I was able to escape from home over the weekend and get out and do some serious campaigning. A street stall on Saturday, which turned out to be much colder than I expected when I left home and then doorstep work on Sunday. I enjoy that sort of work much more than simple leafleting, because you get to talk to civilians, not party workers or candidates. We even found a Tory lurking hidden on the patch - we did think of arranging some sort of preservation order, as these creatures are very rarely found in the wild these days. Most Tories have been safely confined to Solihull or the Principality of Sutton Coldfield for their own protection, where they can run freely amongst their own and read the Daily Mail without fear of having their prejudices challenged by reality.
We were able to talk to real people and perhaps put the case for Labour in a more direct manner. I do believe that people are more inclined to vote for a party if that party has made the effort to get out to see them and our candidate certainly made the effort. No hand went unshook, no baby unkissed.
There was also a reminder of why I bother doing this. Towards the end of a rainy, chilly day, with water streaming down our voter ID pads, we knocked on one of our last target doors. Inside, an elderly couple and he sang the praises of Heartlands hospital. He's been a visitor there for some thirty years and recently had cause to attend as a patient, following a nasty fall, so he has some perspective on things. He was amazed at the improvements that there had been in the past eight years. That's why I get out there and spread the word about the party. Not because it soothes my ego or lines my pocket (neither is true), but because I do believe that politics can make a difference to people's lives. For him, it did.
And then Monday night, I took the wife out. Not to a fancy restaurant, a concert or to the theatre. Not me, I know how to treat a lady. I took her to see the Prime Minister.
Getting to a party rally these days is a lot like attending a rave in the early 90s. You'll get a cryptic message a few days before about an event involving Prescott or Blair and asked to declare an interest. There then follows a phone call to check that you aren't a swivel-eyed assassin, a Liberal Democrat or Gordon Brown. Once you have passed these tests, you will get a phone call on the day and given the secret location and time.
We were treated to Kevin Whately as the compere and we had Rosie Winterton as a warm-up - she seemed to have lost track of her speech to start with, but then got into full flow about health and introduced our latest Party Election Broadcast. John Reid then put in an appearance, live by satellite (although briefly silenced), for a brief question session with the audience. He may be the attack dog of the front bench and the Minister for the Today Programme, but I like him - he's not afraid to mix it with the opposition a little.
Finally, the top of the bill arrived - fresh faced and looking confident. Like many people, I disagree with Tony over some fundamental actions taken by this government, but you can't fault the man for the passion of his speech. He owned that room while he was speaking. The content was good, pushing the positive side of our policies and playing to our traditional strengths on health and education, which was a joy to hear after so much negative campaigning.
My nine-year-old daughter was also impressed - she went to school this morning clutching her ID badge and full of excitement at what she'd seen the night before. We'll get that social conscience honed yet.