5 days in the life of Chris Bowers

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The Independent Online
Monday: Norman phones during breakfast to ask whether I have the charger for the mobile phone. I haven't. Panic - the candidate and his aide will be unreachable for the morning. Charger discovered on back seat of car. Panic over. Visit two farms, then lunch with other farmers, arranged by NFU. Still trying to work out whether we want their vote more than they want to be in with Norman if he gets elected. Visiting the farms makes me realise how devastating BSE has been for lots of farmers.

For canvassing, I'm presented with a pack emblazoned with the initials NM. It is explained that these stand for "Norman's Minder". The role of candidate's aide is a varied one, but the party workers think of me more as a minder than driver, valet, nanny, etc. At 5ft 6ins I am an unlikely minder.

Weighed down by deadlines, Norman and I opt for supper from the chip shop, something we promised ourselves we wouldn't do. Chips uninspiring, but at least they allow us to get to work on a campaign newsletter that has to be out by the weekend.

TUESDAY: Pick up Norman to go canvassing. Norman has a good way with people, and he's recognised by many who have seen his picture in the paper - difficult to tell if they feel good about this or feel he's too self- publicising (probably the former). Some people are incredibly rude - are these the ones who complain that they never see their politicians? Lunch in a crowded cafe in Seaford. Fewer people seem to know Norman than elsewhere, which at least allows him to enjoy his jacket potato in peace. Visit an old folk's home. Desperately sad place; it is divided into two wings, with staff and inmates referring to each other somewhat morbidly as "the other side". Grab bowl of lentil soup from a carton in Norman's unkempt kitchen and head off for candidates' forum organised by NUT. Norman comes across well alongside Labour, Tory and Referendum candidates but the audience seem very pre-decided.

On the way home we drop into one of Norman's locals for a pint. Norman says he really thinks we may win.

WEDNESDAY: Up before six to be at Polegate station for Norman to meet commuters. Bloody freezing. Then to a primary school to meet parents dropping off their offspring. Parents much more receptive than commuters.

One of our main messages is that Labour can't win in Lewes, so if people want the Tory out, they have to vote for us. Labour have helped us by publicly expelling 10 local members who'd gone public on the need for Labour voters to support us this time.

THURSDAY: Out early at a school in Newhaven. Driving there we discuss posters around the constituency - we have about four times the amount the Tories have. Doesn't mean we're going to win, but it's quite a gap for a marginal. And I always thought Tory voters were more willing to state their allegiance publicly than Lib Dems. Dropped into an old folks' day centre threatened with closure. Fertile ground for Norman to meet sympathetic voters. Their tea dance is uplifting, the complete antidote to Tuesday's old folk's home.

Rushed supper - the days of having a meal where I'm not clock-watching are fading into history. Head for a church-organised debate involving five candidates, the usual suspects plus UK Independence Party. Well intended questions but format too stiff to allow for meaningful discussion.

FRIDAY: Woke at 6am, couldn't go back to sleep so walked up on to the South Downs to watch sunrise. Sheep and lambs bleat and scatter. (Why do lambs always seem less stupid than sheep?) Saw the whole constituency from the summit - glorious sight. Wordsworth should have been here, not upon Westminster Bridge.

Our election HQ in Seaford is broken into overnight by computer thieves combing the town. Staff badly affected - as usual it's the violation of space that hurts more than the loss of computers. Sombre mood all day.

Out canvassing, come across sign saying: "Sod the dog, beware of the kids." Canvassing is good training for taking rejection. I'm beginning to respond most favourably to those who won't vote for us but who tell us so politely - at least they're honest.

Chris Bowers, a writer and broadcaster, is spending the election campaign as aide to Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat candidate in the Tory marginal seat of Lewes.

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