I had a short speech prepared for the announcement of the result which opened like this: “I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me, in fact there were so few of you I’ll be able to do so in person over the next couple of days…”
As it turned out, I got considerably more votes than I expected – 347 in total – and I was impressed and happy with that, but as I said throughout my campaign, this election wasn’t about the amount of votes I polled, it was about getting my message out there. Whether or not I was successful in this respect I can’t really tell. I certainly made an impression at the hustings events and the feedback I’ve received from various members of of the public has been very positive indeed, but it’s impossible to say how many people I reached beyond those five hustings meetings. Despite the statutory brief ‘meet the candidates’ columns in the local press, the media weren’t very interested in my campaign and even less interested in my attempts to generate publicity through releasing my campaign song and uploading videos of myself on the campaign trail.
There was one very notable exception though when I was given some proper exposure by The Peoples Republic of South Devon website. This left-leaning alternative news and magazine site is well worth book-marking for anyone who lives in (and cares about) South Devon. I owe them a few pints for the positive coverage they put my way, and I must thank Richy Mills for bringing me to their attention when he ‘live tweeted’ from the Bovey Tracey hustings.
I met Richy for the first time a week after Bovey Tracey when we had our hustings event in Moretonhampstead. I think the most positive aspect of the entire campaign for me personally was meeting Richy and other like-minded individuals in the constituency, not least my ‘opponent’ Andy Williamson the Green Party Candidate. As I said during my campaign, Andy is a top bloke and acquitted himself extremely well at our hustings events. If I hadn’t been a candidate myself I would have proudly voted for him, along with almost 5000 other voters who increased the Green Party’s tally in Central Devon by just under 500% since 2010. It’s quite possible that you may be hearing from the likes of me, Richy and Andy as a united voice in the coming months and years as we collectively make a stand against the forthcoming brutal assault the Tories are now preparing to unleash upon the majority of the population.
Another key player in my campaign was Exeter based criminal lawyer James Vine. Again, James was someone who I had never heard of prior to my campaign, and he came onside very early into the campaign and became an integral source of support, information, ideas and confidence building as the election progressed. Despite feeling like I know him and trust him, I still haven’t met him! I intend to correct this situation in the near future. For now though, thank you James for your support and advice, which has been invaluable.
I have been very surprised by the support I have been given within my own community. Lustleigh is a pretty sedate village and mainly Tory, but my candidacy provoked some not inconsiderable interest and vocal support from many of the villagers who seemed as proud of me as the rest of the village is of Tory MP for Totnes Sarah Wollaston who lives in the same road as me. This is the village where I was born, and I am often nostalgic for the days when it was populated by working class families like mine who had lived here for generations, so it came as a pleasant surprise to find that there are indeed many people here who lean the same way as me politically. I would especially like to thank Karen and Jeff, Ben from the Station, and Liam and Kate, for making their home-made posters and for their online support, and also Ben, the landlord of The Cleave public house, for pretty much allowing me to set up my campaign headquarters in the public bar!
While I was controlling my campaign from the comfort of the bar, my good friend Ricardo Autobahn was busy in his studio producing our campaign song ‘Redistribution of Power‘. We released it 5 days before the election and at the time of writing we have sold a total of 9 downloads! Thank you Ric, the upside of the Tories winning this election is that the song will be current and relevant for at least 5 years. Every cloud…
I would also like to extend my thanks to the many people who have contacted me via email or Facebook or Twitter to wish me luck or to say they would vote for me if they lived in this constituency. From long standing friends like Jon Palmer in Surrey, to new Twitter friends like Matt, and from good mates like Ben Milner (who made my hustings video go viral) to complete strangers in Australia and America who have helped spread the word so much further than Central Devon, your contribution to the cause has been equalled by your contribution to making me feel safe and confident in this weird and sometimes lonely role of standing for election in a seat where I was guaranteed to come last.
I was also bouyed by the feedback I had from younger voters, and even those who were too young to vote but told me they’d vote for me if they could. And, at the other end of the generational divide, I have been approached on three different occasions in two separate pubs by pensioners who told me they’d voted for me because I ‘spoke like the man in the street’ at the hustings. Best of all though was the feedback I got from a group of politically fired up girls who introduced themselves to me then took me to the pub after the Okehampton hustings! This was possibly the highlight of my entire campaign.
As it happened, I never got the chance to thank anyone at the announcement of the result because none of us were invited to line up on the stage, and only Mel Stride was invited to do a speech. This was ok though, Central Devon was one of the last constituencies to declare the result, and by the time it was announced at 11.15am we were all completely knackered anyway. I was planning on recounting the events of that night in this blog post, but I now think the story of election night as it happened at Okehampton College will make for an enjoyable story on its own, so I’ll cover it in my next post.
For now though, thanks again to everyone who supported me, everyone who voted for me, and everyone who helped to spread the word. This is the beginning of a new chapter in my political campaigning and I suspect you’ll see me and hear me even more loudly over the term of this Tory government as I continue to speak up for those less privileged than the rest of us and do my level best to hold Mel Stride and his fellow politicians to account.
Mel’s last gesture to me at the end of election night was to hold his fist in the air and say “Power to the People, Arthur”. He’d better believe it, I am one of millions who didn’t vote Tory on May 7th – we are the majority, we have the truth on our side, and we fear no one.
Yours in Solidarity,