A perspective of the General Election from the campaign trail in Dorset
In the final week of what has seemed like a very long election campaign, the momentum of the campaigns on the ground is still strong.
Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) and their teams of volunteers in two Dorset constituencies are still out in force, pounding the pavements for hours at a time in a bid to secure every last vote ahead of Thursday. They are determined, and they are motivated. In the constituencies of Bournemouth West, and Mid Dorset and North Poole, the local council elections are also taking place on Thursday, making it even more important to get out the vote.
Bournemouth West has been a considered a safe Conservative seat since it was created in 1950, but that does not mean that the Conservative team are taking it easy – quite the contrary. The Liberal Democrats are the constituency’s second party, with a number of councillors on Bournemouth Council, and despite the Lib Dems’ difficulties nationally, they still pose a credible threat locally. The rise of UKIP has also been felt in Bournemouth. They are hot on the heels of the Lib Dems in vying for second place, and there is a strong chance of them taking vital votes from the Conservatives in both the General Election and the local election. This is something that will be happening across the country. Conservative PPC Conor Burns, who has been the MP for the last five years, and his team (which ranges in age from 13 to 65 and beyond!) have been making sure that they get the best result possible on Thursday, at both the national level, and the local level.
Mid Dorset and North Poole is a marginal constituency, and is currently the only non-Conservative constituency in the whole of Dorset. In 2010, the Liberal Democrat majority was reduced from 5,482 to a mere 269. Now the long-serving Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke has stood down, which means that two new candidates are standing for the seat, and going all out to clinch victory on Thursday. The constituency is one of 23 that the Conservatives need to win to get a majority in Parliament, and the party has thrown all of its weight behind its PPC Michael Tomlinson. The Prime Minister himself has been down to campaign with Michael, and more recent senior visitors include Chief Whip Michael Gove and, just last week, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond. Candidates from neighbouring constituencies, including Conor Burns, Tobias Ellwood and Robert Syms, have also been helping out with their teams to ensure that Dorset is blue by Friday.
From the proximity of the campaign trail, my prediction is that Dorset will indeed be blue by Friday. The main thing that I have learnt from my time on the ground is that whether the PPC is the incumbent or standing for the first time, grass roots activism is vitally important to a successful campaign. Candidates need to have a strong and dedicated team behind them, and both Conor and Michael have these. Each and every pair of hands is invaluable. There are countless aspects to a campaign, from stuffing envelopes and delivering leaflets, to canvassing and ensuring that all emails and phone calls from constituents are dealt with. Ultimately, the team is there to support the candidates and the party to do all they can possibly do to deliver the best result. In this final day, campaigners are out on the streets once more to make sure those all important pledges turn into vital votes on May 7th.