We're off to do some school gates campaigning soon, as we will be every day for the rest of the campaign. My team have decided that I am "not an electoral asset" first thing in the morning, so it's afternoons only for the time being! The more I see the reaction of Tories online to the http://www.dontjudgemyfamily.com/ campaign, the more I appreciate the need for it. I wonder how many of the parents at the gates of the schools in Stockwood today will be in the 'ideal' family set-up envisioned by the Tories? We will also be out canvassing in Stockwood afterwards; sometimes I think I should walk up and down the streets with a megaphone, so that people know I'm there! We always get that 'I only ever see you at election time', as well as people denying they've ever received any election literature from any candidate, local or parliamentary, for many, many years, even though we know we've delivered the whole ward.
...... The above post was started on Tuesday, or was it Monday? Then I had to rush off. We did school gates in Fishponds today, really positive response, including from some young pupils from Bristol Met, who'd been at the debate yesterday. One of them, a 13 year old Somali girl, ended up handing out leaflets with us. They're all Labour. Excellent stuff.
Got a call from someone today saying that my Tory opponent is apparently telling people she did so brilliantly in the debate at Bristol Met I rushed off straight afterwards, leaving her to bask in glory. Er, no... I had a Cabinet minister waiting for me in Hillfields! And I had already been at the school three hours. First we had a group of 11-13 year olds, then the older pupils, talking to them about the election, and then we did a Q and A with the pupils who'd expressed more of an interest.
I think the Tory mentioned one actual policy from the Tory manifesto, and not sure the Lib Dem mentioned any, he just kept going on about business and the national debt. And using words like 'interfacing' and 'optimally'. Today he's quoted me on his blog saying that I admitted in the debate that Bristol East has been ignored. Well, yes, I don't have any problem saying that in public, so not sure what he's getting excited about.
Parts of east Bristol have been overlooked, in that they don't qualify for regeneration funding in the way that the inner city wards do, and there's a lack of youth and community facilities; I've been saying that for the past five years. And there is undeniably resentment amongst many people, who feel that they've worked hard and fended for themselves, but that has meant they've lost out to people who haven't done so and 'have things handed to them on a plate'. (Not my words, but words I certainly hear on the doorstep).
We've made some progress, e.g. in St George, look at St George's Park new play area, and Meadowvale community centre has got funding, and schools provide more pre-school and after-school facilities under the Extended Schools initiative, but areas like Hillfields and Stockwood are crying out for places for young people to go, and things for them to do, and community centres too. A lot of this is, of course, down to the Council, not central Government. Labour Councillor Ron Stone has fought tremendous battles to get things happening in St George West, and this has paid off. He got 350 school pupils to lobby the council to fund the St George play area, for example; they were drawing up a shortlist of places across Bristol, and St George wasn't on the list until Ron marched into the office with his pile of 350 letters. Who could resist? Ron has also identified huge amounts - £16 million - of unspent s.106 money, which was earmarked for community facilities but has just been sitting in the council coffers. Quite frankly, it's a real scandal.