With exactly 100 days to go before the election on May 7th 2015, 50for15 held its official launch in Portcullis House. Below is a transcript of the opening speech Adam, Alex and Claire gave to guests explaining more about the purpose of the blog, what we’ve learnt so far, and what the plans are for the rest of the trip.
Welcome to the official launch of 50for15 and thank you for coming! 50for15 is a politics blog which is following visits to 50 key marginals across the country for the 2015 general election.
And what an unpredictable election May 2015 is turning out to be. With no party winning a majority in 2010, a coalition government, the Scottish Independence Referendum, and rise in support for smaller parties, the outcome of the contest in May seems particularly unclear.
Today marks exactly 100 days before the general election- which is thanks to fortune rather than excellent planning on our part. We have already visited 17 seats, starting in Oxford West and Abingdon, the constituency where the three of us met at university.
We were all really keen to run 50for15 in order to bring attention to political questions across the country. We felt that political coverage can be overly focused on London. I’m from Devon and Claire is from Cumbria and we both felt that our areas were under reported in politics. And well, Alex is from London – but he was up for the journey too!
Firstly I’d like to reiterate Adam’s thanks. It’s really great to see all of you here.
In the last few months, we’ve been to 17 of our 50 constituencies. We’ve been shadowing activists, interviewing current MPs and their challengers, and we’ve been getting the opinions of voters in our 50 marginal constituencies.
In the next 100 days, we’ll be doing more of the same, and we’ve also got plans to hold a focus group at the time of the televised leadership debates, we’ll be chairing a debate between candidates in Northampton, and we’re hoping to make more videos asking local voters their views on important political questions.
It might seem a bit perverse to talk about memories at a launch event, but I think a really standout moment for me so far was a strawpoll we conducted in Birmingham Edgbaston, a constituency with a large number of NHS employees. There’s the university’s medical school there, as well as several large hospitals. And as I’m sure many of you know, there’s such passion and energy when you talk to people about the NHS, which you just don’t get when you talk about other aspects of politics. And I suppose one of the things we’re trying to do is to encourage a few people to take an interest in politics, or a few people to take more of an interest than they might otherwise have done.
So in the next hundred days we’ll be heading to the rest of our 33 constituencies. And with that I’ll hand over to Claire.
In April, we’ll be traveling together from Argyll and Bute in North West Scotland to Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall.
The timetable isn’t finalised yet, but during the two weeks we’ll visit at least 20 constituencies across Scotland, England and Wales.
We aim to stay with local activists for some of the stopovers, and continue to interview candidates and constituents. We’ll be running events similar to those we’ve already done, documenting the journey with social media, articles photos and videos.
Once the trip is done we’ll make sure that our content is organised in the most useful way possible for voters, journalists and anyone else who’s interested. We’ll also make a longer film collated from footage we’ve taken along the way.
I wouldn’t say the project has a singular goal or a definitive end date – though an election night party is definitely in the works.
We want our work to be entertaining, to get people involved with politics who might otherwise not, and to offer high quality and independent analysis.
We’re providing something fairly unusual – genuinely local local journalism with a national context, targeted exclusively at the contests that matter the most for the general election. We hope that what we’ve produced might provide a template for future elections.
I hope that’s been a useful explanation of what 50for15 is about, and what it’s for, to those who aren’t familiar with the project. We’ve sometimes been hard put to explain to friends why we’re spending our weekends trekking all over the UK for a blog, so hopefully its helped with that too.
Many thanks to Neil Parish MP and his office for their help in organising the event.