I STOPPED for ten minutes outside Hampstead Underground Station this evening as Chris Philp and his team handed out election leaflets to commuters on Day One of the official General Election campaign. I left with a better understanding of how much the Conservative candidate is putting into the campaign ‘on the ground’, but no clearer about whether the people of Hampstead will back him on May 6 in large enough numbers. The contrasting reactions among those who passed by made it impossible to tell.
The ten minutes were a pretty breathless taste test. One man leaped from the station and asked to volunteer. Not a stooge, Chris insisted. Another man took a leaflet and tore it up in front of a crestfallen Conservative supporter. Somebody else said: No, no.. I’m voting for the Communists. Others gleefully grabbed a copy of the handout, instantly spotting the Tory blue heading. It was the most topsy turvy opinion poll going.
As this was after all Hampstead, then came a couple of famous faces. Ekaterina Ivanova, the Ronnie Wood squeeze turned Big Brother contestant walked past seemimgly unaware of what was going on and showing little interest in getting a copy of Chris’s catalogue. And then it was the turn of author and Times columnist David Aaronovitch (see below) to be buttonholed. He had a quick chat with Chris and took a copy of the leaflet, but it didn’t sound like local Tories were expecting his support in the polling station.
And in the middle of it all, up ambled Janet Grauberg – the Lib Dem councillor who will have a leading role in her group’s campaigning. Outgunned on this occasion by the Conservative numbers, she nevertheless was proudly sporting an orange Vote Ed sticker.
Chris was in the thick of it tonight. To me it just emphasised just how close Hampstead and Kilburn is going to be.