By Luke Andrews
This week Palatinate Politics joined Labour on the campaign trail in Bowburn to investigate the party’s local support. The team of activists are campaigning for the Labour candidate, Roberta Blackman-Woods, to be re-elected as MP for the City of Durham.
In the last election, Labour took 21,596 votes, increasing Blackman-Woods’ majority from the previous election. The Conservatives took second place with 10,157 votes.
The day of campaigning began with a briefing in the car. The area we headed to is rumoured to be majority UKIP.
“[It’s been] terrible, that was after Diane Abbot”, said a Labour activist. “But recently, ever since the polls, it’s got much better.”
Upon arrival in the area, the team dispersed. Modern campaigning is very sophisticated. The efforts are directed by records of the area containing each house, the names of the occupants, and how they vote based on what occupants say on the doorstep. Activists go door-to-door, speaking to residents if they come out or leaving a flyer if no one answers.
“It’s quite a mixed reception here,” said another Labour activist. Some houses were hostile to the Labour campaigners. “I have no faith in the Labour leader, he’s saying all the wrong things,” said a middle-aged female resident when she opened her door.
“Labour policies are more geared towards young people,” said one woman. “Jeremy Corbyn won’t sing the national anthem and I don’t like that”, said an off-duty police officer on his lunch break. “I do, however, believe that we need more police officers.” He took a flyer.
A pensioner down the road had some strong words on Diane Abbott. “She [Diane] doesn’t believe in private schools but she sent her children to private schools,” he scoffed.
The Labour campaign team responded to these criticisms by reminding voters that this election is also fought on local issues. “Remember that you’re voting for your local candidate, Roberta, and she’s fantastic,” said one activist to a resident who was unsure of how to vote.
Other residents were very supportive of Labour.”I’m voting Labour. You don’t have to convince me of anything,” said one when she came to the door. “Oh yes, of course I’m voting Labour because of the fuel tax on old people and student fees,” said a pensioner. “Yes, we’ve always been Labour,” said another resident.
The activists got the reaction they expected from the area, “a mixed response.” The major problem Labour appears to face on the doorstep is opposition to Jeremy Corbyn and his team, although this situation has improved since the election began. Blackman-Woods and her team remain confident of a Labour victory in Durham in the general election.
Photograph: Roberta Blackman-Woods