Pubdate: Sat, 30 Apr 2005
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2005, Archant Regional
Contact:  http://www.edp24.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/131
Author: Mark Nicholls
Cited: http://www.lca-uk.org (Legalise Cannabis Alliance)
Cited: http://www.ccguide.org.uk/donbarnard.php (Don Barnard)

SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING

A wasted vote? Certainly not, say the General Election candidates fighting 
the Norwich South seat for the smaller parties. MARK NICHOLLS caught up 
with four of them on the campaign trail.

It's 6pm on a sunny April evening in the centre of Norwich. Most of the 
shoppers have left and so have a good number of the people who work in the 
city centre stores.

Not much to go at for Don Barnard, candidate for the Legalise Cannabis 
Alliance (LCA) in the Norwich South constituency.

Yet he hands out leaflets with his supporters, advocating his party's 
policies as he attempts to engage passers-by in discussion.

One man stops, but there's no profit in it for Mr Barnard as the voter 
reveals he lives in the South Norfolk area.

Mr Barnard, 63, has picked a tough constituency to fight. There are eight 
candidates toughing it out for Norwich South: Labour, Liberal Democrat, 
Conservative, Green and the three other smaller parties of the Workers 
Revolutionary Party, English Democrats and UKIP.

He's up against Home Secretary Charles Clarke, and therein lies the point.

"We do not anticipate forming a government this time around," he concedes 
with an ironic grin and a rasp through smoking cigarettes and the drug he 
advocates the legalisation of.

For the smaller parties, it's about raising their profile and where better 
to do that than in a constituency where they will have the attention of the 
regional and national media who will be watching what happens to the Home 
Secretary who is defending a majority of 8816.

A single issue party, the LCA want to promote the benefits of Cannabis as a 
plant for its industrial, commercial and medical uses. And if they can 
smoke some along the way, all well and good they say.

"We believe cannabis is one of the safest and most valuable commodities on 
the planet. I want to see it used for all its potential uses, for social as 
well as medical," he said.

"I have not had a bad response on the street, but have had some extremely 
abusive telephone calls."

And a wasted vote?

"If someone votes for me," said Mr Barnard, "they will get a person that 
represents them in Parliament, not someone who concerned with protecting 
their own party interests.

"I am not sure how many people will vote for me, I intend to beat the last 
person that stood for us a here and get 5pc of the vote so as I can get my 
deposit back and give it to someone else to stand next time."

To top the LCA's 2001 standing, he'll need 621 crosses in boxes for a party 
basking in the glow of achieving its first party political broadcast this 
week, albeit on Welsh TV. (extract)

Meanwhile, mother-of-two Christine Constable parks her car on Morse Road, 
Norwich. Not too far away, one the houses is displaying a poster for the 
English Democrats.

A 43-year-old business consultant, the vice-chairman of the national party 
knows there is support for a party that advocates Englishness.

Mrs Constable said: "We have devolution with the Welsh Assembly and the 
Scottish Assembly but England does not have a Parliament.

"If people in Wales and Scotland have devolution, people in England should 
have the same choice."

Opposed to unelected regional assemblies, the English Democrats want to see 
the House of Commons become the English Parliament and House of Lords 
become an elected upper chamber.

So what is the value in voting for her?

"Our main objective is to educate people through the ballot box to our 
point of view," she said.

In Euro elections last year, the party polled 130,000 votes in five regions 
so it does have a support base.

Whilst not anti-Europe, the party wants out of Europe...just like the UK 
Independence Party. There are similarities but the stumbling block is the 
UK/England element.

Candidate Vandra Ahlstrom stresses UKIP is not a one-policy party.

She was at the Somerley residential home just off Unthank Road in Norwich, 
chatting to pensioners. And they may well have been interested.

"We want to get out of the EU because we are spending so much money on it 
and having its regulations affect us. We believe we can free up funds if we 
get out of the EU," she said.

An example she offers is spending 30m on giving pensioners an extra 25 a 
week. UKIP has concerns over the war in Iraq, immigration and health care 
issues.

The former Labour city councillor said: "I am getting a good response from 
people who are disillusioned with the mainstream parties. And we are party 
that has developed post-Kilroy and made up of a number of different 
political persuasions.

"A vote for us is not a wasted vote, it is very important that we become 
established. I believe we are gaining people's trust."

For the record, Tarquin Mills polled 473 votes for UKIP, a 1.1pc share of 
the turnout in 2001.

But times have changed. Norwich South is a different place.

The students are angry at Charles Clarke's top up fees when Education 
Secretary, the Conservatives with Antony Little hope to improve on their 
10,551 vote of 2001 and Andrew Aalders-Dunthorne, fighting the seat for a 
third time for the Lib-Dems, wants to boost his 9,640 votes.

The Greens polled 1,434, but they are new force under Adrian Ramsay. Once 
one of the "minor parties", they are now key players holding five Norwich 
City Council seats in the area and also hoping to tap into the student vote.

But so does Roger Blackwell of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

We found him in the students' union building at the University of East 
Anglia handing out leaflets.

He explained: "We are standing in Norwich South because we think that the 
Labour Party has continued with Thatcherite policies and that Charles 
Clarke is an architect of that.

"We do not expect to get a lot of votes but we will be raising issues such 
as the Iraq war, privatisation and tuition fees and we are building support 
and leadership for the working class.

"We have had a lot of support from students and some have expressed 
interest in joining the party."

The four minor players in Norwich South know they are unlikely to win. But 
they still want your vote to send a firm message to the key parties and to 
build on a support base for the future.

What has yet to be seen is how many votes they accrue and what impact that 
will have on the final outcome on May 5.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom