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7 July 2008

On the campaign trail…

The Green candidate in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election,

By Shan Oakes

It’s little more than two weeks since the story broke that David Davis was going to make his big gesture and free up the Haltemprice and Howden constituency for a proper representative. Now, with less than one week until polling day, the pace is quickening up and, on Wednesday, we joined the press feeding frenzy at Willerby Manor, where I was interviewed by a series of journos – the reports were all over Thursday’s press.

What followed later that day was a practical lesson in civil liberties from the Conservatives, as we were excluded from a meeting that David Cameron and David Davis had set up with members of the East Riding of Yorkshire Youth Assembly and a number of Conservative supporters.

I had previously been emailed by the Youth Assembly organiser to ask if I would attend an Assembly meeting to discuss the issues with David Davis. I had replied saying I would be delighted. I have attended several Assembly meetings before – they are usually held in Beverley where I live. I had also requested David Davis to include us in meetings to debate the issues to which he had agreed.

We turned up at the school and were kept out. First we were refused entrance to the site, then, after great debate with the Head, we were allowed into a side room with the promise that we could meet the young people after the Tory meeting.

The head teacher was very helpful, but had little control over arrangements for the ‘private hire’ of a room in the school premises. We were horrified at the high degree of police presence and the fact that our promised discussion with the young people had been hijacked and turned into a one party PR event for the Tories with no opportunity for legitimate debate.

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I tried to tackle the Dave Duo on this when they came out of the building (a friendly journalist had lent me a mike), but they had clearly been made aware of my intention and dived into their car (whilst a policeman held me back) as if they were in some sort of danger. Obviously even they realise they have a lot to hide. So much for civil liberties!

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After the ‘dignitaries’ had departed the Youth Assembly came to meet us. We had a great discussion about what had just happened: they could see this was unfair – ‘That’s not democracy!’ said one representative.

On Tuesday we rounded off a hard day on the campaign trail with a pleasant pub crawl in Cottingham accompanied by a Radio 4 journalist from the PM programme. The responses were amazingly supportive from people of all ages. A young mother in the garden of the Duke of Cumberland totally agreed with the Green perspective and wished us good luck. Her partner was unwilling to speak ‘on air’ but told us how his work as a heating engineer has been transformed recently with the increased demand for renewable energy installations.

They suggested we go on to the Tiger next, so we did, and met three men who initially said they were not intending to vote because they just didn’t bother, but decided to vote for us after our chat. They agreed it would be fantastic for Haltemprice and Howden to return the first Green MP to Westminster.

We then moved on to the King William where a Tory voter said that he would not be voting for David Davis because he thought calling the by-election was a waste of public money, so he would now vote Green having spoken with us, and advise his Tory colleagues to do the same.

As we waited for the train to take the PM reporter back to Hull for the night, we heard loud clattering and were amazed to see a white horse being led up and over the railway bridge…practising for ‘doing weddings’. Unfortunately the camera wasn’t to hand.