Friday, 25 April 2008

Et in arcadia coryza

Looking forward to some evening canvassing, I was struck down by a fearsome cold on Thursday morning. Not only would it make walking from door to door a torture, it would be discourteous, to say the least, to bring this nasty virus to people's doorsteps.

Hopefully, we will be able to make up some time tomorrow and Monday if the cold eases off. The calls we have made so far have been very encouraging. This campaign has been the most enjoyable, and voters more responsive, than at any time since 1997. Then, people were happily turning to both Labour and LibDems as a realistic alternative to the Conservatives. Now, it seems that LibDems and Plaid (though the latter are somewhat hobbled by their coalition with Labour in Cardiff) are welcome again as alternatives to Labour.

That in itself is a historical change. In the past, Liberals (and Social Democrats) have made progress when the country has looked for a radical alternative to Tory governments, then lost seats again when Britain retreats into conservatism.

However, Blair & Brown, a few nods to the social liberal agenda apart, out-Toried the Tories. This succeeded for a time as the economy improved (thanks largely to the last Tory budget, delivered criminally late in the day by the first Thatcher/Major chancellor with any business experience, Kenneth Clarke), but it has turned round and bitten them as the credit chickens fly home.

Hence the success of radical parties. Hence the (unconvincing) donning of radical clothes by David Cameron. Hence also the falling-away of Labour membership, as traditionalists see the party ridding itself of the last of its distinct principles.

All political parties (except for Plaid, which has probably levelled off after a burst of recruitment at the turn of the century) have lost members in recent years, but Labour, with most to lose, has lost most. So, in one of the strongholds of Labour, for the first time the party has been unable to recruit candidates for all wards in Neath Port Talbot from within its own ranks. The shortage of helpers has been such that in at least one of the larger wards, Labour candidates have had to employ the services of a professional delivery firm.

Liberal Democrats should therefore do very well across South Wales, even on top of the major advances of 2004. We should do very well here in Neath, if we demonstrate that we mean business, which we do. That's why I am cursing my luck and the cold virus for not being able to do that in person these last few evenings.

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