HARDLY a day went by in the weeks before
the Crewe and Nantwich by-election without yet another piece of
election correspondence dropping through the letterbox.
There must be many fewer
trees in the forests now, plus lots of empty ink cartridges for
recycling, and not to mention the need to top-up campaign funds
Still, we don't get a
by-election all that often. In fact, I can't remember the last one
in Nantwich or Crewe or Crewe and Nantwich. Regular visitors to this
website will know that the one on May 22 was caused by the untimely
death of a really good constituency (and House of Commons) MP, Mrs
Gwyneth Dunwoody. (See this panel).
Following the trouncing
that the Labour party suffered in the local government elections the
other week, the last thing they wanted was a by-election. Not so
soon after abolishing the 10p tax band.
The "compensation" for those most affected, later this year, didn't
seem to make amends for the axing in the minds of many voters.
But the most memorable
feature of the by-election has been, for me, the pseudo newspapers
and even one miniature magazine with which the candidates have put
over their message.
The newspapers and magazine
were obviously professionally produced, and to a high calibre, but
the impressive bit was the speed with which
they were written, printed and distributed. Almost like a real
newspaper . . . ! Not everything could have been produced weeks in
advance. Especially when a row broke out about which of the three
main candidates lived locally.
Tamsin Dunwoody, daughter
of Gwyneth, lived 175 miles from Crewe and Nantwich in South Wales.
Edward Timpson (Conservative) was a resident of Kelsall (15 miles
down the road) and worked in Chester. And last-minute Lib Dem candidate,
Elizabeth Shenton, lives seven miles away at Clayton, near Newcastle, in the
neighbouring county of Staffordshire. There was more, but I won't go
into that now.
As well as the almost-daily
newspapers, there were telephone calls from the offices of the
candidates, in one case followed up by a doorstep visit from another
supporter seeking assurance that I would be voting for their
candidate, followed up a day or so later by a member of that party
asking if I would display a poster.
I declined a poster and
assured his colleague that of course I would be voting for their
candidate - as I tell all the canvassers.
The main parties also went
to town on the size and impact of their posters. And there were many
"big guns" from Parliament arriving in Crewe and Nantwich
their candidate. Except Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister - about which much was made.
And because of the strong
possibility perceived in many quarters that the safe Labour seat was
about to go Conservative, there was much coverage in the national
press and on national and local television.
One thing that did annoy me
was that for space and time reasons - I presume - the election
was frequently referred to as The Crewe By-Election. Despite the
fact that one Government Minister assured us that Nantwich was just
as important as Crewe - "as Gwyneth Dunwoody always said".
Full marks went, in my
book, to the contributor to Radio 4's "Broadcasting House"
miscellaneous news programme who insisted on referring to the
Nantwich and Crewe by-election.
It was amazing to see one of the "posher" newsreaders falling back on the
glottal stop and talking about the "Crewe and Nan-wich
by-election". Others did the same, but John Humphrys (Today
programme, Radio 4), a Welshman, pronounced it correctly. (As did
others, to be fair). Then
again, he would be used to saying the Welsh word 'nant'. [Nant =
river valley; wich = salt. Therefore, Nantwich = the salt town in
the river valley.]
How nice it will be not to
have to hear "Nan-wich" again - at least not until the General