Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 18:01 UK

English Democrats' 'long game'

English Democrats protester
The party held a St George's Day protest in Parliament Square

The English Democrats are hoping for a win on the London Assembly to send a message that "the time for ignoring English interests" is over.

Chairman Robin Tilbrook said, despite the surprise exit of mayoral candidate Matt O'Connor last week, the party was getting good feedback from voters.

The party is standing a full slate of candidates in London and about 50 across the rest of England.

It hopes to take a step towards being a "fully effective" national party.

The party has 23 candidates standing in London, including all the constituency seats but it is the London-wide list, elected by a form of proportional representation, that offers its best shot at winning a seat.

'Awfully sad'

The English Democrats chose a mayoral candidate, Matt O'Connor, only to have him pull out last week - saying he had fallen out with the leadership over campaign funding and tactics.

But Mr Tilbrook said the party had only stood a candidate because it guaranteed a level of media coverage it would not otherwise have achieved.

Obviously getting an English Democrat elected as London Assembly member, would be a great launch pad in terms of campaigning about English issues
Robin Tilbrook

"I think it's awfully sad for us and our candidates and all the effort that's been put into this," said Mr Tilbrook.

"It's also sad, let's face it, for all the people on the postal ballots who may have already voted for him. It's also sad for him because I think he's made a fool of himself really."

Despite that, Mr Tilbrook said the party had received "a lot of positive feedback" during its campaign - which has included canvassing high streets across London, leafleting and a St George's Day demonstration in Parliament Square, complete with "cavalcade" of scores of black cabs.

"The campaign goes on. As far as we are concerned the London campaign was only part of the general effort.

"It's not an end in itself. It's a step in the direction of building the English Democrats into a fully effective national party and giving voice to English national identity issues."

And, while the party's call for an English Parliament may not be, strictly speaking, an issue for the London Assembly - that has not stopped people asking for leaflets.

"The position of London Assembly member is basically either a yes man - which would be the case for the main parties - or it's a campaigning position and obviously getting an English Democrat elected as London Assembly member, would be a great launch pad in terms of campaigning about English issues," said Mr Tilbrook.

For him it has been an opportunity to get the relatively new party's message across.

The English Democrats, established in 2002, aims to field 106 candidates in parliamentary seats in the next general election.

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