|Admiring the view of the Clapham railway sidings from the fifteenth floor|
We started in "Little India", rows of million pound terraced houses in the shadow of Clapham Junction. If any evidence were needed of the type of people we were visiting, it came from a yummy mummy who opened her door to shout after her daughter, "Anustavia, can you buy Henriette a Kinder Egg too..."
After an hour of relative true blue luxury we walked through a park to 1905 social housing estate which is now predominantly owner occupied. There we met another member of the team; a well preserved lady who was a councillor from the ward next door. "I'm from the ward next door" she announced, with a hint of demonic self-confidence which made me flinch.
Off we set in pursuit of the undecided.
"Hi, I'm Matthew Plummer, hi Matthew Plummer ...Matthew Plummer" repeated Matthew Plummer, glad handing his way down each road. At the neighbouring door I overheard the lady councillor's patter, "Are you new or are you blue" she shrieked at startled occupants, indicating that only someone who has just moved-in could possible not vote Conservative in Wandsworth. "Matthew Plummer, Matthew Plummer" chirruped the candidate. My own low key canvassing style seemed quite inadequate by comparison. Suddenly Matthew Plummer was off down the road; he had spotted two blokes sitting in a parked car and had a sudden urge to tell them that his name was "Matthew Plummer". Whilst he was gone, Mrs Are You New or Are You Blue decided I needed reinforcements, so appeared beside me on a doorstep, where I was having a nice chat with a lady who had just moved in. "I'm from next door" she announced, to the increasingly suspicious occupant who was now confronted with a slighly deranged looking woman claiming to be her neighbour. Then "Matthew Plummer, Matthew Plummer" appeared as well. "Is there anything we can help you with ? Parking bays, uncut verges, school appeals" he said, sounding like a voiceover for a daytime TV payday loans advert. . "Are you blue", said the women from next door, before adding a new line to her repertoire, "I always say if it is not broken it does not need fixing."
At the end of the road 'Matthew Plummer, Matthew Plummer' announced that his sister was about to arrive. Apparently she had flown back from New Zealand to help with canvassing. Compared with the rest of us she looked quite normal, before she said, "I think I might be having a hypo-glycemic fit". I am pleased to say she didn't, though she did look a bit shaky. Then another of the candidates arrived who promptly announced that her church had prayed for her that morning. "Why, what have you done?" I asked. "I haven't done anything" she said, "they're praying for a Conservative victory."
"Right" said Matthew Plummer, with a glint in his eye. "I'm going to take you up a tower block." Coming from leafy West Kent where some of our wards have more castles than council houses, the 15 story concrete tower made me gird my loins. The block, however, was clean, the lift worked and even if the occupants weren't that politically engaged, there was no hostility, and from many even a grudging respect for the Council.
Towards the end, just as I was starting to flag, a man opened his door. I introduced myself and handed over the calling card. "You can count of me all the way" he said, without a moments hesitation. "Thank you", I said. "Back in 1982 that Maggie Thatcher allowed my Mam and Dad to buy their council house, first time in their lives they ever owned a home of their own. Never looked back and we have voted for you lot ever since."
Here I was, in the depths of Conservative Wandsworth, where the streets are clean, the verges are neat, the lifts work, and the parks are well maintained. They have the lowest Council Tax in the country, 50% cheaper than anywhere else. And I was standing in front of a man who remembered what we had done for his family 30 years ago, and had voted for us ever since. At that moment, I remembered why I was a Conservative and politics seemed worthwhile endeavor again.
Good luck to Matthew Plummer and all my friends fighting to keep Wandsworth Council Conservative.