General Election 2015: Blur's Dave Rowntree is drumming up support for Labour in Norwich until he's red in the face

My Campaign: The activist on launching a manifesto, pouring scorn on David Cameron - and try and tempt the local press out of the pub to cover the event

Dave Rowntree
Thursday 09 April 2015 20:06
Comments
Blur drummer and lawyer Dave Rowtree has launched the manifesto for the  local Labour party in Norwich City Centre
Blur drummer and lawyer Dave Rowtree has launched the manifesto for the local Labour party in Norwich City Centre

In Norwich city centre for the launch of the local Labour party manifesto. It’s cold, wet, and increasingly blustery. Around 30 hardy party members and activists are braving the elements for a short session of speechifying and a photo op.

I put myself forward to be Labour candidate here a few years ago. Clearly I didn’t win, but I did I did make a lot of friends here, and unexpectedly fell head-over-heels in love with the lush Norfolk countryside. When the excitement and disappointment of the selection was over I bought a tumbledown farmhouse in a tiny village, and now divide my time between here and London.

Norwich has two parliamentary constituencies (perhaps a little unimaginatively) called Norwich North and Norwich South. Both Labour candidates are in the city centre for the launch. From the south, Clive Lewis is a TV reporter and is well known locally. From the north, Jessica Asato is a seasoned campaigner on leftie issues, and works about as hard as any candidate I have ever seen.

Both are hoping to get pictures taken for their election leaflets. You know the type; the candidate stands smiling in the foreground, determined yet approachable. Behind, a vast crowd of supporters cheer, waving colourful placards. Done well, you look like you’re leading a jubilant party to victory. Done badly, you look like you’re leading a primary school party to Clacton.

My job is to provide the speechifying, and to use what little celebrity I have to try and tempt the local press out of the pub to cover the event. I have been asked to talk for no more than five minutes. From long experience in the Labour Party I know this actually means around a minute.

I have planned a small tub-thumping speech in which I hope to pour scorn on David Cameron’s election strategy - a bunch of promises in the manifesto, a bunch of excuses in the debates.

“How do we know he’s going to do this?” I’ll end by asking the crowd.

“Because it’s what he did last time!”

Hopefully it will raise a laugh. Hopefully they won’t stare at me blankly, wondering what on earth I’m talking about - the secret dread of every man about to address an audience.

There is no PA or megaphone, and the crowd have sensibly set their backs to the rising gale. I’ll have to shout and hope.

I’m introduced, and launch into the speech, setting out exactly how David Cameron plans to use deceit to win power. “And how do we know he’s going to do this?” I ask the crowd, looking up and pausing for effect.

A voice from the audience chips in: “Because he did it last time?”

Dave Rowntree with Blur in 2012

Er, yes. Thunder stolen, at least I know they can hear me.

Next we launch the manifesto, which is set out in the form of five pledges, on health, housing, transport, pay and education.

Each pledge has been written on a card attached to a red balloon. After reading out the card, each balloon will be launched, carrying the pledge into the heavens, symbolising – well. I don’t know what. The inevitable rise of socialism? That good ideas float to the top? The triumph of hot air?

But the wind has now reached storm force, and has other ideas. As the balloons are released, they unexpectedly bolt sideways, straight into the branches of a nearby tree.

In interviews afterwards, a recurring question is why I turn out for these local Labour events. The truth is it’s easy to get involved at election time; it’s busy and exciting, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie as polling day looms.

For me the really rewarding part is what happens outside the elections - knocking on doors in the community, seeing if there are any problems you can help with. It’s not glamorous and nobody applauds at the end, but by being willing to help you can make a huge difference to people’s lives, and that’s what activism in the Labour Party is really all about.


The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as is possible.

Click the buttons below to explore how the main parties' fortunes have changed:

All data, polls and graphics are courtesy of May2015.com. Click through for daily analysis, in-depth features and all the data you need. (All historical data used is provided by UK Polling Report)

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in