A cool grey morning in the Midlands soon gives way to the sunny uplands of the Peak District as we head north to meet Caitlin Bisknell, PPC for High Peak, and her team. The rolling hills stretch out in every direction, occasionally interrupted by an aggregates quarry, a bright beacon on human industrial endeavour in the landscape. We meet with Caitlin in the small village of Peak Dale and are soon door knocking, (& noticing many community facilities paid for by the aggregates levy (between 2005/07)).
As a village some eight miles from the nearest town (of Buxton) the bus is a lifeline for the many older residents so transport is an issue on the door step; as are jobs, immigration and the NHS. Four streets later and much of the village is covered, some good Labour support, with the occasional ‘I haven’t decided yet’ and just a couple of once Labour veering to UKIP. Details of our five pledges on immigration help moderate people’s concerns – we clearly need to continue to have this conversation in detail with those who might waiver towards ukip.
With time pressing we head off to Rossendale & Darwen to meet Will Straw, our PPC there. First stop is Ritherdon & Co. Ltd, a specialist company making stainless steel enclosures, such as those metal boxes you see along the highway holding the cabling for traffic lights and the like. A growing business they suffer from poor broadband connectivity, which can affect everything from downloading software updates to accessing design software.
A great business that will benefit from our continued commitment to universal broadband access. Broadband, and mobile connectivity, are probably already an essential utility (along with water and electricity) and we should ensure everyone can benefit from the potential they offer, as citizens, and for the economic opportunity connectivity offers – every part of the UK can play its part in our economic revival, if they have the download speed!
Our final door knocking of the Country Tour has us enjoy the sunshine and views of the Jubillee Tower on the moors above Darwen in the company of Will and his team, assisted by the red coated Graham Jones, PPC for Hyndburn. Again plenty of Labour voters, interspersed with the occasional Ukip wavering household – door knocking might take longer, with more to explain in detail, but it is usually worth it – some who start angry appreciate the time, get the detail, and are willing to think again, not least because it really is Labour or disaster, for their village or town. After watching Huw gently, firmly persuade another waverer I top–off my tour with a Tory – Labour switcher ‘the IMF have done for the Tories today’ who has a good chat with Will about what needs to happen for the town.
A final team photo before departing home – three days have seen us cover 650 miles, made at least that many contacts, in eight constituencies with over 100 Labour friends and colleagues. We wish them all the best for the next three weeks and look forward to seeing them win on May 7th.
Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Labour: Coast & Country.