Another quiet election day from me – had a few more deliveries to do this morning, but just as I was getting ready to take them out, I noticed that someone had forgotten to put the letters in the addressed envelopes, and while delivering empty envelopes to people might be a good electoral tactic for a surrealist/situationist election campaign, I decided to wait until I’d got some letters for them.

Elsewhere in the election today, aside from the shocking news that the Independent has decided that I’m a prominent political blog, the Guardian has announced that it’s backing the Liberal Democrats at this election. While this is a welcome development for the party, what’s even better is just how crazy it’s made some Labour supporters. You can read the comments on the Guardian editorial to see some of it, but if you want the pure concentrated crazy, I recommend this piece at Harry’s Place, right down to the Khrushchev-quoting end. It’s especially amusing when a blog that’s spent almost its entire existence arguing that the Guardian is antithesis of everything it stands for goes off the rails when it dares to disagree with them again.

And now the Observer has joined the Guardian in backing Clegg, I’m expecting a fantastically arsey piece from Nick Cohen.

Away from all that – literally, for the past few days – is Anton Vowl, who’s been fortunate enough to have both had a holiday and voted, so is almost completely divorced from the election-related shenanigans the rest of us have been going through. Lucky git.

And from yesterday, but I didn’t see it then, Marina Hyde’s growing fears of a Tory victory next week, but unlike her I’m not worried about David Cameron becoming Prime Minister.

I worry about George Osborne becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer, using the Treasury as a tool to cut taxes on the rich and services for the poor. I worry about William Hague, the barely acceptable face of Tory xenophobia, becoming Foreign Secretary and wrecking our relationship with all our foreign partners. I worry about Chris Grayling taking his brand of ill-informed populist nonsense into the Home Office, about Jeremy Hunt using DCMS to gleefully wreck the BBC and return whatever favours News Corporation demanded for their support. I worry about arch-neocons and Iraq War cheerleaders like Michael Gove and Liam Fox getting their feet around the Cabinet table.

In the face of that catalogue of potential disaster, I just don’t have any worry left for the overpromoted PR man they’ve chosen as the frontman for Operation Illusory Detoxification.

Five days to go…

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Firstly, a musical interlude:

Well, that’s cleared all the lingering dog whistles from last night. For more on this, and to save me just echoing everything she wrote, go and read what Jennie has to say.

Just think, this time next week it’ll all be over, unless you have local elections and they’re finding it hard to get enough staff to count them all, and you’ve got several wards where the result is really close, and they’ve all had to go to recounts, and then the Returning Officer, with the look of someone who can barely remember what sleep is, decides you’ll all need to come back tomorrow to finish off. So, unless that scenario happens – and I know I’m tempting fate for Colchester by writing it here – the election will all be over by this time next week. And that’s when the screaming starts…

Or there’ll just be the realisation that while the people have spoken, we’re not quite sure what they’ve said and as liquidating the electorate and replacing them with a new one isn’t anyone’s policy (well, the first half comes close to the BNP) we’ll just have to go back and ask them again in 6-12 months to see if they’ve changed their minds. Electoral staff may be one of the growth industries of the next few years, if only we can find a way to export them for profit. Sadly, that would likely involve persuading another country to adopt an FPTP electoral system, which they seem reluctant to do so.

For another perspective on what might the situation this time next week might be, go read Chris Brooke.

Back to the debate, and an interesting post from Channel 4′s Gary Gibbon looking at how the pollsters weight their panels for the debate response polls. The information he provides leaves a very large question mark over just how accurate any of the post-debate polls have been, especially given that ‘the leader of the party I support came first’ appears to be the most common response. Still, anyone who watched Charlotte Gore’s version of the debate would have enjoyed it. If I had any animation skills at all, I would be working on a version of MegaMultiLeaderMechaRobot vs GimletEyedBearFascist Stomp Attack!, but I don’t so I just have to hope someone else is inspired.

That’s all from me for today – another 300 deliveries to take the total to a nice round 3,000, but no doors knocked today, as I had a terrible night’s sleep last night and don’t think that falling asleep on someone’s doorstep as I wait for them to answer the door is a good way

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I was struggling to think of a title for today’s post, then started flicking through the channels and discovered that the 60s Batman film was on FilmFour. It was very hard not to see Gordon Brown as the unluck sap running along a pier holding a giant comedy bomb while the presence of various babies in prams, marching bands, nuns, ducklings and other tabloid-friendly images prevent him from dumping it.

(Not that New Labour’s normally had much of a problem getting rid of bombs)

Obviously, the reason Armando Ianucci wasn’t available to direct the Tory election broadcast I referred to in my last post was because he’s now directing the entire election. Yet again, the broadcasters of Britain breathe a huge sigh of relief as they can now go for another day without talking about unimportant trivialities like policy and instead spend hours and hours dissecting the meaning of one comment. Sometime tomorrow, they’ll have to change their focus slightly to the final leaders’ debate, but they can frame that in terms of whether Gordon Brown will mutter something under his breath or if David Cameron will tell us that he too once met a bigoted woman, so with luck and a bit of manufactured post-debate nowtrage, the election coverage can stay entirely policy-free until the weekend.

The big question is this – is this the day Labour lost the election, or just the day the media will point to as the day Labour lost the election for which they’d already spent five years preparing the ground for their defeat?

Was listening to Radio 4′s PM this afternoon, which featured a Labour person saying that the campaign was going fine, and their canvass returns were showing that everything was fine. Of course, that’s always the response to any claims that things are going wrong – ‘we’re not hearing that on the doorstep’ – and it’s one of those things that I really wish the media would pick up on, by challenging people to put up that data to justify their claims. Never going to happen, of course.

Talking of canvass data, today I was out canvassing in an entirely new area – Chelmsford. A few of us from Colchester went down there to help out Stephen Robinson in his attempt to win there, and to show our thanks for all the times they’ve come out to help us here in Colchester – they’re one of the key reasons we won here in 1997, so we’re hoping that we can now repay the favour and get Essex’s second Liberal Democrat MP. If you’re in Essex and want to help out, then I know Stephen and his team will be grateful for all the help they can get.

Another 40 doors knocked on this afternoon, and then a traffic jam on the A12 meant I got back too late to do any tonight, so that takes the total up to 330. Tomorrow looks like it might be a big delivery day though.

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For us politics junkies, The Thick Of It is essential watching and one of the treats of this election campaign has been Jesse Armstrong’s Malcolm Tucker columns for the Guardian (warning: contains language liable to offend the offendable).

And while it’s amusing to imagine just how the real-life Malcolms are dealing with the election, it’s a bit disturbing to discover they’re thinking on the same lines as the rest of us. Rebecca Front (the actress who plays Nicola Murray in The Thick Of It) tweeted this morning:

A very nice man approached me in the st & asked if I wanted to be in a Labour party broadcast. They want Nicola Murray in a ppb? …

Followed by this response from Armando Ianucci, the creator and director of the series:

@RebeccaFront. Saatchis contacted me and asked if I wanted to shoot the Tory Hung Parliament ppb. Offal heads.

At this point, life is no longer imitating art, it’s given up, stuck itself in a frame and demanded to be painted over. How long till someone attempts to get Chris Morris to direct a broadcast for them?

UPDATE: Turns out that they also attempted to get Charlie Brooker to appear in the Tory election broadcast. Satire may not be dead, but there’s someone out there trying to slaughter it in the most horrible ways imaginable. (thanks to James Graham for pointing it out)

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I have seen my first ballot papers of this election. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen the backs of them rather than how anyone voted – and even if I had seen how people had voted, I’d be committing an offence by telling you how they did. Yes, I was at the first day of opening the postal votes here in Colchester, making sure everything was fair and going OK, as well as getting a first indication of the postal vote turnout. In short, it was a couple of hours of watching people opening envelopes and putting postal ballot forms through scanners.

The point of today – and the next few days of working through the several thousand postal ballots they’re expecting from across the Borough – isn’t to count any votes but to verify them. By getting all that work done now, it means that the vast majority of the postal votes can be easily counted with the rest of the votes on election night, with only the votes that came in on polling day itself needing to be checked before being added to the count.

Elsewhere, we had some comedy injected into the campaign as UKIP put forward Christopher Monckton to answer the Guardian’s questions about their science policy. Their conclusion? “Woeful“. The only other party to be featured in the series so far is the Liberal Democrats, by the way. Lots in there if you’re looking for evidence-based policy, not much if you’re looking for laughs at the expense of swivel-eyed loons.

20 more doors knocked on this evening, taking the total up to 290, but the big box of stuff to deliver hasn’t been touched yet…and seems to have grown with a few more things since I last looked.

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It had to happen eventually. The campaign was going so well, and everything in the election was going fine, but then the dark shadow from the past has risen to cast its pall over the whole affair. Yes, Jan Moir has risen from whatever pit of slime the Daily Mail store her in to launch a barrel of fiery error-strewn invective at the Clegg family, following the shocking news that Miriam Gonzalez not only wears underwear, but also buys it. No, I’m not linking to the Daily Mail piece, but Helen Duffett has more on it.

Meanwhile, the Tories have been telling people to vote for them to avoid a hung Parliament, but insisting that we must keep the current electoral system because it, unlike any other system, doesn’t deliver hung parliaments. As ever, the fact remains that electoral systems are entirely neutral on the question of hung, balanced, strong or any other kind of Parliament and it’s the voters who decide what sort of Parliament they get. Remember that only two weeks ago, David Cameron was issuing an ‘invitation to join the Government of Britain’ and now it turns out that not only is that invitation subject to the leader making up new policy off the cuff, but it clearly doesn’t include people who have the temerity to get themselves elected for parties that aren’t the Conservatives.

I am glad for the Tories pointing just how much Labour have clamped down on our civil liberties:

Greg Clark, the shadow climate change secretary, was first up as he announced that a Tory government would give people the power to plant a tree for every child born in Britain.

Yes, it would seem that either you don’t have the power to plant a tree – which must make anyone working for the Woodland Trust rather nervous – or the Tories have announced another non-policy.

Today’s things to read that you might find interesting: James Graham on the latest Labour hissy fit, FiveThirtyEight taking a different look at swing and why seat calculators might be getting it badly wrong and James Barlow (no relation, that I’m aware of) on why using stock images on their election publicity might end up costing the Green Party a lot.

A bit of polling news – while the rest of the (non-rogue) polls continue bumping around within the margin of error some interesting information from PinkNews about the Tory vote crashing amongst gay people.

Back to actual door-knocking this evening, rather than co-ordinating, and another 25 takes me up to 270. A few bits of delivery over the weekend as well, so we’ll call the total for that 2,400 so far.

Just ten days to go now, and a whole lot more paper to distribute (there’s a box full of it taunting me now) and doorbells to ring.

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So, the team in blue were leading throughout most of the campaign and seemed set to coast home easily. The red team, the defending champions, really didn’t live up to expectations but a flurry of activity helped them out in a close close finish, though they still ended up in third place, with the final battle between the seemingly-unbeatable blues and the yellows, who’d got there on the back of some great performances by their leader. When it came down to it, though, the blues just couldn’t seal the deal and the yellows won comfortably.

But this is a General Election post, so why I’m talking about today’s Indian Premier League final, where the Chennai Super Kings beat the heavily-tipped Mumbai Indians to take the title, I don’t know.

Today was another day of playing sorting office, and working through several boxes of letters in the office to check they were all arranged correctly and ready to be delivered. Not quite a dirty job – the advantage of dealing with stuff in envelopes is that you don’t get your hands covered in printer’s ink – but a rather boring one that someone has to do.

Meanwhile, the Labour campaign is convulsed with rows over the appearance of an Elvis impersonator at a campaign event, and as a result, Armando Ianucci and the team behind The Thick Of It are have probably thrown out all their planned scripts for the next series because they’re just not silly enough to be realistic.

It’s been a quiet electoral weekend for me, but we’re about to head into the final sprint for the finish, now we’ve got two-thirds of the campaign behind us. In a fortnight’s time, it’ll all be over. For this election anyway.

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Been somewhat out of the national election loop today, as I’ve been concentrating on working here on the campaign here in Colchester. Been glancing at Twitter on and off during the day, which has provided an interesting way of skimming the election news through an odd filter. This has included the rather odd news that Nick Clegg is not only aware of the whole #nickcleggsfault phenomenon, but regards it as one of his favourite parts of the campaign. I find myself imagining Nick Clegg being summoned to Buckingham Palace after the election, just for the Queen to tell him it’s all his fault.

Anyway, #nickcleggsfault is now so April 22nd. All the cool Tweeters are on #disobeymurdoch now. (And the really cool are on #SendUsMoney)

Meanwhile, today’s news is that there’s been a sudden surge in hysterical (in every sense of the word) bigotry. I also caught the English Democrats’ election broadcast (not intentionally, but it was stuck between Newsnight and Newsnight Review) but as it didn’t contain Steven Uncles on his knees, begging the forgiveness of the world for what he said about Chris Lightfoot’s death, I find no reason to pay them any attention at all. Except to point out that Mr Uncles is standing in Gravesham, and I hope Anna Arrowsmith beats him soundly.

Anyway, I spent most of today out running canvassing teams here in Colchester. While you don’t get to knock on any doors yourself while you’re co-ordinating it, it’s an interesting experience to be co-ordinating a group of others as they head to the doorstep and dealing with the variety of responses you can get from a single street. We also had some new people out with us tonight, and it’s fun watching someone learn the art of canvassing to the point when they’re willing and ready to go and knock on doors all by themselves. But, even though we got through a few hundred doors in those sessions, I didn’t knock on any or do any deliveries today, so no advance on the totals for now.

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I’m still not quite sure what part of today I’ve found the strangest – the news that Marmite are suing the BNP over a Party Political Broadcast, that Iain Dale wrote a post deploring the personal attacks on Nick Clegg, or the fact that a brief conversation between me and Justin on Twitter spawned a globe-spanning meme. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time a first-thing-in-the-morning off-hand comment of mine has ended up inspiring a song.

Before I forget to recommend it, some other stuff worth reading out there on the internets from Steph Ashley and Alix Mortimer.

I suppose today is the day where I can excuse my lack of activity on the local campaign by claiming I was focusing on the national/internet campaign. What I’ve found interesting during this campaign is that the party do seem to have finally understood internet campaigning and not tried to interfere with spontaneous internet uprisings. For example the people who created and turned the Rage Against The Machine Facebook group into such a phenomenon (it now has a membership almost double the party’s) have been allowed to get on with it in their own way. They’ve been given advice and support from the party when it’s been asked for – though even that’s mostly been crowdsourced – but there’s been no one from Cowley Street trying to muscle in and insist that they must do it a certain way.

There’s definitely something happening during this election as the rules change around us. Someone mentioned to me this morning that they’d heard someone – we think it was UKIP or the English Democrats – travelling around the streets in a car with a PA on it. That’s something that probably seemed like an incredible innovation 80 or 90 years, was a staple of campaigning in the 70s, but is now almost entirely gone from campaigns. Could elections in 10 or 20 years time see all the attention paid to Twitter hashtags and Facebook groups while everyone wonders why they don’t get scores of leaflets through their doors anymore?

(Quick thought: I wonder if anyone’s studied what happens to domestic paper recycling rates and amounts during election campaigns?)

On that note, I can’t remember if I’ve linked to David Yelland’s excellent Guardian article yet: Nick Clegg’s rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics. If you want to know why certain parts of the press are going so over-the-top in their attacks on Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, it’s a good start in explaining why, as is this Michael Wollf piece. Plus, Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News speculates about just what senior News International executives were doing in the office block that the Independent shares with the Daily Mail.

Back to party politics, though, and I wonder if this decentralisation of campaigning might lead to a whole new way of organising political parties in the UK? Does the traditional membership model really work when you don’t need to jump through committee hoops to run your campaign, you just need to start a Facebook group or come up with a Twitter hashtag and see who rallies around. Ken MacLeod discussed some of these changes in his Morning Star interview this week, and even though he’s coming at it from the perspective of the Left, there are similarities:

MacLeod’s analysis of far-left movements is far from uncritical. He points out that left-wing movements have been slow to embrace new technologies, in part because the internet “challenges a set of Leninist assumptions that a lot of far-left groups had about how discussions must and should be conducted.

“A lot of the formal rules of the left are still based on 19th-century communications technology – the idea that revolutionary politics are built around a top-level party line set down by a newspaper, which everyone has to agree with. The internet negates that process,” he says, adding hastily that “the Star has a head start, in that it allows in voices from outside the party.”

Probably something for more thought after the election, though.

One other thing that’s been on my mind today is A Very British Coup. I caught a bit of it a few weeks ago when Yesterday were repeating it, and am glad to discover that Channel 4 have made the whole thing available on YouTube and 4OD. In AVBC, the establishment and the press attempt to bring down a radical Prime Minister who rises to power after a major scandal in the City, and I’m wondering if Chris Mullin was being optimistic in assuming the press would wait until after Harry Perkins was in office.

Right, that’s all for now – did deliver 40 letters for the campaign this morning, taking the total there to 2,410, and am down to quite a bit of canvassing tomorrow to boost the figure there quite a lot. More commentary after tonight’s debate, when I’m fully expecting Gordon Brown to tell us he’s been reading the Twitter and discovered it’s all Nick Clegg’s fault.

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Labour’s latest election broadcast teams up Peter Davison and David Tennant to tell us everything is going to be fine in the future. I was expecting them to tell us that there’s a hole in the economy the exact size of Belgium, but as they didn’t I think we can all agree that this is not a canon Doctor Who adventure. This may change if the next Labour broadcast features Gordon Brown meeting Clement Attlee and declaring ‘you were my Prime Minister.’

The current great irony of British politics is that Liberal Democrats tend to be Doctor Who fans, but the Doctors themselves are Labour voters. This may be why people think Eddie Izzard should play them Doctor, but meanwhile, I await Sylvester McCoy’s Labourrrrrr election broadcast.

Anyway, back to the real meat of the election campaign, and as Stephen Tall points out we’re very definitely in the ‘fight you’ stage of ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’. Of course, Gandhi lived in an age before there was Dermot O’Leary to ask him which British leader he’d prefer to share a bed with, but the principle remains that if you’re annoying the Mail, the Sun, the Spectator and Toby Young so much, you’re probably doing something right.

We’re now past halfway in this campaign – it all started two weeks last Tuesday, and two weeks tomorrow it’ll all be over and the last few votes will be being cast, as tired activists knock on their final doors and drag people who were just settling down to watch Have I Got News For You and Outnumbered out to vote instead. And to anyone I do disturb on election night, I’m sorry, but I have seen elections determined by those few extra people you do get out to vote at the death, and so yes, your vote may well be crucial.

I was thinking earlier that the polls appear to be settling into a new pattern, just in time for the next debate to mess them all up. Broadly, the Tories seem to be around 32-33%, the Liberal Democrats around 30% and Labour around 27-28% with most polls coming out pretty much within the margin of error of those numbers. I’m trying to work out how much effect tomorrow’s debate might have, given that it likely won’t be watched by as many people, but we just don’t know whether tomorrow will be the day when Brown gets possessed by the oratorical spirit of Cicero, while Clegg responds to every question with a shrug and ‘I dunno’, and Cameron gets so confused he thinks he’s responding to a LiveJournal meme where every question has to be answered entirely with Beatles lyrics.

One thing I forgot to mention from yesterday’s complaining was that it was the first time I got some outright abuse on the doorstep. Not for being a Liberal Democrat specifically but because ‘I don’t vote for scum, all you politicians are scum, and you should all be lined up against a wall and shot.’ I was tempted to respond by asking him who’d organise this mass shooting if there were no politicians around, but decided to go for ‘OK, sorry for bothering you’ and heading back up the driveway instead.

Today saw me back on the delivering trail, with about 300 shoved through various letterboxes and the total for the campaign up to 2,370, followed by a quick session of canvassing tonight where I knocked on 25 doors, so the total there’s up to 245. Next time, I’m getting a pedometer for the campaign to work out just how far I walk doing all this.

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