This diary is written by a Parliamentary candidate contesting a marginal seat in May.
It’s a dull and grey Monday morning. I switch off the alarm that has been made redundant by my one year old’s capacity to rise before the sun every day. I let her sing away as I check my e-mails before getting out of bed.
Some news alerts have come through. alerting me to the fact that I am in today’s local paper. I’m not entirely sure why, which isn’t a good start. Social media – a new but necessary curse on my life shows some activity, too, and I gingerly open the applications to work through the notifications.
Most are positive, but there is some regular abuse. “Tory Tosser”; “Would you like to give me a blowjob, Tory boy?” I laugh, but it does get tedious. I gave up sharing them with my wife some time ago – she now seems to get genuinely upset. I ignore it as usual, although the one asking for a sexual favour is quite funny, so I screen grab it and send it to my mate, who always seems to appreciate anyone who abuses me. The joys of being a Conservative Candidate in a marginal seat. And I haven’t even got out of bed yet.
I live just outside the constituency – something that causes angst to the local Labour party, but doesn’t affect me or anyone else. However, I am actually a local lad: not born here, but intimately involved in the town for the past decade, so the accusations of being detached seem ironic to all but the local Labour group, who were (except one) dropped into it with no local connections at all. This morning, I am accompanying a council candidate for some canvassing before meeting with the Chief Executive of the local NHS Trust this afternoon, and attending a charity dinner tonight.
I meet the candidate. He is wearing a tracksuit. I presume we are actually running around the houses this morning, but to my disappointment this is his ‘canvassing attire’. I question whether this is really suitable, but he is convinced that the “down with the people” approach will work. I try not to dampen his enthusiasm by suggesting that if we are working together, I would like him to be dressed little more appropriately in future. He tells me he’s being doing this for years. I asked him when he was last elected. Turns out he never has been.
It starts to rain. I ask him if he has his Voter Intention paperwork, so we can complete it. He looks at me as if I’ve just asked him about the theory of relativity. “Nope, haven’t done it for years”. I think about reminding him of his lack of previous success, but this is a council candidate for the Conservatives: without him, no-one else will stand in his ward. My Chairman insists he is better than not entering anybody. I disagree.
In the afternoon I head up to the hospital to see the Chief Executive. He is a lovely guy who is clearly under a lot of pressure. He seems exasperated by the forthcoming general election, as though he must come up with two plans – one for if ‘your lot’ get in, and one for the socialists.
I explain that I see being an MP as a representative role and that that, whilst I am a Conservative, I am not idealistically wedded to 100 per cent of whatever the Party does, and I would see it as my role if elected to represent him and his hospital, removed from political interference. My priority is the people of this town and their healthcare, not my political party. He looks at me oddly, as though I have broken wind. “You realise you are a rare breed, and you won’t last long?” I thank him for his encouragement. He wishes me well.
The evening comes, and I make another quick clothes change into a tuxedo for a charity dinner night. I have been invited by a couple of groups, choose one…and seem inadvertently to alienate the other one. Charity groups don’t get on well, I am told, since they compete. My fatigue means I lose interest in this particular squabble. They wanted me to come because I did some work for them a few weeks ago, got them a week’s coverage in the local paper, opened an event for them and talked them through making their campaign more effective.
It had no political value whatsoever, but they are championing a wonderful cause, and I came into politics precisely to support groups like theirs. I reflect on my day – the door knocking, the meetings and then this. It seems as though I have to endure the earlier parts of my day to get to this part – the real politics, the helping people who need it. It’s 9pm and I must leave early: tomorrow I am on the first train to CCHQ. I get home. The children and the wife are in bed. I missed lunch and remain hungry, but must sleep. I’m tired, and today I didn’t earn a penny. Welcome to the campaign trail.