To Romford which is on the outskirts of London, just as it meets Essex, where Laurence Fox was campaigning in the famous market today. Non UK readers may well be familiar with Laurence Fox in his role as Sergeant Hathaway in the TV detective series Lewis, shown on US PBS television as part of the Masterpiece series. He comes from a family of well known actors.
Romford is the best known district of the London Borough of Havering, the most enthusiastic borough voting Leave in the Brexit referendum in London, and one of the most leave supporting areas in the country. Laurence Fox, at the time, was a remain voter; but that view, validly held by some genuine people with whom I could agree to differ, is not mutually exclusive to the cause of free speech and concern at the destruction of society by "woke" dogma.
We met at a park just off the ring road. The battle bus drew up.
Off to the market.
A lady eating at the Golden Lion was keen to "Get Sadiq out". This was a common opinion expressed from cars and passers by.
Talking to a stall holder - small businesses are the engine of the economy.
"It's lovely to see the market out", he said. "Everything looks normal for once". He then spoke to a couple of students (6th form college sort of age) asking them how things had been for them under lockdown and were they feeling better now they could mix with friends and other students.
Not just students pleased to meet him.
Many people knew who he was and were keen to meet him. Some didn't, or thought he looked familiar "he's that chap off the telly". A very small minority thought that if he was a politician standing for election he is, by definition, a liar and up to no good and they were not interested. Most people who didn't know of him took a leaflet from the support team and said they would read it.
One elderly man I heard only saw the red of the red, white and blue rosette, muttered contempuously 'Labour! Pah!" and stomped off without a leaflet.
There was absolutely no hostility. None whatsoever, although I was told that there had been some in a more bourgoise district of inner London last week.
This is the proprietor of Robins Pie and Mash. Pie and mashed potato, served with green liquor (a sort of parsley sauce) is a popular East and South East London and Essex delicacy. She was explaining that she can only serve meals as a take away. Unlike some of the pubs in the market, like the Golden Lion above, she cannot put tables outside her cafe, even if there was room and it was permitted. Her premises open onto an arcade, and that is classed as still indoors.
This is not a milkshake.
Many market traders have reservations about the current administration in London. This couple spoke to Laurence for some time.
As did the proprietor of Storky's baby clothes; they chatted at length in a very animated and enthusiastic conversation.
There were no speeches or address to the shopping crowd. The market was the busiest I have seen it for a very long time, but plenty of space in which to socially distance if required. The Covid Marshalls were much in evidence but I didn't see any of them interfere in the progress round the stalls and into the undercover market and Quadrant Arcade. I did hear a woman on the bus home complain that one had told her off for being too close in a queue so they are busy-busy. Just not towards the Reclaim party.
The emphasis today was meet and greet and it went down well. His interest in people is genuine and unforced. I know he is an actor but genuine interest can't be feigned for long.
The Reclaim party's policies for London are set out in the leaflet below and on their website.
Nobody could seriously object to reduction in knife crime or 'improved education' although how to do these will need imaginative ideas, which are not yet set out. This is always the criticism thrown at a new party, or a small party; that they don't have the infrastructure and experience for the details of governing. To which the answer is that the two big (in England) parties may have experience, but they are not exactly doing a great job using it.
The Telegraph newspaper sent a team to cover the Romford market event. They interviewed supporters and members of the public shopping for their reasons to support Reclaim (or not) and their views generally. They then moved on to interview Laurence Fox himself over a drink in the beer garden of another Romford pub. That interview will be part of the weekly Chopper's Podcast next Wednesday.
Because Lawrence Fox isn't a career politician with a PR team regulating his every move he sometimes (often) says things he could have worded better. I think that is the tactful way of phrasing it. The genuine candor is refreshing, but can get him into trouble that he doesn't need.
He won't oust Sadiq Khan from his eyrie (I doubt Churchill himself could achieve that) but he is sparking conversation. Encouraging those who don't like current group-think to speak up and not be afraid any more to state their view. And that is no bad thing.
Photographs E Weatherwax Romford England April 2021