The Campaign turns a bit chillier this week. As winter sets in, I am leading teams to neighbouring marginal seats - Stroud and Cheltenham in particular. And I am taking a couple of days out to chair a long-planned International conference on Antarctica. (Good to get a mention on the Today Programme on Saturday about it.)
We have had an absolutely brilliant campaign in North Wiltshire so far. We have visited (virtually) every corner of the patch, canvassed 15,000 houses finding about 4000 people at home. We have used direct mail, social media, a hand delivery of 20,000 leaflets and countless calling cards; three Royal Mail Freepost letters which should be dropping through letter boxes from now until the election; we have distributed hundreds of paper and correx posters, toured the high streets, attended hustings meetings, done some local press work, and been seen around in every village and town. It’s just been a huge success.
Having done all of that, and without any kind of complacency, I have now concluded that as long as all of those who have promised to vote Conservative actually get out on the day and do so, we will hold North Wiltshire. And quite frankly, whether we do that by one vote, 10,000 or 20,000 doesn’t matter all that much, apart from massaging the ego of the candidate! But there is not much point in increasing our majority here if we do not form a majority Conservative Government.
So at risk of disappointing some villages or some people who I have not been able to meet in the last month or so, we have now decided to switch our attention away from North Wiltshire and see what help we can give in nearby marginals. We have already sent teams in to Chippenham, and Thornbury and Yate. We had a big team in the pouring rain in Stroud last week, and now want to do all we can to help there (which would be a Conservative win from Labour) and in Cheltenham (which is on a knife edge. Our great candidate, Alex Chalk, is fighting a stout action to hold off the Liberals).
And on Monday and Tuesday, I took time out from campaigning to chair the first ever Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly in London. This is a conference on which I have been working for more than a year now. It’s the first of its kind - bringing together Parliamentarians from across the Globe to discuss issues of huge international importance. Timed to coincide with Antarctica Day and the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, Parliamentary delegations were invited from the 54 signatory countries to take part in discussions and debates about subjects ranging from climate change and the melting Antarctic ice sheets, to the increase in polar tourism and protecting Antarctic biodiversity.
Sir David Attenborough sent his apologies for not being able to attend due to his filming commitments, and commented: “It is a very worthwhile initiative and I hope that your deliberations will produce results which will help preserve and enhance the great White Continent. The challenges we face in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are both alarming and urgent, and I call on your parliaments and governments to work together to act decisively and collectively for the preservation of the continent.”
So without in any way neglecting North Wiltshire, I am using a bit of time to help secure an overall victory for the Tories, and for the world’s environment as well.