April 5: They're off...or at least we think they will be
Tuesday April 6, 6pm
There wasn't a huge amount of
excitement on the last leg of Gordon Brown's whistle-stop tour of
Medway as the PM was safely secured in the home of lifelong Labour
supporter Harry Keane and his wife Mary at Rainham for what was
largely a private meeting with community representatives.
There was some minor drama when a
neighbour emerged to berate the waiting press pack for stepping on
her lawn and then some light relief and much needed refreshment
from an ice cream van, which had clearly spotted an opportunity to
make a bit of extra cash from the journalists kicking their
The PM gave a very short interview
after emerging from his meeting, and denied to me that his presence
so early in the campaign meant he was worried about losing Kent
seats; I suppose on reflection that he was never going to
say, 'yes of course I'm deeply troubled by the polls and reckon
we're going to lose them all' but that's the trouble with
these soundbite interviews.
Still, you can't deny that Kent will
figure heavily in the forthcoming campaign. If the parties keep
this level of activity up, I shall be exhausted.
Call it symbolic or simply handy but it has now been confirmed
that Gordon Brown is heading down to Kent's
marginal seats for a whistle-stop tour of key constituencies
on Day One of the four-week long campaign.
Nothing could better illustrate exactly why the county will be
pivotal in determining who holds power on May 6.
As usual, the itinerary is a closely guarded secret but in a
curious parallel with a recent visit by Cameron, he will be popping
into a certain supermarket in the Medway Towns. Hope he's been
briefed on the cost of a pint of milk...
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are sending down Francis
Maude, party chairman. All quiet on the Lib Dems
Or at least we will be when Gordon does indeed decide to name the
day and confirm the countrys worst-kept secret - namely that we
will be heading to the polls on May 6 to decide who runs the
And if the reports are true, Mr
Brown could be heading to Kent to begin his offensive, with a
symbolic trip on a High Speed One train through the key marginals.
Party chiefs haven't confirmed anything yet but a report in
The Times seems pretty clear that he's heading this way.
All I've been told is that "a senior
Government figure" will be in the county; while the Tories are
expected to send down party chairman Francis Maude to mark the
starting gun being fired.
Strangely, it was a bit quiet on the
political front over the Easter Bank Holiday, with the exception of
the annual teaching unions conferences and a row over the BnB
comments made by shadow home secretary Chris Grayling - the
political lull before the storm.
The one thing that does concern me is how the parties will
sustain the public's interest over the next five weeks. The phony
war has been going on so long that we seem to have already heard
much of what the parties are offering; it will need all their
imagination and ingenuity to try and find different ways of saying
Still, election campaigns always throw
up moments of high drama. Just a shame John Prescott looks like
having a smaller part to play this time around.
Perhaps Tony Blair will get a bit
nostalgic and reprise his famous Kent cameo with Gordon Brown from
2005 when the PM bought him a 99 ice cream in Gillingham - an image
now used whenever the Press run stories about how the pair fell
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