A candiidate?s diary

CPGB member Lawrie Coombs is the Socialist Alliance parliamentary candidate for Stockton South

Wednesday May 30 In keeping with last week?s Weekly Worker headline - ?Canvass, canvass, canvass? - it?s a case of afternoon and evening trudging the streets. The message is getting across: people are beginning to recognise us. Some people have now received the freepost election address and we are receiving e-mails, phone calls and pledges of support.

Thursday May 31 Seem to be getting support from people I see out walking their dogs to the park. Long-term readers of the Weekly Worker may recall correspondence about ?Parxism? - capitalism with parks, as one wit described the Greens? policies. Maybe we can attract the Parxists after all. After another evening on the streets I get an early night for a change. But the election is disturbing my sleep - my dreams are full of leaflets and street names.

Friday June 1 In the day do a bit of a walkabout, giving out leaflets to people and stopping for a chat. In the evening more canvassing. A number of people express interest in our follow-up meeting next week. Lots of people not answering the door, especially after 7.45 or so. A few more posters go up.

Saturday June 2 The morning sees us eventually abandoning the stall in Stockton due to ferocious wind and rain. Later in the afternoon we advance to nearby Thornaby town centre and set up there - very positive response in this solidly working class area. A high profile member of the local Labour Party comes up to say his vote is for us - he can?t stomach Blair any more, PFI being about the last straw. We speak in depth about the alliance and hopefully this discussion will result in more than just his vote. Many eagerly take leaflets, although some people still fear letting in the Tories. So our final vote is still totally unquantifiable.

In the evening a few of us attend Arthur Scargill?s election rally in Hartlepool - something of an anti-climax actually. We retire to The Sun in Stockton for a few jars of their very excellently kept Bass and return to our respective homes.

Sunday June 3 Canvassing during the day. Again a mixed response. Some new volunteers help out.

The evening marks one of the strangest political experiences of my life. I speak at a hustings in a church hall in probably one of the most affluent villages in the north east, Eaglescliffe. Myself and the other three candidates discuss a range of questions to a gathering of respectable, middle class, church-going individuals. Several of my tub-thumping efforts receive the tumbleweed treatment. Blank stares at best; horror from others in an audience that seem to treat me as some kind of exhibit!

A few corkers from Tory Tim Devlin: eg, ?There are more Albanians in London than in the eastern bloc.? The public school chimes of Labour?s Dari Taylor made me - the southern boy standing for parliament in my adopted Teesside - feel less alien. Taylor is not an overly impressive speaker, despite peppering his response to every question with literary quotes. Not really trained for audiences such as this one, I certainly felt in the enemy camp. However, strip away the flannel and these sorts are so banal and shallow as to give you confidence.

Monday June 4 Stall in Stockton in the morning, one in Thornaby in the afternoon and six of us go out canvassing in the evening. A small group of people approach us in the street, asking if we are Socialist Alliance. They say they have already decided to vote for us. The decision locally to stand has been vindicated: more support, including activists, coming towards us and the possibility through consistent work of developing a real base in the area.

After canvassing I sink a couple of beers. Receive two phone calls, from people wanting to get involved. One invites me round for a chat, so off I trot. More helpers found for Thursday. It?s going to be a hard, but hopefully fruitful, few days.

Tuesday June 5 Spent the afternoon on the knocker, covering quite a bit of ground. Again a couple of people came up to us saying we had their vote.

In the evening I headed off into the next constituency for a meeting of christian voters, open to the public, to be addressed by all candidates in Stockton - local and general election (both constituencies). Myself, a Green candidate, a Tory and Frank Cook, Labour MP for Stockton North, were there.

What followed was high farce. Frank Cook, who, it must be said, has to be one of the rudest individuals I have ever met, refused to share a platform with somebody he was not directly contesting against. This pompous individual was too good a gift horse. It was not hard to make him look a complete fool. His agent was even worse and tried to eyeball yours truly out. Frank accused the Green Party of being in league with the Socialist Alliance.

This was all too much for the hapless chair, a local pastor, who was then unseated by a minister from a neighbouring pentecostal church. The decision was taken to abandon the meeting, despite a vote from the floor to carry on. In the chaos that followed, some people stayed and amongst the chaos a Socialist Alliance candidate from neighbouring Middlesbrough wandered in, totally bemused.

As the event was a long way from home, I was glad to receive a lift back from a born-again christian. We discussed the virgin birth, the holy trinity and who Jesus was ... if only Jack Conrad and Michael Malkin had been there!

Well, I suppose I should have obeyed the SA centre directive to use the whole of the remaining time productively. Pass over the incense.