The forecast was for high winds and driving rain in the north last night. That was the night that the biggest detachment of by election volunteers in living memory left Sefton to help Elwyn Watkins. Southport MP John Pugh, Council Leader Tony Robertson, two cabinet members, four councillors a handful of activists arrived as darkness fell. We were met at the mill that was serving as the HQ by Elwyn, he was in an optimistic mood having spent time in Oldham town centre where he had clearly received a very positive response.
I've always thought of Saddleworth as Wainwright country-Richard not Alfred. The solid rows of stone mill cottages clinging to the hillsides have an air of straight forward decency about them.
These moorland villages are not lit like urban areas thank goodness the resourceful Anthony Hill had brought a torch. We soon got into a routine. First you carefully navigated to stairs that lead the front door, these were usually constructed out of stone slabs and the rain had made them very slippery. You carefully climbed them until you reached the front door when a security light suddenly shone brightly into your eyes illuminating-too late- the route you had just gingerly trodden. The welcome was friendly and and the canvass showed some movement towards us. Having done our canvassing and delivered our allotted newspapers we retreated to the pub.
Those with a local knowledge- (my Morris dancing colleague councillor Mike Booth who has flourished his handkerchief and shaken many a stick in these part and Tony Dawson who fought Woolas in the last General Election)-recommended the Church Inn at Upper Mill, which is situated next to the magnificent neo gothic St Chads church. When you go to Saddleworth you should visit , the pub has beer brewed specially for it and offers decent bar food., but take my advice don't order the jumbo Haddock, James did, only to discover that when they said it was ideal to share with a friend they were not exaggerating. Frankly it could have fed the
anners Business park with Elwyn's HQ is then close by. As we arrived in the pub I got an email from a Ms Stephenson telling me she was on a train to Oldham and encouraging me to head there myself. I was not put off. I think that this may be an important by election not just for the good folk of Oldham and Saddleworth but for the country. So don't be put off by talk of wind and rain this contest is there to be won if we can get the boots on the ground. Forget about the 'air war' this battle will be won on the doorsteps not the television studios. It is our sort of campaign.
We got back to Southport about 10.30pm to find the place had taken a real battering from the high winds, trees had fallen, fences were down and I lost a ridge tile from my roof.