On Thursday evening, with three hours until polls were due to close, I was still campaigning in Rochester and Strood, knocking on doors and asking members of the public to go to their polling station and vote for Ukip. It was already dark out, and I must have traversed thousands of steps to speak to people about our candidate - now our MP - Mark Reckless.
I love campaigning. It is the real “foot soldier” stuff that initially drew me to politics and keeps me here. Listening to people’s concerns about local hospitals and their offensive parking charges, as well as how Britain’s economic recovery hasn’t yet been felt by most people, provides much-needed insight into the lives of those who don’t concern themselves with Westminster-bubble stuff on a day-to-day basis.
Politicians are supposed to be representatives. But you wouldn’t believe how many people told me that despite the enormous ground campaign the Conservative Party were claiming to have, they hadn’t heard a peep from anyone over the entire, prolonged by-election campaign.
I must say I was received rather warmly on the doorsteps. People wanted selfies. They invited me in from the cold, but most importantly they really, desperately wanted to vent their frustrations and hear common-sense solutions to the problems they face in their every day lives. I was humbled to hear that most of them thought that Ukip’s platform was the one they most admired, sympathised with, and in some cases, rejoiced because of.
If you want the secret about how we won in Rochester… there it is. Listening to people, and not just because you have to, because you’re an MP, or MEP or a politico. But because you need to listen to people, to hear what they want, and build these concerns into sensible policy recommendations. No more so is this true of the collapsing Labour vote.
By now most readers of this column will have heard about Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s dreadful tweet, implying resentment of or mocking towards people who own white vans or hang the St George flag from their windows. This is indicative of the modern Labour Party. I’ve called it Ed Miliband’s Gillian Duffy moment – harking back to when Gordon Brown called a Labour voter concerned by mass migration a “bigoted woman”. But the more I think about it, the more I think it is actually worse.
In pictures: Rochester by-election
In pictures: Rochester by-election
1/15 Rochester by-election
Counting gets under way for the Rochester and Strood constituency by-election held at Medway Park, Gillingham, Kent
2/15 Rochester by-election
Nigel Farage and members of the UKIP team celebrate after Mark Reckless won the Rochester and Strood by-election at Medway Park, Gillingham near Rochester, Kent
3/15 Rochester by-election
Howling Laud Hope, leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (R) awaits for the by election results in Medway, Gillingham Rochester, Kent
4/15 Rochester by-election
Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative Party's candidate in the Rochester's by-election, walks down the town's high street on polling day, in southern England
5/15 Rochester by-election
Gulpreet Baines (18) sets fire to a United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) rosette, on polling day in Rochester's by-election
6/15 Rochester by-election
Naushabah Khan, Labour Candidate for the Rochester and Strood by-election is joined by shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher in Rochester on the final day of campaigning ahead of by-election
7/15 Rochester by-election
UKIP supporter Graham Harper and his dog Roquie carry a electoral poster supporting UK Independence Party (UKIP) parliamentary candidate Mark Reckless in Rochester, Kent ahead of the by-election poll
8/15 Rochester by-election
A customer poll of sweets purchased in favour of the party's contesting the Rochester and Strood by-elecction on display in the Sweet Expectations Sweet Shop in Rochester, Kent, on the final day of campaigning before the by-election later this week
9/15 Rochester by-election
David Cameron and Conservative Party candidate for Rochester and Strood, Kelly Tolhurst, talk to Mick Parks, Workshop Foreman at MCL Mechanical near Rochester, Kent, southern England, during a visit ahead of the by-election
10/15 Rochester by-election
People stand holding placards against the Britain First party who held a march in Rochester, southeastern England
11/15 Rochester by-election
Britain First march through Rochester
12/15 Rochester by-election
UKIP parliamentary candidate Mark Reckless campaigns in Rochester on November 4, 2014
Rob Stothard/Getty Images
13/15 Rochester by-election
Ed Miliband campaigns with Yvette Cooper (left) and Naushabah Khan before the Rochester and Strood by-election
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images
14/15 Rochester by-election
The Britain First march was met by vociferous counter protest
15/15 Rochester by-election
A UKIP office in Rochester. Rochester and Strood will hold a by-election on November 20th following the defection of Conservative Party Member of Parliament, Mark Reckless to UKIP
Rob Stothard/Getty Images
Ms Thornberry not only owns a £3m mansion in trendy North London, but she claims that she’s “never seen anything like it” about the England flags and white van – implying that she rarely ever leaves the cosy constituency of Islington South, where the average income is more than double that of Rochester and Strood – except to grace the halls of the Palace of Westminster, where the basic income is nearly triple that of Rochester and Strood.
So is it any wonder that Ms Thornberry, Mr Miliband, and indeed Mr Cameron have no idea about the real lives of real people?
One man on the doorstep in Rochester told me he had voted Conservative for the past 60 years, but was voting for Ukip yesterday. A young, new voter, who should “typically” have been a Labour voter, told me he was heading out to vote Mr Reckless.
The bottom line is that for all the scandals - be it 'bigoted' people or MPs' expenses, our representatives are still not learning who their boss is, and still not listening. So let me remind them, in case Thursday night’s result wasn’t enough. In the words of Mark Reckless from his speech: “You remain my boss, don’t let me forget it”.Reuse content