Plans for a Bank Holiday booze session were put on hold, with news coming my way that BIG politics was heading over to my little patch of South London. Having chased down Dave in vein around Kennington, and then slept through Gordo’s Brixton Hill blink and you’ll miss it church visit the day before, the Boy Clegg was Streatham bound on Bank Holiday Monday.
This has been something of an arse of a stage-managed election campaign. Fear of the Little People has kept the Little People away. One word out of context, and that carefully handled PR campaign comes crashing down all around you.
Which is why I like to keep it local. Doorstepping a local Councillor in the kitchen of a community hall, and then locking the door until you have got the answers out of him, is the way that our politicians, both local and national, need to be held to account.
Dave and his Bullingdon toffs aligned themselves last week with some bonkers right wing free market meets Bible Bashers event in SE11. Meanwhile yer Big Man Gordo locked the church doors in Brixton Hill, along with a congregation you can count on your left hand. Or even right hand, as the case must be with Nu Labour.
Not so the LibDems.
Ah, the Love Me I’m a Liberal Lot. You just gotta, um, love ’em. I think.
So yeah, news broke on twitter over the weekend that the Boy Clegg was coming my way. It was an open invite, and an opportunity for the Little People to come and see what the Messiah nonsense was all about. Attendance and first hand debate has to be better than accepting the twaddle that has been coming out of the mainstream media since that epochal first Leader’s Debate.
There was a sense that you could almost smell the power (behave) at the Palace Community Centre just off Christchurch Road on Monday morning. You could certainly smell the booze from some old boy who was taking the ‘refreshing’ approach of the LibDem agenda perhaps slightly too far left of centre.
The Nu Labour boys were also out in force. General elections aren’t won by the size of your placard. If that were the case, then you may as well reduce the whole farce down to a willy measuring competition. There were some big dicks loitering around the mean streets of SW2 as we awaited the arrival of the Messiah.
I welcomed the appearance of our friends from @LambethLabour, and encouraged some local political debate with a self-proclaimed “Nu Labour activist.”
“Do you support the policy of the right wing Nu Labour cabinet in Lambeth to build a temporary ice rink on Streatham Common,” I asked the activist, ever keen to keep it the #hyperlocal.
The smell of booze from the Brixton old boy suddenly became a smell of fear.
“I’m not that familiar with the specifics of what you are talking about,” came the response. Which is a perfectly fine Nu Labour style of argument for dealing with the Little People. Deny all knowledge and grin for Gordo. The activist had been trained well in the political skills of inactivity.
She did lead me however to a local Labour candidate who was also awaiting the arrival of the Messiah by making rather a lot of over-excitable noise. In all the excitement, our friend from @LambethLabour forgot to give me his name.
No worries. I pressed him on the issue of the temporary rink on the Common, a debate that has divided the local community, and all through the making of @LambethLabour bending over backwards to accommodate a multi-national superstore.
“Ah, but @ChukaUmunna is AGAINST the plans for the rink,” came the response.
And yourself, um, un-named Sir? If you were elected to @lambeth_council, would you too take the principled position that is allowed by an (as yet) unelected PPC, or would you roll over and tickle the underbelly of @cllrstevereed?
Our @LambethLabour friend took this opportunity to get even more excitable, and waved his big banner around at the LibDems, without answering my question.
Like I said – there was a lot of big dicks around SW2 on Monday morning.
But anyway – about that yellow and orange Messiah…
We waited, waited, and waited for Saint Nick to show up in Streatham. A religious themed Gospel band kept us entertained and amused. I prefer to think that religion and politics don’t make the best of bedfellows. I almost took to the stage though for some good ‘ol fashioned South London moonstompin’ when the Gospel kids broke into a verse of Monkey Man.
It was around about this time when the slick, election machine of the political party became slightly chaotic. Labour placards jostled with LibDem placards. The Tories were nowhere in sight (which is a bit weird, seeing as though @ChukaUmunna reckons that only the Tories can topple him in Streatham.)
All that Gospel; all that political hot air. I needed a breather ahead of the arrival of the Messiah (still stuck in Lewisham, was the tweet that dropped from the good @Darryl1974.)
My 3G signal was crap inside the community centre. I had content waiting to escape from my iPhone and I knew just the man who was able to free me from the restraints of the political rally.
For some reason, the good LibDem folk didn’t think Wolfgang was part of the community, and left the poor chap loitering outside. What happened next I take full responsibility for, and make no apologies for acting in the dark art of political spin behind the scenes.
“Wolfgang, my fine chap,” I said. “You need to be over there…”
I thrust the placard and platitudes of @FreeSouthLondon straight into the throng of the mainstream media press corp. The snappers from Her Majesty’s Popular Prints lapped up the South London revolutionary.
F*** me, we’ve created a monster, I pondered, as the political agenda switched from the Clegg bounce to the Wolfgang limp. I look forward to the front pages of Her Majesty’s P0opular Prints with some interest come Tuesday morning.
I gave the nod and the wink to the LibDem doorman, leaving Wolfgang stuck outside (actually, that’s not quite true – @LambethLibDems leader Councillor Lumsden told the doorman “he’s one of us” (ooh – get you!) as I was ushered back in. I haven’t been so offended since @AnnaJCowen outed me as a closet Notts County fan.)
Back indoors and Floella Benjamin (blimey!) was keeping the crowd happy. If you can portray Humpty Dumpty as the life and soul of the party for half an hour on kiddies TV, then whipping up a storm with the Love Me I’m a Liberal lot has to be an easy gig.
And then finally, finally…
“The great man is upon us!”
Nope, Wolfgang Moneypenny wasn’t in the building, but the Boy Clegg was back in town, alongside Streatham PPC @Chris4Streatham. It was like a Biblical moment (seriously) as the Messiah parted the Great Red Sea of SW2 as he strode through the masses.
There’s a mixed up local political metaphor in there somewhere. Of course the sea may even have been Green, but this most certainly wasn’t a Blue sky day.
After a *shhh* overcast South London morning, the sun finally broke through, just as the Boy Clegg took to the Streatham stage. I’m not sure if the sun was shining upon the Messiah, or out of his backside.
But yep – Nick’s here…
The speech itself was uplifting, positive, and slightly too focussed on the national agenda for my liking. This is the man who has genuine ambitions to be the next Prime Minister, and so I think he is forgiven.
Education was a key focus, as well as criticism of the arrogance of the Tories. This speaks volumes as to the feeling around the Streatham LibDem camp, that the Tories are attacked rather than Nu Labour.
@Chris4Streatham spoke next, thanking the hard working local constituency members, and encouraging more work in the remaining days ahead.
Sadly there wasn’t any time for an audience Q & A. I wanted to ask about the increasing power of big business in our local communities, and how the LibDems can help us, as we try and take back control of leisure in Lambeth, rather than place all power in the hands of a multi-national superstore.
I was also keen to ask about the fear of the Tory bogeyman, a claim that has been put out by @ChukaUmunna around Streatham in recent weeks.
But nope – all the attention was now with the big boys from mainstream media land. Quentin Letts was sucking a lemon at the back of the hall, and The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland had been dispatched to deepest South London, showing his paper’s new found love for the Love Me I’m a Liberal lot.
I took the debate outside, and was thrilled to find the relative sanity of the South London #hyperlocal blogging community around me. @BrixtonBlog shared the same amusement as me over Monkey Man; @StreathamPulse was pleased to see that a gold dust story had landed right in the centre of his #hyperlocal news patch.
Come in @SthLondonPress?
Oh, as you are…
Wolfgang Moneypenny meanwhile was too busy trying to cop off with the delightful Mrs Clegg, and telling the lovely Miriam in Spanish that: “You are very, very beautiful.”
The cheeky South London scoundrel.
A lone heckler during the LibDem leader’s speech was later seen boarding the local battle bus of Tory PPC Rahoul Bhansali – ah… so *that’s* how local politics works.
I caught up with Caroline Pidgeon, my Vauxhall PPC, and asked her how she thought the event, and her campaign had both gone:
Wolfgang then gate crashed the conversation and I had the pleasure of introducing Caroline to a genuinely revolutionary South London fighting figure. Which must be a first, considering that Caroline is up against the complacent Kate Hoey.
Battle bus boarded for the Kingmaker to be, and @Chris4Streatham kindly offered me his thoughts as the banners were put away and Streatham returned to some sense of normality:
The Streatham constituency is still too close to call. The only certainty is that despite what @LambethLabour is saying about the fear of the Tory bogeyman, either @ChukaUmunna or @Chris4Streatham will be elected to Westminster at some time around 3:30am on Friday morning.
Having lost @AnnaJCowen in all the excitement of the political scrum, we rendez vouzed to exchange tales of political intrigue. The poor girl ‘aint much of a political beast, but she was thrilled to see Anthony H Wilson standing next to her during the speeches.
Ah – we need have a conversation together later, my dear…
And so that is how national politics works on a #hyperlocal patch. You plan, you stage-manage, and yet some form of anarchy still manages to break out.
There’s hope yet for the sleeping beast that is South London democracy.