I was going along Bodycoats Road in Chandler’s Ford today when I had a sudden attack of déjà vu. I was sure I had been there before.
It couldn’t have been from the 2005 election, since most of our work in Romsey during the 2005 General Election was in Palestine, up in the north of the constituency, and in Romsey itself.
It then struck me that it must have been from the by-election in 2000, since on one Sunday a team I’d brought from Ealing Acton & Shepherds Bush was sent out to Chandler’s Ford. This was confirmed when I visited someone who I remembered canvassing!
My main memory of the Romsey by-election (aside from the result) was being so infuriated by William Hague’s speech about asylum speakers shortly before the election that the next morning, I called my boss, booked a day’s holiday for election day and then, on election day, went and pounded the streets until the polls closed.
As in Winchester, several of the people I met in Chandler’s Ford mentioned planning as an issue. On the one hand, young families who were born and grew up in the area are forced out by high house prices. Many couples who now live outside the area bring their children back to be christened in St Boniface because they still feel that Chandler’s Ford is home. On the other, no-one wants to see over-development and too much stress put on local services and infrastructure. As is so often the case, Government centralisation has a lot to do with the frustration that people feel in this area. Councillors are too often forced to act as an arm of government, rather than advocates of their local area. Everyone locally, including local councillors, ends up feeling that no-one is listening. Pushing true and full decision-making down to a more local level has to be the way forward to help release this tension.
Finally to the US elections. It all seems very much as the Democrats were predicting when I went to meet them back in June. My brother has just taken American citizenship and lives in the marginal state of Virginia, where they appear to be having the closest senate race. If the Democrats win Virginia by one vote, I will be very proud.