Back on the campaign trail in South Shields
Local politics needs local volunteers
About thirty years ago in the heyday of “Thatcherism” when we had two tier local government, the wards in South Shields returned no fewer than nine Conservative councillors to the old Tyne and Wear County Council. Just think about that, the majority of County councillors in this town were Conservatives during a period when, apparently, the government of the day was hated in the north east. That’s right, the majority of those who cast their votes in South Shields did so for the Conservative Party!
Unfortunately following the demise of the old county council the South Shields Conservative Association went through a period of “navel gazing” and did not build upon the base of support that they had gained, it was also an awkward period when they had great difficulty in deciding upon the new direction that they should take in local politics as a number of their members, myself included, were still sitting on South Tyneside District Council as Progressives knowing that in future years they would have to decide whether or not they should offer themselves as main stream Conservatives. This was the direction eventually decided upon after much pressure from the party’s professional agents in Newcastle and the party’s HQ in London. It ought to have been a good transition but many voters had been comfortable with the very “local” tag attached to the South Tyneside Progressive Association and were prepared to continue their support for an apparent “non political” but “slightly to the right of Labour” local group. It was obvious that there was not a great deal of enthusiasm in unseating former colleagues who had become quite close friends and the level of commitment to election fighting dwindled at the same rate as the average age of Conservative membership advanced. It has only been in recent years as an influx of younger members, particularly in the Jarrow constituency, have gained some influence and an appetite for electoral fighting has begun to emerge again.
However the organisation is dreadfully poor and there are not many “boots on the ground”, I understand that this is the same position that others find themselves in, unless they are part of Labour’s well oiled fighting machine. For local politics to benefit most, and for any sort of real and lasting change to take effect, it requires an influx of local people and volunteers to join the organisation of their choice, or at least to help out during election periods, that is why I decided to help the Conservatives during last year’s general election after more than twenty years absence. I am still not a member and am still enjoying my own freedom and independence to campaign for the people of my own choice, this is rather like being registered as a supporter of a party in an American campaign without having to fully commit to party membership.
I hope that people of other persuasions are also thinking of what they can do to promote inclusion and debate in an effort to see the candidates of their choice being elected, it is what local politics needs on top of the participation of just casting one’s vote on polling day. Without any sort of active campaigning support from fresh minds local political parties may well stagnate, as I have witnessed, it needs ordinary men and women to make a decision to do just a little bit more than displaying a leaflet or poster in the front window. I’m sure all three of the main parties would welcome some help from some new faces and try to encourage them to hang around after election day.
So, I was back on the campaign trail today distributing leaflets for a Conservative hopeful in South Shields wondering just what are the best ways for new candidates to get their message across and remind people that South Shields has not always been a barren desert for Tories. Yes, there are the small leaflets, the odd letter which may or may not get published in the Shields Gazette (depending upon how much political controversy their editorial policy will allow), there are social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Better still is a dedicated personal website allied to a well designed local official party site, many people DO look at these and use them to glean information and views, but without doubt as we become more interconnected via the internet and smart phone, the best way is to join the cold canvassers and salesmen in knocking on doors at appropriate times of day. It is the only way for your face and personality to become known, a small team of volunteers ought to be employed mainly as the distribution team for literature whilst the candidate gets his/her face known on the doorsteps.
Unfortunately, these old fashioned ways are proven to work best.
Now then, which is the smallest and flattest ward in South Shields?