One of the things British people don’t realise about Newcastle is that it has a very good climate. There are lots of jokes about it always being cold and about Geordies never wearing coats or many other clothes for that matter. And Geordies are happy to join in with the jokes. Mainly because most of them are correct. But if you look at a map of the planet, Newcastle lies on the 55th parallel North on the lines of latitude. Other places of note on that parallel include Newfoundland, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Kamchatka peninsula, and Siberia. So, comparatively speaking, we do ok. Another thing our fellow countrymen probably miss is that Newcastle is actually very dry. It’s in the rain shadow of the Pennines so we don’t get a great deal of rainfall. Which is why my first experience of Manchester rain wasn’t much fun for me.
I’ve been talking about going down there for ages. I’ve made a few Labour friends in that neck of the woods. So on Sunday, I met up with Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, Labour member, blogger, and campaigner of that particular parish. She showed me a bar. It was nice. They did coffee and food. The same bar is in most cities of the UK, but it’s always good to have a nice coffee and some bacon. Well, it is for me anyway.
Then, Grace showed me the Metrolink. That’s a pretty cool Tram that runs out to surrounding villages other bits of Greater Manchester. Most cities of the UK are still using the pesky diesel-eating, carbon-emitting buses. So the tram is nice to see in the streets of the city, and was a novel experience for me. We went out to Bury North where we joined a really vibrant campaign team being run out of a former Barnardo’s Charity Shop. I’m told they still get bags of clothes left on the doorstep, despite the huge window posters and red paint job.
It was really interesting to go out canvassing there and find that voters in Bury have a lot of the same issues and opinions as the voters I’ve spoken to in Newcastle. There was a strong Labour vote there and, like Newcastle, I didn’t see any evidence of a surge for the Liberal Democrats. We weren’t out too long before I got to experience the aforementioned infamous Manchester rain. I was soaked to the skin in about 2 minutes flat and then had to shelter in the boot of a car because of a vehicle shortage. Less funny than it sounds I promise.
Anyway, we all went back to office to dry out and do something else. Phone canvassing, direct mail sorting, talking with voters calling in. All the same things that happen up and down the country as Labour activists fight to get their candidates elected. It was reassuring for me to see what was happening in a different constituency. To see it was the same hard work we do in my constituency. To see the familiarity despite the different location. To see the hospitality to anyone who has come to do their bit. It made me realise that this is what cabinet members get to see all the time, as they travel the country. I could recognise types of people who I guess you see in every committee room or campaign HQ across the land. New volunteers driven there by a wish to keep the Tories out, old hands who’ve been campaigning since Wilson was PM, people who dedicate their free time to the Labour cause whether that’s in general, european, or local elections. The grassroots membership. The Labour family.