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Elvis support for Labour lifts the mood further

Posted on 3 March 2010 | 10:03am

A confession … I sometimes find speaking at Labour Party fundraisers a real chore. There, I’ve said it. Most are fine, some are terrific, but sometimes you’re just not in the mood, there is no energy and organisation when you get there and despite doing your best, you sometimes leave a bit deflated. The people at the many events I have done will just have to decide for themselves whether their event was one of those that made me feel like that.

But last night I did one which I left with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. It was at the Thameside theatre in Grays, Essex (‘give us a mention love,’ one of the lovely women working there said as I left, so there you go.)

The spring in the step was because of the mood among the party supporters who had turned out, and the song because I had shared the bill with something every campaign needs – a Labour-supporting Elvis Presley impersonator.

‘The King of Rock meet the King of Spin’ had evolved as an idea born on Facebook where Elvis (aka Mark Wright, regular commenter on this blog), Val Morris (wife of the Labour candidate in Thurrock Carl Morris) and I are friends. Elvis not only had the songs and the moves, but he had four wonderful Vegas showgirls too. I felt like a World Title heavyweight boxer being marched into the ring as they escorted me on stage to thumping music. I hope someone took some pictures.

But it was more than the showgirls’ high kicks or Mark’s superb impersonations of one of the greatest singers of all time that made for a happy night. People who are out campaigning really do feel something is shifting out there. At one point in the q and a, when at times I felt the questions were more rooted in ‘when’ we win than ‘if,’ I had to say … hold on, this is going to be the fight of all fights, and let’s not kid ourselves that a few narrowing polls means people can sit back and relax. Far from it.

But it was good to feel that energy and excitement coming back into Labour politics. Someone asked why I thought it was happening. I said I felt there were two reasons, one about us, one about the Tories. The economy was beginning to pick up a little and I think there was a kind of grudging respect for Gordon and Alistair Darling’s handling of what was a quite extraordinary crisis. But I felt the other reason, as I have been saying here for ages, was that the public were ahead of the media in asking tough questions of the Tories, who were found wanting.

David Cameron is not going down as well as he did earlier in his leadership. George Osborne has never gone down terribly well with people outside of his own elitist circles. William Hague goes down better than he did when leader, but I suspect he is going to be severely disabled by his connections to the Ashcroft saga. Ken Clarke is quite popular but pretty much invisible. And the rest are largely unknown, as are their plans and policies for the country.

There was also a feeling, expressed to me by a Labour member at the book-signing I did afterwards (we raised several hundred pounds for the party by selling The Blair Years as at ) that people feel GB has been tested, and a lot of the coverage about him way over the top, whereas DC has not really been tested at all. That testing is now under way.

There was a lot of interest in the leaders’ TV debates, for which the ground rules have finally been agreed. I said the media expectation seems to be that Cameron will ‘win’. That is because he is considered to be a good media performer. But these debates will require substance in greater abundance than style, which is why they may in fact suit GB. They are also a huge bonus for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. But the debates are another reason to be excited about the weeks ahead.

Perhaps it was the magic of Elvis that got me going, but I made a prediction that turnout will be considerably up on last time … partly because people think it will be close, partly because of the debates hopefully engaging more people.

Four per cent of people think Elvis is alive. Last night, via Mark Wright, he was. And close to 100 per cent left the theatre thinking Labour was back in with a chance.

  • Harry Parsons

    Elvis would have been 75 a few weeks ago. There is nobody who has as many impersonators on the circuit. You are lucky to get a good one! There are some right stinkers out there

  • Paul Marshall

    Hope last night inspires you to keep on banging the drum and raising the cash for Labour. I saw you do one in MAnchester last year. We raised more than with any other speaker so thanks, and good luck. Thanks also for the Blair Years scheme. Like you say, we do not have Ashcrofts to fund the marginals. I live in a safe seat but I campaign in marginals and we are being hugely out spent. But you are right about the mood shifting

  • Colin Kingston

    Why do the Tories think they can get away with saying nothing further re Ashcroft? Have you seen their statement in the papers today. They have already had to endure months of squirming interviews and now they have set themselves up for more. Hague is going to have to hide away or get his head up and deal with the questions. AIn;t going away Billy!!

  • olli issakainen

    About the TV debates. Canadian political strategist Patrick Muttart gives the following advice to David Cameron:
    -DC should use easy-to understand solutions v. abstract ideological
    -DC should stare at Gordon Brown while the camera is focused on others
    -but when attacking/rebutting DC should look at his opponent´s shoulder – facial reactions can be distracting
    -personal attacks should be well-timed and well-constructed for biggest impact
    -when Brown/Clegg is addressing DC he should not write notes – it looks rude to viewers
    -DC should have room-temperature water – TV studios´ water is too cold

  • Mark Wright

    Last night was an absolute blast! By far one of the most unique and enjoyable gigs I’ve done in a long time.

    It was great to see a local party so galvanised around a good solid local canidate such as Carl Morris. The mood can be summarised in two words: game on.

    The debates will certainly be interesting but I feel this perception of Cameron as a good media performer is misplaced. His speeches are woeful, he lacks passion in his delivery and he displays zero wit (something GB has actually been demonstrating with surprising regularity recently).

    Cameron often sounds like he’s talking to a room full of of 5 year olds giving them a lesson in the bleeding obvious. People don’t like feeling patronised.

    Say what you will about Gordon but I don’t think he’s capable of being patronising. And in a climate whereby the electorate is looking for substantive answers to serious questions this could well be GB’s greatest asset and DC’s most dangerous weakness in the battle of perception.


  • Brian Hughes

    In addition to the reaction on doorsteps and the improving poll ratings, the more spring-like weather is adding to rising spirits amongst Labour activists out here in the sticks. But there’s still loads of work to be done – we mustn’t get complacent.

    Talking of the state of our economy, have you seen the letter in the Guardian today from 20 eminent economic historians who say our debt isn’t especially high either by historical or by international standards?

    That view isn’t likely to get much media coverage and nor is the one in the next letter. Professor Kusner asks: “Is there a “debt crisis”? Or are we hearing the clamour of monetarist enthusiasts at their best-ever chance of dismantling the welfare state?”. Nicely put Prof…

  • Peter Robertson

    Fantastic to feel optimism returning to the Labour ranks. Labour has a fantastic record, one which it should be more than comfortable to defend. For too long the tories have been setting the agenda when their record, particularly on the big economic questions, has been found badly wanting. It feels like the boot is now on the other foot.

  • Megan

    William Hague demolished Harriet Harman in PMQs today & in doing so, revealed the rank hypocrisy of Labour and its funding. She needs to know the difference between government bonds and the value of sterling AND that the answer to every question is not Lord Ashcroft, if she wants the electorate to take her party seriously.