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).