Coffee House

On the road with Ukip in the ‘Common Sense’ battle bus

8 February 2014

Ukip’s campaigning team has been working so hard to make it into second place in Wythenshawe and Sale East that when I arrived at their very purple shop in Sale town centre yesterday, the big panic was not so much a shortage of leaflets as a shortage of clean pants. One of the staffers has had to dash out to a nearby clothes shop as he’s spent so many hours working on the by-election that he hasn’t had any time to do any laundry.



In the shopping street outside, a man in a fluorescent yellow tabard and a Ukip rosette hands out campaign leaflets. Round the back is a purple and yellow van that warns onlookers ‘Here comes Common Sense’. Inside an organiser is on the phone, complaining that one region hasn’t sent enough volunteers to knock on local doors and that the party will only ‘scrape’ into second if they don’t pull their socks up. Another staffer surveys a map of the constituency, which is updated so that local voters don’t sink under a pile of leaflets. ‘In Eastleigh, we had one man who came to our office with a big bag of leaflets and he said that was just from the Lib Dems,’ he says. Ukip is trying to mimic the ground wars that Liberal Democrats stage in by-elections and is pumping as many members into the constituency as possible.


The party says it has had between 40 and 50 campaigners coming up every day. Farage himself has visited twice and will return next week for another day of campaigning and for the count, although he appears to be being used as much as a magnet for the party members, who love him, to travel from Falmouth, Inverness and the Isle of Wight to knock on doors. Neil and Christine Hamilton will visit on Monday.

The party is naturally focusing on Labour and is talking down the Tory campaign as non-existent (although while I was travelling on the Common Sense bus, Treasury Minister Sajid Javid and other Tory MPs were also campaigning in the constituency, and Chris Grayling visited earlier this week). It has attacked the working class credentials of the Labour party with the leaflet below.


But it is also focusing on Ed Miliband’s record as a minister: arguing that his work in the Energy and Climate Change department led to the cost of living crisis that Labour now campaigns on.

The party’s opening gambit on the doorstep is on jobs, which it then links to immigration and Labour’s ‘betrayal’ of the working class on this front. Bickley also tends to remind older residents that there used to be a grammar school in the centre of Wythenshawe, as it gives him an opportunity to talk about Ukip’s education policy. The row over A&E services at the local hospital comes up, too. But it is striking that Ukip isn’t focusing its campaigning on hyper-local issues: most of the talk is about jobs in the national sense.


But the campaign literature itself suggests the party is trying to be all things to all men, and still keep the protest vote.The leaflet below shows it is trying to be a ‘none of the above’ party – although the Conservatives should be concerned that Ukip now campaigns on their planning reforms rather than their European policy.



Some of its policies are also from the playbook of things that sound nice to voters but which are already possible, such as giving local people priority on housing waiting lists (a continually re-announced policy that Labour introduced in 2009 with a rather technical change to local authority allocations guidelines that no-one noticed – although Manchester Council is in fact one of the pioneer local authorities on this policy).


Meanwhile Bickley himself says he first found Ukip interesting because he simply didn’t believe or trust the leaders of the two main parties in 2010. He joined Ukip in 2011 and only started campaigning nine months ago.

He’s neither right-wing, nor left-wing, he says, but he doesn’t seem quite comfortable with the suggestion that he’s centrist either. Neither is he that bothered by the party’s track record on policymaking, admitting that he hasn’t read the 2010 manifesto because in 2010 he was just a typical swing voter, not a Ukip member.

‘I have never read the manifesto,’ he says cheerfully. ‘It’s actually quite hard to find it now.’

He’s a reasonably gentle sort as he wanders around the streets of Sale East, knocking on doors and pushing leaflets through. ‘Hello,’ he says, slightly gingerly to a woman coming out of a neat terraced house. ‘Can I say hello?’ Fortunately she says yes, although he then realises she’s unloading groceries for a neighbour and decides not to bother her any longer.




Travelling in the bus with him (along with a very large pile of wooden stakes for garden signs backing Ukip) are two young campaigners from the party who have taken time off from work and university to spend a week pounding the pavements in the pouring rain and freezing wind.

One of the problems Bickley encounters as he travels in the Common Sense bus is that people are either out or have already voted by post. Earlier in the week, Nigel Farage complained to the Electoral Commission that it was unfair that Labour had managed to get so many postal votes in. He said: ‘I do not think democracy is being well-served and fear that the voting process is now actually undermining the ability of constituents to hear and weigh up the alternatives being offered in a considered fashion.’ But the party has also taken out the advert below in the local press which hints at something more than just an advantage for the party moving the writ. It says:


‘Give your postal vote to the Post Office not the Labour Party. Your postal vote will arrive this week. Remember – your vote is secret. DON’T let anyone ‘help’ you fill it in. DON’T let anyone ‘help’ you post it. (Please not: you WON’T lose your council House if you don’t vote Labour.) This advertisement is published by the UK Independence Party, in the interest of free and fair elections.’

The party is confident of second place when the Wythenshawe and Sale East electorate vote on 13 February. Ukippers are also pleased that coming second and beating the Tories is now less of a surprise than it used to be: they see it as a sign their party is finding a permanent place in the political landscape.

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  • chris_xxxx

    Postal voting should be allowed only to people who are house bound, ill or out of the country on legitimate business.

    Polling centres are open from early morning to 10pm at night. Nobody has the excuse to say I’m too busy.

  • scotspete

    ukip revivile north of the border, many labour ready to jump ship for ukip against our growing health problems mainly our elderly care homes lack of care ? VOTE PETER CAMPBELL WARD 6 INVERCLYDE UKIP

  • CrocodileGunnD

    Postal voting is a scam and the Returning Officer at my local council wants to see more of it. Unless you’re housebound, is it too much to ask that you do your civic duty?

  • Wessex Man

    Mmm, most interesting I posted a comment here some hours ago and it was shown to have been posted correctly yet now has disappeared, am I one of the disappeared ones?

  • rightrightright

    There is a “late postal votes” box at polling stations. If postal voting members of the electorate no longer trust the postal voting system, they can retain their ballot paper and turn up at the polling station with it on election day. This information is important for the many registered postal voters who are still ambulatory but do not wish, or can’t be bothered to switch back to regular voting. UKIP please take note and inform people of this at the very earliest stage of an election campaign, before Labour etc. turn up and finagle postal votes out of people.

  • James Allen

    Thank God for Ukip.

  • global city

    I’ve noticed that Isabel has loads of preconceived notions, sort of university rough edges, that have cropped up in previous pieces over the years but she is always up for testing them and adapting her views. She is quite a one!

  • Two Bob

    Another boost for UKIP: Mark Harper quits as Immigration Minister after learning he hired illegal foreign worker as cleaner

    • perdix

      Mark Harper – an honourable man.

      • Mynydd

        Honourable men don’t employ illegal foreign worker for seven years. A honourable man would have resigned from parliament, not just moved from the front to a back seat. If you or I did it we would face the full force of the law.

        • rightrightright

          But wasn’t he just full of praise for himself in his resignation letter?

        • outraged

          She had an access to privy information concerning high government officials and therefore she and her even family should be checked at the high risk level.

          The fact that she was illegal shows the absence of even minimum checks.

        • HookesLaw

          Baroness Ashton??

    • Tom

      I bet her wages were low.

    • LimesOut

      Appalling negligence on his part means nothing in comparison to the criminal past of UKiP’s flagship Muslim spokesman, Mujeeb Bhutto.

      • Two Bob

        Noone actually gave a toss about that.

        • outraged

          run out of arguments, are we?

          • Two Bob

            that does not make sense

            • LimesOut

              Because you have changed your post from ‘do not be an idiot’ after the outraged replied to you.

              This conversation is clearly above your head if you have to resort to this kind of manipulation tactics to discredit your adversaries.

  • callingallcomets

    Thanks, Isabel, it is nice to read a piece in the Speccie that actually involved the use of some shoeleather rather than either a cut and paste of someone else’s article or a bit of gossip via some CCHQ intern. It was also fair and balanced and pleasingly devoid of any put downs

  • Beth Dawson

    Good, objective article. New Labour have betrayed the indigenous people of this country both culturally and economically. Most unskilled jobs are now taken by immigrants. Many of them can hardly speak English. They come here because wages are so much higher in the UK than in their home countries and New Labour actively encouraged this. There are now many groups of immigrants standing outside stations in the morning offering their services to employers at rock bottom prices, cash in hand with no national insurance or tax to be paid! This has particularly hit the ordinary working person who used to be able to find work in a coffee shop, restaurant, shop or hotel fairly easily. Thanks to New Labour those days have long gone! Vote UKIP!

    • LimesOut

      EU minorities are here primarily because England took advantage of free movement of capital, services and goods with relation to EU.

      Try to buy property, open business or even work in India or China – then you will see what I mean.

    • outraged

      Are you concerned only about the loss of low skilled and unskilled jobs for which you do not even need to know the language ?

      I am not a white indigenous ‘working man’ myself but my ambition for Britons would be to keep skilled and highly skilled jobs for themselves rather than keep outsourcing by thousands every single week. Whats not outsourced is staffed with tier 2 visa holders employed by TATA, Wipro and the likes.

      Stop fighting to death over £5/h Starbucks jobs, you are better than that.

      • Two Bob

        Why not fight for both?

  • Two Bob
  • Andy mx

    Surely the Police should be called in if Labour are ‘helping’ people fill out postal votes. This is a widespread Labour practice and is criminal electoral fraud.

    • Mark Britten

      There’s all kinds of shenanigans go on with postal votes. Birmingham was notorious for it at one time. I can’t recall too many people ever being prosecuted for it though.

      • Doggie Roussel

        Well, they bloody well ought to be !!!

    • Glen Matlock

      The Labour Party have a history of helping people with their postal votes. The problem has always been having enough proof to prosecute

    • Mynydd

      If as you say this is a widespread Labour practice and is criminal electoral fraud you are duty bound to send the evidence, which backs up your claim, to the police. Otherwise you are just a mouth for CCHQ, that is, just another Conservative troll, and that goes for the 106 up ticks.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        More dissembling rubbish from a Labour troll. Please ignore.

  • @PhilKean1

    And Cameron’s wallers have not the decency to stand aside in a constituency they have no chance of winning so UKIP can get a clear run at Labour.

    But I hope that UKIP can close the gap and beat Labour to win an historic victory for the British people.

    • Shinsei1967

      When was the last time that the Tories or Labour have ever not fought a UK seat ?

      You really are making a ridiculous suggestion.

      • Brimstone52

        The past is a different country. They do things differently there.

        Just because it hasn’t happened in the past, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen now or in the future. Such party tribalism is what puts so many people off the established parties.

        • IlikeBrits

          Your battle bus really got a gay color! ;-)))

          • Brimstone52

            The gay colour is because most UKIP people are happy and full of joy.

            The future’s bright, the future’s purple.

            • LimesOut

              purple symbolises populist design of this political outfit.

          • Two Bob

            Good for the bus.

      • Mark Britten

        Haltemprice and Howden was the last time the Tories and Labour didn’t contest a by-election I think, but that was a bit of a strange one, and UKIP didn’t contest it either because they agreed with Davis.

  • Smithersjones2013

    A refreshingly neutral report. Perhaps others in the MSM can learn from this?

    • bobbarr

      That’s because it is written by a truly talented journalist.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Are you her dad or something? One swallow does not a summer make.

        • Lord Knows

          Jack Straw (Labour) :
          “If you are black or Asian, gay or lesbian, there’s no question your life has been transformed by Labour, and I’m very proud to have been part of that.”

          • Conway

            That is probably true of the white indigenous working class too, but not in the (positive) sense it’s meant to portray.

        • bobbarr

          No – not related, but I was interviewed by her for Inside Housing early in her career. I have followed, and been impressed, by her output and career since.

          What made you into such a cynic? 😉

  • Gregory Mason

    ‘The row over A&E services at the local hospital comes up, too But it
    is striking that Ukip isn’t focusing its campaigning on hyper-local
    issues: most of the talk is about jobs in the national sense.’

    You might want to correct the error here.

  • telemachus associates

    ” they see it as a sign their party is finding a permanent place in the political landscape.”
    They remain on the up until the EU parliament vote.
    And then we will see a progressive decline.
    Their only role next year will be to split the vote in the 43 Tory marginals to let Labour romp home.
    They will have at most two Westminster MP’s.
    Meanwhile they continue with their one man band to self delude.
    (T minus 10)

    • callingallcomets

      One man band…….with 50 people a day coming in to help? Maybe maths wasn’t your strongest subject when you were at Risinghill?

    • Colonel Mustard

      We’ll see. Chickens hatching and bridges crossed and all that.

      Labour ‘romping home’ is a vision that many people in this country, after the experience of 1997 to 2010, will find singularly unappealing. Don’t try to pretend you represent everybody.

      • fozz

        I hate to admit it and I find the prospect of Labour romping or coming ‘home’ in any form more than ‘singularly unappealing’ as you restrainedly put it. More terrifying if you ask me. I’ll be pretty surprised if UKIP win any Westminster seats at the GE next year. They will do well in the European elections this year though because people see this as a ‘free, no consequences’ protest vote. However much I sympathise with their aspirations about Europe and immigration they are basically a one man band i.e. Farage and that isn’t enough. If they frighten the other parties enough and then get the result they want i.e. a referendum on Europe and the hoped-for NO to the EU would they then be big enough to say ‘OK hands up. We were right. You did it, Congratulations. Over to you guys’ ?? I wonder.
        Let’s hope I’m wrong – you provide an edible hat and I’ll eat it.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Did you know that in the last Ashcroft poll UKIP support was split 47% ABC1 and 53% C2DE whereas Labour was split 54% ABC1 and 46% C2DE. Fancy that? UKIP is a more working class party than Miliband’s Misfits which increasingly is full of posh toffs like Mad Hattie Harman and Patricia “My Family’s Loaded’ Hodge and millionaire professional left wing extremists like Miliband.

      In such a climate chances are that UKIP’s common sense will prosper under an incompetent and dim-witted Labour Party stuffed with ‘Tristrams’.

      • Brimstone52

        As long as Labour behave like a bunch of Hunts, UKIP will prosper.

    • foxoles

      ‘They will have at most two Westminster MP’s.’

      Two, now, is it? I thought you said none, not long ago?

      April 2103: pundits say UKIP cannot possibly get 50 council seats. May 2013: UKIP get 147.

      • Alexsandr

        I think anyone making predictions about the 2015 GE would be misguided. There are so many unknown variables I would say the result is wide open.
        and extrapolating %ages in national opinion polls into seats is just plain daft as UKIP will probably do best in certain areas and badly elsewhere.
        I would not wager 50p of Nelsons money on the outcome

        • Brimstone52

          “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns”, Donald Rumsfel.

          • global city

            but it’s the unknown unknowns that cause the most worry….. that’s what the three social democratic parties are thinking anyway!

            • Brimstone52

              The three social democratic parties don’t accept that there are unknown, known or otherwise. They think they’ve got it all wrapped up.

        • Mark Britten

          I can see UKIP getting 2 seats and coming close in a few more.

          • global city

            did you go into one of those funny trances to see that, or did you use a crystal ball?

            • Mark Britten

              Lol no. It’s nothing more than a guess.

    • saffrin

      A most unsurprising post from a Labour supporter in denial mode.

    • Doggie Roussel

      Have you considered therapy, telemachus ?

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Better UKIP than Labour the party of lies, lying and filthy liars.

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