tour of border seats, not a message that fell on deaf ears it would seem.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed the kind of reception I got today in Galashiels, where in a walkabout with our candidate John Lamont, people were approaching me and telling me we just ‘had’ to win.
Peter Duncan, our candidate in Dumfries and Galloway was brimming with excitement and nothing quite prepared me for the reception we had with David Mundell in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, with posters everywhere. What a sight.
Almost everywhere I go I’m asked why people should believe us this time, because its ‘real’ is my reply, because David is very very serious indeed.
At the heart of this government we have seen one of the most brutal smear operations in full force. Gordon Brown’s loyal spin doctor Damian McBride was unmasked last year as the mastermind behind spreading malicious lies and unfounded rumours about Conservative Politicians. At the time after much dithering Mr Brown eventually apologised. He promised a new politics but it didn’t last. Like so many of his promises they bite the dust sooner or later. As Mr Brown has clung on as one botched coup after another has failed to unseat him, he has retreated further and further into his Downing Street bunker becoming more and more obsessed with destroying opponents in the Labour party and not actually getting the country out of the monumental economical mess he got it into.
Last night Mr Brown was exposed again in the most public of fashions on TV during the election debates over the outrageous lies the Labour party have been spreading on leaflets that the Conservatives would cut the winter fuel allowance and axe free bus passes and TV licenses for pensioners. Our supreme leader was caught like a rabbit in headlights claiming he didn’t authorise them. A likely story. This morning we published a list of 23 examples of Labour literature peddling lies about Conservative Party policies. I won’t list them all here but it’s a brutal example of politics hitting new lows . It was particularly satisfying to see the intrepid Cathy Newman over at Channel 4 news destroying Labour’s indefensible justification for printing these smears. It’s recommended reading.
As Labour tried to get a grip on the crisis engulfing them, their press conference this morning was taken directly from a Soviet style textbook on media management. Journalists weren’t allowed to ask more than one question as Mandelson, Brown, and Harman tried to avoid close scrutiny over their lies. One of my dear chums at the BBC had the microphone ripped away from him by a Labour spin doctor as he tried to ask a follow up question. Then in a bid to try and reassert control Brown and his comrades decided to only take questions from the foreign press as they tried to stop the media storm raining down on them. It really was desperate stuff. Hardly new politics, hardly transparent.
If we let this politics of fear triumph over the politics of hope this country will be a poorer place. Trust in politicians is at an all time low and for that we must all take responsibility . This election offers the chance for a new dawn, for a new start and for a new type of politics. Don’t let Mr Brown take us back to the future.
Well if the election were won on the number of banners, people, posters and pledges then I’d tempt fate by saying we’re well ahead of our opponents.
As I continue my campaign tour of our target seats I find our candidates are buoyed by the growing support on the doorsteps. My walkabouts through town centres and city centres are attracting more supporters and greater attention than ever.
In contrast to previous elections, I’ve only had to dodge one egg and face a rather sad-faced lone heckler (more interested in navigating his shopping trolley across the car park than he was in disrupting the smooth running of the democratic process).
Today saw the modest Pickles people carrier chug through the Eastern region.
In Luton South with Nigel Huddleston, Castle Point with Rebecca Harris and South Basildon and East Thurrock with Stephen Metcalfe we were met by more people and more banners. And in Thurrock we joined Jackie Doyle-Price and finished off our day with a crowd buoyed by recent campaigning showing our support holding up so well.
While I’d never expect serious experts to forecast this election on a spurious new ‘index’ based on the number of campaign banners (weighted of course) I was overwhelmed by the huge hunger for change on the doorstep.
The world out here is crying out for change. We offer it. David fought for it tonight and just watch that banner index rise in the morning.