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I had an email from the Cleggster yesterday. “I’ve cleared my diary for next Wednesday…” he began. Nick, that’s ever so kind, but really it’s not necessary to put aside a whole day to consult me on the future of our national campaigning. Three hours should be perfectly sufficient. And do bring your own pen and paper, won’t you, I’ve lost too many pens over the years handing them out to boys who never return them…

But no, Nick is off to Crewe & Nuneaton Nantwich again, and encouraging the party’s emailing list to follow suit. Typical that the party should start fighting two by-elections just as I manage to land myself two freelance contracts that mean I’m working a five-day week again plus weekendy bits (and just what is this full time work shit? I was happier when I was poor… Actually, no that’s not true at all, I was miserable when I was poor. But I did get a lot more blogging done.)

I do wonder if Nick has cleared his diary partly because he genuinely likes getting out of Westminster – he was talking about this at the bloggers’ interview a couple of weeks ago. It’s true that there does seem to be something of a buzz about the Lib Dem campaign (valiantly ignored by a thoroughly pickled Iain Dale, as Jo points out) but we’re still hoping for a good second at best, so it would be surprising if Nick was making all this effort just because of our chances in the contest itself. The good second, of course, would be a nice confirmation of the national vote share of 1st May, but Clegg knows it would still go utterly unreported by the nationals because it’s not really true that we’re a big successful party that people vote for, you see, it’s a collective delusion being suffered by the poor benighted denizens of Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Grimsby, Hull plus most of the south-west…

Being a soft, soapy southerner, and also an ordinary human being scared quite out of my wits by Richard Branson’s naked profiteering (and who wouldn’t be, with that beard), I probably won’t make it to Crewe. So my knowledge of it must, alas, remain limited to the Crewe Blog, which Clegg contributed to yesterday.

I’m not terribly clear to be honest about who writes it, whether it’s an individual or a team, but at least one of them/him is a local journo suddenly finding his copy in demand on the nationals, which must be nice, and it’s an enjoyably eclectic read, with scraps of by-election gossip sandwiched in between school picnics, town planning controversies and some unashamedly nerdy trainspotting. Amongst other things, I glean that Crewe is witnessing a return of the post war-esque crime of nicking lead off the rooves, that it is possible to get a pint and two coffees for £3.47 in a place called Gaffer’s Row, although quite what sort of binge this would follow and/or constitute we are none the wiser, and (courtesy of an artist’s impression) that some of the population are ghosts… It’s a form of virtual canvassing, really. Kind of like turning up on someone’s doorstep and hiding behind the plant pots while they have a long conversation about the by-election with their neighbour.

One commenter (on the same thread as the £3.47 caffeine-alcohol hot tip) reckons we’ve got no hope:

On balance the seat should turn blue with Labour second and Liberals third. We’re not a very Liberal lot up here; we are mostly red or blue with yellow as a minority interest.

Another is more optimistic for us:

I would put them in the order of:

Tory (first)
Lib (credible second)
Labour (pathetic)

And the blogger reckons our campaign is slicker and more colour co-ordinated than either of the others, which is nice, although one of the commenters has a pithier way of putting it:

I was in town on Saturday and how the Liberals were rushing around after the candidate with their posters reminded me of something from Monty Python

And as a histo-nerd I positively belly-laugh at the punchline of this exchange, spinning off from an interesting discussion about the independent candidate Mark Walklate, even though it puts Tamsin Dunwoody in a good light (well, not a good light; just relieves the depths of the pit-like darkness by a few pixels):

Silent Hunter: Wasn’t [Tamsin Dunwoody] born in Devon? Probably the Devon just up the road from Nantwich though; so that’s all right then…

Robin of Sherwood: And where you were born is a reason for voting or not voting for someone? Don’t think so.

JimmyD: Yes, Robin, well said. It seems as though some people still haven’t put the English Civil War behind them…

And for the actual canvassing? It’s been done for me. The blog’s poll is currently showing as follows:

Brick (Monster)                   15 (1%)
Dunwoody (Lab)                  347 (24%)
Garret (Beauty)                    35 (2%)
Nattrass (UKIP)                    326 (23%)
Roberts (Eng Dem)              6 (0%)
Shenton (Lib Dem)              334 (23%)
Smith (Green)                      13 (0%)
Thorogood (Petrol)              1 (0%)
Timpson (Cons)                  310 (22%)
Walklate (Ind)                      20 (1%)

I like this new tea-and-blanket-based campaigning technique. Someone get me a four-hour window with Lord Rennard…

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