Friday, 30 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 25

Snooker loopy, nuts are we....

Today Nick spoke at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield before the players came out for the afternoon's semi-final play in the World Championships. As a Sheffield MP, Nick has been working with the (Lib Dem) council to keep the World Championships in the city and it was great to hear that they will stay in Snooker City for another five years at least.

Nick chat was fairly light-hearted, but he couldn't fail to mention the gaffe of the week. Not Gordon Brown's off camera but on mike comments, but the announcement by announcer Rob Walker that Dennis Taylor was taking the baize when he actually meant Steve Davis.

After that talk, Nick emerged from the venue to a crowd of Sheffield supporters including his youngest supporter, three week old Emily Otten. Needless to say in his own city, the reception was rapturous. I certainly hope that Sheffield Central's Paul Scriven will be elected as one of the new Lib Dem MPs next Thursday. It was he and his team who secured control of the city council two years ago - an achievement that Nick descrives as the greatest of his leadership.

Earlier in the day, Nick drew his biggest crowd of the campaign so far. We arrived at Leicester University to find a crowd of more than a thousand. There was some good natured banter with a few Labour supporters in the crowd and, whilst they managed to get their Labour posters into a lot of the TV shots, there were also some more Lib Dem friendly signs - see the photo (right) for some examples.

After Leicester we went to Derby for an altogether more sedate visit. Smiths of Derby is a family firm that makes and repairs large scale clocks for public buildings. They are currently building one of the largest clocks in the world for a building in China and Nick also saw the four faces of a clock from the old Woolwich Arsenal which are being renovated by Smiths.

The big news at the end of the day was the announcement by the Guardian - for long the standard bearer for New Labour - that they are enthusiastically backing the Lib Dems this time.

Tomorrow we head west to visit Wells, Newport and Malvern before an overnight stay in Manchester. It being Saturday, Miriam will be on board - so expect even more media attention.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 24

The final debate day...

As usual on debate day, relatively quiet. Probably the best thing for the TV guys who had a big night last night. I've seen some of the photos from the karaoke bar - and they ain't pretty.

The event of the day was a trip to South Birmingham College where Nick answered questions from students. This was possibly the most combative questioning Nick has received all election - especially from 26 year old student Maya Black who questioned him about Lib Dem plans for training and paid internships for young people who cannot find work. I think it's safe to say that May wasn't happy with Nick's answer. What's key, said Nick, is that young people need to keep as busy as possible and be in contact with people in work so that they don't give up and slide into a lifetime of unemployment.

On the way out, one student looked quizzically at Nick and asked - "Aren't you Something Clegg?" "Yep," Nick replied, "I'm Something Clegg. I'm Nick".

In other news, Nick's campaign tour is now so popular that an extra campaign bus is going to be on the road to accommodate all the extra journalists from this weekend. One of the spaces on the bus is apparently being taken by the NME.

Oh, and Iron Man 2 is not worth seeing.

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 23

Oh boy, computer problems again. Nice to see a pic of mine getting a big spread in the Guardian but less pleased that they 'forgot' to credit it.

A very busy day for Nick started with interviews at the Work Foundation - our press conference venue - followed by a short trip to Bush House for an interview with BBC Radio London's Vanessa Feltz.

Then back to the Work Foundation for more interviews - including one with the Evening Standard's panel of voters - and to record an short film for an Operation Black Vote rally in the evening which, due to other commitments, Nick was unable to attend in person.

Then it was onto the bus for the trip to Oxford. On the way Nick had a series of interviews including one with Matthew Engel of the FT - formerly the Editor of Wisden - and another with the Times' Michael Atherton, formerly England's cricket captain. A quick word about Athers - he's a really nice chap who was more than happy to accommodate all the requests for photos from the many cricket nuts on the bus.

In Oxford, Nick met Steve Goddard, our candidate for Oxford East and took questions from the students at Oxford Brookes university.

Back on the bus we headed for Birmingham in anticipation of the final leaders' debate.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 22

Today Nick got a standing ovation from the Royal College of Nursing Annual Conference as he pledged to put the professionals at the heart of the NHS.

With more managers and administrators in the NHS than there are hospital beds, it is clear that action needs to be taken. But that should not mean yet another disruptive revolution in the Health Service. This message went down very well with the audience who also warmed to the Lib Dems' pledge to raise the income tax threshold so that nobody earning less than £10,ooo a year will pay any income tax at all and those earning more will get a £700 tax cut.

The day started with a train ride to Southampton with a carriage full of journalists. On the way, Nick was interviewed by the Times as well as drawn by their resident artist.

Among the snappers with us today was Guardian photographer Dan Chung, a very old friend of mine, who spends most of his time working for the paper in China these days. At the first visit, Dan talked his way into a very privileged snapping position (see photo).

The visit in Southampton was to the General Hospital with Sandra Gidley and Vince Cable. The ward they visited was the paediatric oncology ward where they met young patients and their families living with a variety of cancers. Despite their illnesses, the ward was an incredibly cheerful place and the staff wonderful.

Silly story of the day featured ITN reporter Angus Walker who has been with us for the duration so far. Unfortunately he spilled chicken supreme sandwich down his tie and had to get a replacement. Simple enough you would think. But having recorded some pieces to camera already, he needed on which matched the original. Step forward Jon the battle bus driver who was wearing exactly the right shade of blue. I only hope that his boss doesn't regard a tieless driver as bad for his firm's image...

Tomorrow, apparently, we will be joined by former England Cricket Captain Mike Atherton - in his capacity as a journalist.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 21

Apologies for the late posting. Had significant computer issues. But thanks to the wonderful work of Simon Waddington in the Lib Dem Press Office, everything is hunk dory (touch wood).

The day started with a press conference in Edinburgh in the bright sunshine at Dynamic Earth overlooked by Arthurs Seat.

Nick was joined on stage by our Scottish Leader Tavish Scott for a presser that was dominated by questions over hung parliaments. Of course, the media are interested in this and it seems the most likely outcome of the election if the current polls are to be believed. But the Lib Dems, just like Labour and the Tories, are still campaigning to win the election. We have set out our key aims in this election and it really should come as no surprise to anyone that these will be our key aims if we have to talk to any other party post election. It would be dishonest of any party not to demand what we told the electorate we would. I wish the other parties would be as open.

After the presser, we were off to the Lady Haig poppy factory where Nick met former servicement who make the poppies and wreaths for Remembrance Day in Scotland.

It was a fantastic place to visit and the staff there were hugely welcoming and Nick was keen to try his hand at making poppies himself.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 18

The day Nick offered me an ice cream and I turned it down...

Another debate over and another debate won for Nick Clegg - in my opinion and that of three of the five polls anyway.

And, for the first time in a week, we had the plane back again. So it was an early start to catch a flight to Newcastle and a rapturous welcome by local supporters before a visit to the Newcastle College of Aviation.

The college trains students in all aspects of the aviation industry and, at least from my point of view, was a great venue for photos.

After that, it was back on the plane for a flight to Norwich. Amazingly, we arrived early and had time to pause to stretch legs in a lovely leafy part of the Norfolk countryside just outside Norwich. Which is where the ice cream story comes in. It being my birthday, Nick offered to buy me an ice cream to celebrate. As the words left his mouth, the photographers ears pricked up. All sorts of dodgy images and captions came to mind and so, for the sake of the party, I respectfully declined.

The visit to Norwich was to a Morrisons store to chat with staff and customers - as well as to supporters. Great to see so many there and a fantastic reception.

Incidentally, whilst speaking to supporters, Nick was asked about the best part of the campaign so far. He said there were two - the incredible number of young people who have registered to vote and are now campaigning and the #nickcleggsfault hashtag which has taken the twitter-verse by storm since the attacks on Nick by the rightwing press.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 17

I must be ill, I turned down a ticket to the media centre for tonight's debate kindly offered by the Sky guys I have been working with for the past couple of weeks.

As mentioned before, there was just a single photo op today - with Bristol NW candidate Paul Harrod at a mum and toddler group in the city.

As ever, the press were out in full force for the event but, luckily, the coverage inside was 'pooled' ie only a single TV camera and two photographers (myself included) were allowed in. It means there is space to work and, in this case, there is no danger of small children being bumped into. Because there are only limited cameras inside, the footage taken is share between all media outlets.

After the photo op, it was back to the hotel to collapse and wait for the debate...

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 16

Ugh - the battlebus cold has struck. Luckily I've got a relatively quiet day ahead with just a single photo op ahead of the debate this evening.

A combination of the cold and lack of connectivity meant I couldn't update my diary yesterday, so apologies for the delay and for the brevity of this post...

First up was a press conference on the subject of schools with David Laws. Traditionally, all three parties held press conferences every weekday morning. With the advent of the debates, the Lib Dems decided that pressers on Thursday and Friday mornings would be pretty much dominated by the debates and so we are only holding them Monday to Wednesday. With Labour and the Tories picking the 8.30 and 9.30 slots, the Lib Dems have chosen to hold press conferences at 7.30am. A good breakfast is on offer to make sure no one misses out.

Except that neither Labour nor Tories have held press conferences for some time and don't look set to start again soon. Should the Lib Dems move our pressers to a more reasonable hour? We won't for the simple reason that Nick's diary has been built around being able to get on the road by 9am. So the early starts will remain.

A quick trip to Radio One for Nick to answer questions from their listener panel and then it was on the road for the long trip to Redruth to see Terrye Teverson and Julia Goldsworthy and for Nick to answer questions from pupils at Trewergie Junior School.

The pupils were gathered on the nearby cricket field and came up with around a dozen questions which were delivered by the school council members.

It was great to be back in Cornwall, but it ended all too soon as we had to get to Bristol.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Brilliant viral Lib Dem video

I want some of these...

Whilst others have been quick off the mark with 'I agree with Nick' t-shirts, these shoes are fab...

Stonking video from The Independent

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 15

Hola, Je m'appelle Luigi auf der New York Times...

Today we had the busiest day ever on the campaign bus, at the morning news conference and during our visit to Chippenham. A large proportion of the journalists were from various overseas newspapers and magazines. Among them we had an Italian journalist, the New York Times and Time Magazine. This afternoon Nick went to a press conference at the Foreign Press Association. All were keen to follow the 'phenomenon' (their word) that is Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem campaign.

We started with the morning presser on the theme of helping British businesses. Nick and Vince were on top form and railed against Goldman Sachs which is being investigated for alleged dodgy dealings and yet is still advising the Government. Nick made it clear that such advisor status should be suspended pending the FSA investigation.

Nick also fielded a quesion from Andrew Neil who wanted to come and stay at Nick's house in Sheffield. Nick described it as taking modern politics perhaps a bit too far.

With the flight ban still in place, we caught a train to Chippenham and filled an entire carriage. The visit was to the Wiltshire agricultural college where we watched two teams racing to assemble a tractor - in about 15 minutes.

While they were doing this, Nick answered questions from the other students.

Then it was back on the train and Nick was off to the FPA. Sky News' Rachel Younger heard that Nick would be answering as many questions as he could in the language of the quetioner and promptly asked if she needed an interpretor. We pointed out that she might need five.

Tomorrow it's Cornwall - hooray!

List of Cornwall election candidates

Cornwall Council has just released the list of the candidates standing in Cornwall at the General Election.

In North Cornwall they are:

Sian Flynn, Conservative
Janet Hulme, Labour
Miriel O'Connor, UKIP
Dan Rogerson, Lib Dem
Joanie Willett, MK

In St Austell and Newquay

Dick Cole, MK
James Fitton, BNP
Steve Gilbert, Lib Dem
Lee Jameson, Labour
Clive Medway, UKIP
Caroline Righton, Conservative

In South East Cornwall

Roger Creagh-Osborne, Green
Karen Gillard, Lib Dem
Roger Holmes, MK
Stephanie McWilliam, UKIP
Sheryll Murray, Conservative
Michael Sparling, Labour

In Truro and Falmouth

Harry Blakeley, UKIP
Charlotte Mackenzie, Labour
Sarah Newton, Conservative
Loic Rich, MK
Terrye Teverson, Lib Dem
Ian Wright, Green

In Camborne and Redruth

Derek Elliott, UKIP
George Eustice, Conservative
Julia Goldsworthy, Lib Dem
Robert Hawkins, Socialist Labour Party
Loveday Jenkin, MK
Euan McPhee, Green
Jude Robinson, Labour

and finally, in St Ives

Tim Andrewes, Green
Mick Faulkener, UKIP
Andrew George, Lib Dem
Philippa Latimer, Labour
Simon Reed, MK
Jonathan Rogers, Cornish Democrats
Derek Thomas, Conservative

One interesting note, whilst Derek Thomas and George Eustice are happy to give their home addresses, other Tories including Sian Flynn and Sheryll Murray are keeping them secret. They are, of course, allowed to do this, but why shouldn't voters know where they live. All the Lib Dems in Cornwall have given their home address.

Cameron decapitates a chicken

I was in the Lib Dem press office in Cowley Street when a rumour went round that David Cameron had decapitated a chicken...

Regrettably for us, but thankfully for all chickens out there, it was the Daily Mirror's man in a chicken costume.

For more, see here.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Which political website is getting one new supporter every 6 seconds?

Regrettably it's not this one.

It's actually the We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office! It's unofficial, but it's now got more than 105,000 members, up from around 13,000 members a week ago. That's a new sign up every 6.6 seconds on average.

For the full story, see here.

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 14

Wales, Wales, Wales

First Wales - A press conference in Cardiff Bay with Kirsty Williams and Simon Hughes launching a policy on green jobs. Nick was particularly making the point that, whilst the decision to pursue large scale off-shore wind generation in the UK, the majority of the machinery needed is made overseas, mainly in Sweden and Germany. It is right that we should be seeking to switch from dirty fuels to clean energy, but we need to maximise the jobs and other benefits that will come from that switch.

Second Wales - Then it was off to Cardiff University Students Union and a Q&A session with more than 200 students in a nightclub. For the second day running, a huge turnout among young people in an early morning session.

Nick answered a wide range of questions, including some hostile ones. One student with decidedly left wing tendancies asked why Nick wasn't lowering his own MPs salary to the level of the average worker. Nick point ed out that he and Vince, among others, have refused pay rises over recent years.

Another questioner asked about Nick's roots, pointing out that he is not exactly working class. Nick made it clear that he had never hidden his roots and was happy with who and what he is. Later, the Telegraph journo tweeted to say this questioner was not thinking of voting Lib Dem.

Third Wales - A quick bus journey took us to Swansea, setting for one of my favourite films - Twin Town. There Nick addressed an open air meeting and answered questions. This was the first time that we have faced opposition heckling during the campaign. Before we arrived, I understand that one Labour heckler managed to get his megaphone confiscated by the Police and so he tried to shout down Nick when he spoke. Eventually he was laughed down by the audience and he shut up.

Also present were a few Tories who seemed to be very chummy with Labour (see photo).

And then the train home with Nick conducting at least five interviews on the journey.

One thing which everyone knows has been nagging on Nick's mind over the last few days has been the absence of Nick and Miriam's kids. They have been staying in Spain with Miriam's parents but were unable to get back last weekend because of the flight ban. Nick says that this has been the longest he has been away from his kids ever. It now looks like a solution has been found involving a long drive by Nick's 'heroic' brother in law, which is great news for everyone.

Tomorrow - an early press conference and then a trip to Wiltshire.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 13

I may be getting cynical, but if Nick Clegg can get an audience of young people out of bed on a Sunday morning then he must be doing something very right indeed.

The location was Manor Park in Sutton where Nick gave a speech to young people asking them to get involved. Also, via the TV cameras that were there, he reminded people across the UK that they only have around 50 hours left to register to vote if they haven't done so already.

Then it was a short hop across South West London to a church in New Malden where Nick had been invited by Christian Aid to give a speech on international development.

The church was, naturally enough, keen to stress that this was not a Lib Dem event, but the reaction at the end showed that Nick had certainly won a lot of support with what he said, setting out the failures of a system which leaves society so divided and where populations around the world are still suffering despite the promises of successive governments.

We're off to Wales next for a press conference in Cardiff in the morning.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Cameron berated by unhappy constituent

In an effort to prove that everybody loves him, despite tanking in the first leaders' debate, today David Cameron held a walkabout in his own constituency of Witney.

He didn't bank on getting any flak, but he kopped some from an un-named voter unhappy with Cameron's failure to return thirty phone calls asking for help.

So much for Cameron's pledge to help the marginalised in society.

And, given that this man is a former soldier, so much for the Conservative's image of being supporters of servicemen and women past and present.

See here and here for more details.

Sunday polls - UPDATED

After the confusion of the ComRes poll which put the Lib Dems on 35% (it turned out to be just a poll of those who watched the debate), and the YouGov daily poll which put the Lib Dems above Labour, we now get the first news of the Sunday polls.

And they confirm the definite swing towards Nick, Vince and the Lib Dems.

ComRes for S Mirror/Independent on Sunday
Con 31 (-4),
Lab 27 (-2),
LD 29 (+8)
Oth 13 (-2)

and

Sunday Telegraph/ICM
Con 34 (-3),
Lab 29 (-2),
LD 27 (+7)

The key here is that the majority of the polling was done before Thursday's debate.

Two key trends jump straight out at me:

First, that the Lib Dems at at or above the level of Labour. So Gordon Brown will be seriously worried. Yet, as others have pointed out, these figures would still tend to leave Labour as the largest single party in the House of Commons with the Lib Dems improving to just over 100 seats. It just goes to show how unfair the voting system is and would tend to make electoral reform a key demand for any talks with other parties.

Second, the Lib Dems are taking more votes from the Tories than they are from Labour. So David Cameron will also be seriously worried. Maybe this is because, in fact, voters are not too familiar with the Tories either. Prior to the election, the Tories got all the attention and so floating voters who dislike Labour tended to favour them. Now Nick and the Lib Dems are getting the attention, those same floating voters are siding our way.

Of course, these are just a few polls and show what people are thinking now, not how they will eventually vote. But it's a great time to be a Lib Dem.

UPDATE:

Two more polls out with the Lib Dems in the lead:

The People
LibDems on 33% (Con 27, Lab 23)

The Mail on Sunday
LibDems 32% (Con 31, Lab 28).

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 12

That Nick Clegg. He's a bit popular now.

It being Saturday, Nick was joined on the campaign trail today by his wife Miriam and they visited the maternity wing at Kingston Hospital. This visit was arranged for two reasons. First the political. The department is under threat from Labour cuts. Local Lib Dems including Susan Kramer and Ed Davey have been campaigning hard to save it. The Tories think they're scaremongering and sit on the sidelines sniping.

Second, the personal. This unit is where Nick and Miriam's third son, Miguel, was born just about a year ago.

Nick and Miriam chatted to nurses, doctors, midwives, anaesthetists and countless others to emphasis the Lib Dem support for the unit. They also chatted to a number of new mums and dads.

When they emerged, it was to the biggest media scrum of the campaign to date. As well as local party supporters and the 'regular' media who travel everywhere with us, there were countless snappers and journalists from a huge range of a papers. Clearly the media think that Nick is worth talking to.

Cameron's tale unravels

Matt Chorley passes on the news via twitter that the Plymouth Herald have found the '40 year old black man' referred to by Tory leader David Cameron during last week's leaders' debate.

If you remember, Cameron said:

"I was in Plymouth recently and a 40-year-old black man... said, 'I came here when I was six, I've served in the Royal Navy for 30 years. I'm incredibly proud of my country. But I'm so ashamed that we've had this out-of-control (immigration) system with people abusing it so badly'."


Except Neal Forde is 51, not 40.

He served 6 years in the Navy, not 30.

And he doesn't agree with Cameron on immigration anyway.

Just how much else did Cameron make up on the spot last Thursday?

Friday, 16 April 2010

The secret diary of an election photographer - Day 11

You'd think that after Nick Clegg stormed the first Leaders' debate he might make it to the front pages. I'd love to whinge, but the truth is that virtually every paper did him justice, mostly relegating the volcanic ash and air travel chaos to secondary status.

The Times and the Telegraph both led with Nick's triumph. Only the Daily Mirror stayed doggedly loyal to Gordon Brown and, I think, looked ridiculous because of it.

Winning the debate does not, of course, mean that the Lib Dems will win lots more seats - but it is clearly a step in the right direction. Mind you, the joy on the Lib Dem bus when someone announced that we were up 14 points in the polls as a result was quite something (for the record, I believe that was among those who watched the debate. The overall jump was a little more sedate 4 or 5 points).

And so to action today. Nick was at his casual best. Tie watch chatterers will be interested to note that Nick was tieless all day.

To Warrington first and Jo Crotty, our candidate there. The visit was to the Warrington Wolves rugby league stadium where Nick gave a speech to the assembled activists and then went inside to see the work that the club is doing to help various sections of the local community. One such was a group of older people with arthritis who were taking part in their first ever tai chi class.

Another was a group of young GCSE students who benefitted from small class tuition - in this case in biology.

Because of the volcano, we then drove to Hull in the battlebus for a visit with candidate Denis Healy to a visit to the HETA academy which trains apprentices in various trades including electircal engineering. Nick gave a speech to around 50 apprentices before a bref tour to see what they get up to.

And then, after a long week, it was on the train home again.

This weekend shows no let up with a photo opp tomorrow morning and a speech on international development at the invitation of Christian Aid in New Malden on Sunday.

Anecdote of the day - Local Warrington councillor Trudi Wood was first off the mark taking advantage of the 'I agree with Nick' line that both Cameron and Brown used so much last night. Trudi gave Nick a special home-made rosette with the phrase on it to give to Gordon Brown the next time he saw him.