Monday, May 10, 2004

Campaigning in Newham

What an exhausting weekend. On Saturday Simon Hughes came down to press the flesh and talk to everybody (it seemed) in Newham. I met him down Green Street near Upton Park, where some local activists were distributing leaflets and inviting local residents to meet the mayoral candidate.

It being Upton Park we had our picture taken outside the West Ham United football ground - given the team's fortunes over the last few seasons is it any wonder there is a funeral parlour, church and medical centre all clustered around the stadium? - and then we made our way to Queens Market which appears to be threatened with closure.

We leapt into the Hughesmobile - his big, yellow, decommissioned cab - and made our way to Stratford where more leafletting and petition-signing took place outside the train station. We chatted to the local flower seller outside and then hurried Simon onto the Azhar Academy, a secondary school with an emphasis on Muslim education for girls in Forest Gate. It's an impressively designed faith school with a modern interior housed by a listed Victorian church.

After being shown around by the local imam and school dignitaries, we sat in the large public space at the top of the building for a public meeting and where Simon was the main speaker. He spoke well on faith issues and dealt with some well-researched questions on Jenny Tonge's sacking and the question of the headscarf ban in France.

All in all, a good - but long - campaign day.

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