Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sheerness and Sittingbourne - on the high streets

We have just completed two very successful high street sessions. Last week we were in Sheerness by the clock and this weekend we set up camp in Sittingbourne. On both occasions we were fortunate with the weather and were armed with policy statements, balloons and literature.

Throughout these sessions I met many people, discussing with them the wide variety of issues they are concerned about, which were mostly local, but also touched on national issues, such as tax and immigration.

Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey has suffered badly as a result of Gordon Brown's recession so there was a lot of concern about jobs and businesses and how to revitalise the high street and the island overall. The area we were situated in was next to three empty shops as an example. People wanted to know our plans as a party and what would I, if I was the MP, do about it.

There were a lot of people who were understandably anti-politician but I was pleased to see some support for us and that Labour’s support is not as strong as we might have expected. There was a general feeling of being let down.

Then in Sittingbourne there was much positive feedback about Nick Clegg after his debate performance and people telling me that they have never voted Liberal Democrat before but were now very tempted. Again, the local economy was a subject of concern as well as schools and the commuter trains.

In both towns, the behaviour of MPs and our politicians was also discussed. And there was a lot of concern about the Conservatives getting back into power - especially in Sheerness where cuts in investment and even higher unemployment were the last thing they wanted.

Sadly every silver lining has a cloud. Half an hour after we set up camp in Sheerness, along came the Tories and set up a stall right next to us! Then half an hour after we were in Sittingbourne, what do you know, here they come again. Not further down the high street, you note, but again adjacent to our stall! Before they turned up, I had a queue of people wanting to talk to me and keen to discuss things but as soon as the blue balloons arrived, that was it, the streets got much emptier.

I have to confess blame here because I publicised the fact we would be in those places – but you live and learn.

Anyway, that was just a minor grumble. I found both sessions to be very rewarding and enjoyable. It’s always a joy to get out on the streets and talk to real people.

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