Tuesday 11 August 2009

The View From ‘Fort UKIP’

David Challice writes about his experience from the Norwich North By-Election.

The taxi drivers soon christened it “Tingle Town”, due to all the VOTE GLENN TINGLE posters springing up in one part of Norwich last July.

To set the scene, Ian Gibson was the popular and independently-minded Labour MP for Norwich North. But when caught in the expenses scandal his own party turned on him, and so Gibson jumped ship, forcing a by-election. After our success at the EU elections, UKIP needed to fight this one.

Glenn Tingle, 46, was born in Norwich. Apart from time spent away as an Army medic, he has always worked locally as a civil engineer. Glenn was a great candidate for UKIP. Clean, presentable, intelligent, confident, but firm on the local issues that mattered… immigration in particular.

He provided UKIP with the three-bedroomed house he was in the process of selling, which became our campaign office (or ‘Fort UKIP’). My job was to organise the office and keep the wheels of the bandwagon on the move.

I lived in ‘Fort UKIP’ for most of the campaign, along with Michael Heaver (Chairman of Young Independence) and other YI members…. an interesting gap in generations. I can report that the correct etiquette after consuming home-delivered pizza is to leave the box and its remnants on the floor. Cans of Coke must be half-finished then deposited randomly about the house. At times it was like a cross between “The Young Ones” and “Butterflies” (for those old enough to remember) but we all got along very well, with a real spirit of camaraderie, apart from when I confiscated John Tennant’s football and sent him to bed with no supper, (Only joking. He had some pizza).

This really was a team effort, with lots of volunteers coming to help, and others sending donations large and small. On Glenn’s behalf, thanks to you all. We arranged b&b at a nearby golf club owned by a UKIP sympathiser, and leafleteers were grateful for the sauna and hot-tub after trudging the streets all day.

There were visits from many MEPs such as Nigel Farage, Paul Nuttall, Gerard Batten and Marta Andreasen, including local MEPs, Stuart Agnew and David Campbell Bannerman. But many thanks to all the MEPs for contributing their time at what was a hectic period in Brussels.

There were many huge billboards erected across the city, and Vote Tingle posters on BT phone kiosks. It all added to the public impression of a Party taking this election seriously. Nick Hogan (Save the Pub campaign) also visited the city, along with Hogan’s Heroes, three young ladies who certainly attracted attention among the younger generation of voters. Hats off to them, I say!

We delivered five types of leaflet, approx 230,000 in total, but by the third week the good people of Norwich were totally saturated by political leaflets from all parties. The Tories poured vast sums into the campaign, wheeling out stars such as Cameron and Hague. As for Chris Ostrowski, the Labour candidate (parachuted in from London), he had the resigned look of a man being led to the scaffold. When he went down with suspected swine flu, it was almost predictable... A man usually gets kicked when already lying on the ground. The question for us was: “When the Labour vote collapses, where will it go?” Labour supporters were our main target.

John Youles and Lawrence Webb (London Regional Organiser) worked tirelessly to prepare canvassing sheets, and they deserve special thanks for their efforts because it was a massive and very important job.

We had fun, too. The purple-and-yellow UKIP London taxi was employed to counter Tory leader David Cameron. While he was knocking on doors in leafy suburbia, the UKIP taxi loud-speaker was warning people further along: “There is a strange man coming up the street. He is after your vote. On no account open the door to him. Vote UKIP”

On another occasion Peter Mandelson was intercepted by a team of Ukippers who pointedly asked: “Lord Mandelson… who’s in charge of the country while you’re here in Norwich?” He was also quizzed about why the British people had been denied a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The noble Lord made his excuses and left.

The BBC showed blatant and unforgivable bias during the campaign, giving the Greens official “4th Party Status” and lumping us in with ‘Others’. On the Monday before polling, BBC Look East held a Question Time-style debate “with the four main parties”. UKIP were shut out, despite the best efforts of Press Officer, Stuart Gulleford.

The Greens wore a smug look, flattered by all the media attention; a jaunty spring to their step. They even toured the city in a double-decker bus which ran on recycled cooking oil, soon dubbed “the Chip Fat express” in the local newspaper. They misjudged that one and became a laughing stock. Even by Green logic, that bus was pumping out greenhouse gases faster than a field of Aberdeen Angus.

And then came election day and the final count. The Tories won. Despite the BBC bias, we came fourth, beating the Greens (which left them stunned) and achieving our best ever result in a by-election. Predictably the BBC barely mentioned it. With a fairer media coverage I’m totally convinced we would have come third, gaining the extra 800 votes needed to beat the Lib Dems.

On the same day Peter Reeve (Glenn’s Agent) won two council seats in Ramsey. Congratulations to him and his team, and thanks for his hard work in Norwich as well! If you didn’t come to the Norwich North by-election, you missed out on something very special. So please try to make the next one. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

David Challice - Administration Manager and Chief Washer-Up at Fort UKIP.


Steve Halden said...

A big thank you to all the volunteers who went to Norwich North to work for UKIP.

I have only praise for the hard work of the UKIP helpers.

But the campaign was flawed by a very poor election slogan.

The UKIP slogan in this election was "MAKE A CLEAN START."

This would have been an excellent slogan to sell a new soap powder, but it told the voters absolutely nothing about UKIP policies.

May I say that by contrast the slogans for the EU Election were excellent.

The Churchill leaflets, and the Chruchill billboards were fabulous.

Why is UKIP excellent at fighting EU elections, will absolutely brilliant slogans?

But all we can come up with is a weak "MAKE A CLEAN START" for the most important Westminster election in the history of our party.