|From left: Richard Long, Marta Andreasen MEP, Chris Smith and Russell Lancaster|
Two things struck me about tonight's campaigning.
Firstly, despite the freezing weather, icy pavements and sporadic bursts of snow, twenty activists turned out on a Thursday night to campaign for the Conservative Party. This is not a sign of a demoralised Party or one in retreat. Even in their strongest areas of Chatham, at the height of their popularity, Labour could not have mustered such numbers.
Secondly, our core vote is far stronger than I (or anyone else) was anticipating. Yes, of course we are taking a knock; we are mid-term of a government which is making some difficult decisions. Some former Conservative pledges have gone soft, a few say they might not vote, but this is all within the range of fluctuation one might expect at this stage of the electoral cycle. My group of five must have knocked on 250 doors tonight, we did not find one former Conservative pledge who had switched to Labour. Sorry Comrades, there is no popular uprising for Red Ed among the ranked masses of post war semi-detached Tonbridgians.
What we need to remember is last time these seats were contested was in 2009, when Labour and Gordon Brown were at their political nadir. We were 40%+ in the polls and Labour was at 28%. In such conditions Labour lost seats which they have never lost before. There are now Conservative councillors in areas which we did not win even in the 1983 post Falkland election. It is part of the natural political balancing that many of these seats will revert; changes in differential turnout alone will account for many such loses. Labour cannot simply win back the seats they should never have lost and claim it a victory.
On the evidence I saw in Tonbridge tonight, Labour's cock might not be crowing as loudly as they hope it will on Thursday 2 May.