Clegg in Blackheath – why?

Nick Clegg and Pete Pattison at the Liberal Democrat rally in Blackheath

Regardless of your political beliefs, it’s not every day that the leader of one of the three major political parties shows up in Blackheath.  Indeed, there were several tweets and commentators suggesting that it might have been a hoax.  So I headed down there, expecting to see a few people standing around.  The place was heaving with supporters, and news gathering trucks.  So it was on.

There was a long wait – he was late.  In the meantime, there was the truly strange scenario of labour councillors, and a few supporters attempting to hold their banners in front of the LibDem banners.  This was a strange situation, with lots of (polite liberal) harrrumphing from the crowd, eventually turning into some booing.  Then a 19 year old started shouting at one of the labour councillors about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I began to feel quite sorry for the guy “I’m only a local councillor, you’d have to speak to the immigration minister” was a reply at one point.  An old lady told the young man to calm down, and he apologised.  It never got nasty, but it shows the level of political frustration around at the moment.

I couldn’t work out if the Labour banners were there on a whim- in order to try to represent another point of view, or because they’d been told to be on display, so that the cameras would see both banners in the background – to help labour to ride on the libdem’s coat-tails (a few week’s ago, this situation would have been unthinkable, but now I’m not so sure).

So Clegg arrived, lots of cheering, and the sun came out.  I’m not making this up.

A very weak PA system relayed a fairly standard talk, until Clegg started endorsing Pete Pattisson, the LibDem candidate for Lewisham East (who spoke marginally better than the other two at the hustings last week).  This is interesting to me.  It clearly shows that the party bigwigs view Pattisson as a contender, for a seat that has been solidly Labour in the last three elections.  If you look at the graphs, perhaps they believe that this time they’ll swing it.  I guess it is possible.

The speech took a turn for the weird side (about 1:05 in the video above), when some very angry people started asking Clegg about “organised paedophile rings”, clearly not a subject that he wanted to talk about, and (forgive the observation) the man shouting it didn’t have the upper-middle class accent that perhaps Clegg was expecting to hear in Blackheath.  It did seem like an odd question, and I’ve no idea why he was so angry about it.

At the end, having spoken to the Gurkhas, and some more press (one press photographer commented “Politician surrounded by the press, that’s never been done before, has it?”), he jumped onto the bus, which eventually managed to get past the throngs of people.   (Although it did look as though an Ocado van was going to block it in at one point.  A terrible problem that many Blackheathens may have seen before, and I’m sure will form a key part of their manifesto next time).

20 Comments

Filed under blackheath, politics

20 responses to “Clegg in Blackheath – why?

  1. JP

    I think it’s a bit unfair to say that the Labour banners were trying to block out the Lib Dem banners- there were only about 6 of us there!

    I went along with a Labour banner to represent another point of view and was followed by at least three Lib Dem ‘minders’ throughout, who did their best to block it from view. Fair enough, but slightly silly and hardly a sign of supreme self-confidence.

    I did discover quite a fun game, though, which is to ask Liberal Democrats whether they’d be happy with Nick Clegg sitting in a Tory cabinet. They tend to swallow something hard and jagged at that point.

    • They were totally trying to block out the libdem banners! I was there! And I mentioned that there were only a few labour banners! As far as fun games go, I think there’s more riding on this election than a bit of point scoring.

    • S

      You must have been one of the Labour supporters with Liberal Democrat stickers on their back, oops.
      What I don’t understand is why you were bothering to attend a Lib Dem function when you should have been out there trying to secure more votes for your party, rather than standing around in a sea of yellow banners doing absolutely nothing at all.

      • JP

        I was there to represent one of the parties standing in the constituency. What’s wrong with that? It’s a general election, not a ‘function’.

        For all the Lib Dems’ talk of ‘doing something different’, you were acting in a petty way that was quite typical of the party machine mentality. No dissent allowed.

    • Anonymous

      All pretty pointless, really. Doubt whether a single vote was won or lost. Glad I stayed in bed.

  2. JP

    Well I was there too, and I was having my banner blocked out by three Lib Dems, so shall we call it a draw? The sense of indignation from Lib Dem supporters that someone in the constituency might want to publicly express a different view was unfortunate, I think.

    The serious point behind the ‘fun game’ was that the LD leadership – as opposed to their base – are much more keen to go into coalition with the Tories than with Labour. And Labour will do more for the poor than a LibCon government would. That’s why I’m supporting Labour in Lewisham East.

    In our ridiculous electoral system (which Labour is committed to reforming) the only effective anti-Conservative vote is a vote for Labour.

    • I think the really interesting point here is that if either Labour or the Conservatives end up power sharing with the LibDems, it could mean that PR, or some sort of electoral reform will be seriously on the table, in a way that it has never been before. Which is politically interesting. It also seems that many of the LibDem policies are to the left of the Labour party, which makes think they would be far less inclined to do a deal with the Torys than with Labour.

    • Jimmy

      JP and other Labour Party banner wavers were clearly there to ‘agree with Nick’ just like their leader.

      Labour have increased the division between the rich and the poor in this country over the last 13 years, following a great Conservative tradition. You should be as ashamed of their record on poverty as on fake reasons for going to war.

      You have also had 13 years to reform the electoral system and have once again only started talking about it when you are about to lose power.

      • JP

        What is the big Lib Dem idea to reverse the gap between rich and poor? I haven’t heard it yet.

  3. JP

    Deals are going to have to be done if things stay as they are. That’s healthy, I think. I would like to see the LD work with Labour on constitutional reform particularly.

    Unsurprisingly, I would dispute that LD policies are to the left of Labour – their flagship £10,000 income tax pledge, for example. would benefit people on middle incomes far more than those on lower incomes. It also seems strangely irrelevant -the big question at the moment is about how we get people back into work. An income tax cut isn’t much good to you if you’re on the dole.

  4. Well to be fair, everybody seemed to be trying to block everybody else’s banners. I found the whole thing amusing.

  5. seb

    Well This ex-Blackheath resident (now living in Paris) and ex-Labour Party member just received his postal vote yesterday. Hopefully I can help Clegg achieve the 12% swing he needs to take this seat.

  6. The Lewisham East constituency consists of 7 wards, 4 of which are held by the Lib Dems (12 out of 21 councillors), so it would be surprising if they did not think that they could win it.

  7. BlackheathTig

    Five things I learnt today:

    1. Local campaigners got very over-excited with their synchronised banner blocking. Not since the kite displays on the heath have we seen such elegant manoeuvring. Hilarious.

    2. The Lib Dems need better campaign managers. If I’d been on the bus, Nick would have had a bigger box to stand on and a louder mic to speak through.

    3. Amazingly, there are still some people who think it’s a good idea to support Labour. Are they living in the same country as the rest of us?

    4. The Blackheath Bugle is a great blog for this community. Without it tipping me off about this I’d have missed the whole thing – thanks Bugle!

    5. Nick Clegg draws roughly the same size crowd as the turning on of the Christmas lights.

  8. Pingback: Yellow Lines « The Sharp Single

  9. James Parkin

    I would just like to point out that I am not JP

  10. The angry voter who ‘heckled’ Nick Clegg in Blackheath is award winning documentary film director Bill Maloney (54), based in Lewisham, who has recently himself come forward as a victim of institutional child abuse.

    Maloney’s Question to Nick Clegg began: “I want to ask you the same question that made David Dimbleby call for me to be ejected from the BBC Question Time that followed the first leaders debate.
    “What are you going to do about Institutional paedophile rings that are operating in this country now? Also, when are we going to open up the secret family courts?
    “What are you going to do about private companies like Serco who are receiving up to £200K per year for each child that the courts incarcerate into their care?
    All these children come from the lower classes; they are stealing our children.”

    Nick Clegg’s reply was “Well firstly, I don’t understand what you mean by institutional child abuse”.
    Maloney replied: “You don’t know what I’m talking about? You look as shaken as David Dimbleby was by the question”. The crowd began to heckle by singing “We agree with Nick! We agree with Nick!”.
    Maloney began to shout his questions again but was drowned out by the crowd. Maloney left of his own accord as security moved towards him.
    Please Google: Bill Maloney, Film Director.

  11. Pingback: Clegg boost to Lewisham Lib Dems campaign « .

  12. seb

    It just cost me 44 Euros to post my ballot to ensure that it got to the town hall on time. Why they send out the postal ballots so close to the election I do not know.

    It will be worth it if the Lib Dems manage to take Lewisham East. I know it’s a long shot but I believe it’s doable. In most elections many people may have agreed with the Lib Dem platform but thought that actually casting a vote for them would be a waste. I’ve found most of the comparisons between Nick Clegg and Obama fatuous but there may be a parrallel here. Up until December 2007 Obama wasn’t even getting the majority of the Black vote in the democrat primary polls. Even my own family in New York and DC were saying that they loved Obama but that there wasn’t any point in voting him because Americans wouldn’t vote for a Black President. When Obama took Iowa, one of the whitest states in the country, everything changed. It was at that point that he won the nomination, (losing New Hampshire helped him win the general as he was forced to campaign hard in almost every state). Clegg’s performance in the debates and the subsequent rise in the polls may just have the same effect in here. I for one wasn’t going to bother voting in this election being dissilusioned with Labour and not being ready to trade my soul for a Tory vote.

    I’m now hoping for a hung parliament with Labour getting most seats despite having the smallest share of the vote. The logic for proportional representation and a Brown resignation would be unmistakable. Perhaps a unity government with Clegg as foreign minister and Cable as treasurer would be great.

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