We're in to the final final push. The sun is blazing down in Blackburn, the polling stations open in less than two days.
The election here has been enlivened by the focus on an extraordinary leaflet sent out by Blackburn Conservatives attacking Labour for "atrocities" committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Described by influential Tory blog Conservative Home as something more akin to George Galloway (see report here), Tory candidate Michael Law-Riding first said he had seen it, then denied it was anything to with him. Tricky thing is that Jack himself witnessed the leaflet being delivered along with the glossy Central Office four-pager for Mr Law-Riding.
It's a one sheet of A4, English on one side and a Gujarati translation on the other. You can see it here.
The saga made the nationals: see the Guardian report here. And the BBC here. Telegraphhere
Times columnist Oliver Kamm said the Tories acted weakly over the leaflet and should have suspended Michael Law-Riding. Here's his article.
And Telegraph columnist Gerald Warner is also wondering how Mr Law-Riding is still the candidate in Blackburn. See his piece here.
Ben Brogan blogged on it here.
But the best report was Tom Moseley's in the Lancashire Telegraph here. This extract in particular shows that Tory Central Office claims that it was nothing to do with the candidate are a little thin.
"The flier, titled “Labour shows its true colours”, bears the name of the agent for Tory candidate Michael Law-Riding and was delivered folded inside an official party newsletter.
"It also accuses Israel of “killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians”.
"Mr Law-Riding, who is looking to overturn Jack Straw’s 8,000 majority in Blackburn, confirmed he had seen the leaflet.
"He said killing somebody was always “an atrocity”, whatever the circumstances, insisting he always supported British troops.
"But he later said his agent, Joan Bamber, had not approved the leaflet, accepting it was “inflammatory and sends out the wrong message.”
In other news, the weather was a little less bright than it is today on Saturday when Jack took to his soapbox for the final time of the campaign in Blackburn (see above) in the presence of Ben Brogan from the Daily Telegraph. You can read his report of the occasion here. Suffice to say it was a feisty and well attended, with questions ranging from the economy, unsuprisingly, to child tax credits and immigration.
Independent candidate Grace Astley turned up and held her own soapbox a few yards away while another indepdendent and the UKIP candidate milled around. Michael Law-Riding, the Conservative candidate appeared at one point with a few supporters but headed off pretty quickly.
The soapbox had been out on both the previous days, first in Accrington, where our great candidate for the Hyndburn seat, Graham Jones, seemed slightly sceptical about its merits until the event got going and a lively crowd of around 200 gathered in the town centre to listen to Jack. Good pic from the day here.
Then it was off to Leyland on Friday to support David Borrow and his team (pep talk pic on the left) with a terrific soapbox outside Tesco in the town (see pic right at the bottom of this). This included the best moment of the campaign when a passing shopper stopped to say he'd just posted his postal vote and he was voting Labour. Why? Because his life had changed for the better over the last 13 years, not perfect, but much better. Simple as that. And he was not a plant.
In between soapboxes Jack has been pounding the streets of Blackburn, see pic, and the reaction seems good. Not long to wait now.
He's also done an extraordinary debate at the Ummah channel. Less said the better but am pretty sure allowing questions - three to be precise - from the husband of a candidate is a little on the dubious side. Giving the same candidate's agent two chances also seems a tad beyond the pale. And that wasn't all, but this is a family blog. Then it was on to a great rally in Bangor Street and more canvassing. The candidate tan is progressing well.
The bag carrier tan not too bad, but the bag carrier belly is really progressing well.