In town shopping yesterday with AJ, I came across the Referendum campaigners on the High Row.
It was good to see Clive Owen, the Council's former Chief Executive from the 1990's, back again after an illness.
Otherwise, it seemed a fairly rag-bag affair, with a man in a pair of jeans hollering at passers-by through a megaphone about the campaign. Judging from the looks of people subjected to the noise pollution, he wasn't impressing many. The team had an old trestle table with news articles stuck to it. They made the Socialist Worker newspaper sellers look like a class act.
The exception was Jan Mazurk, one of the Tories' candidates in Hurworth. Jan and I probably agree on almost nothing (including the issue of an elected Mayor for the town) but she is a dilligent and effective campaigner. She did me the courtesy of giving a straight answer to my question about the number of signatures the campaign now have - a couple of hundred short apparently.
Jan's frankness is in stark contrast to the bull which has come out of this interminable campaign. On 28 February 2006 they claimed to have "many" of the signatures they needed when they launched. In April they said they would have the names "by the end of the month." Four months later, strangely, with no petition in sight they told the Echo they were halfway there. This has become a farcical soap opera. I even offered Jan (jokingly) to sign the damn thing myself, to help put us all out of our misery.
For what it's worth, I think the campaign blew the only chance it had by not being organised enough to trigger the referendum before the local elections in May. They could have capitalised then on any dissatisfaction that was in the air. Whatever the result, the elections should clear the air, and the Referendum, probably three months later, will seem an expensive irrelevance.