This diary is written by a Parliamentary candidate contesting a marginal seat in May.
The final two weeks. Frustration pervades.
Some of us have been at this for a while. We’ve hit the streets in the pouring rain; we’ve slipped on the ice with our long-suffering relatives in January – last year. We’ve worked hard to re-invigorate compassionate conservatism in the face on an onslaught from a media machine looking to devour our conscientious efforts to fix this country by focussing on a few tragic but unrepresentative cases.
We have the finest story to tell for generations of Conservative governments. We have somehow taken ourselves from a country that saw more than one run on a high street bank à la Greece, to the fastest growing economy in the G7. Even Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, critic of the UK’s approach to fiscal reform and member of the French dynasty – never huge admirers of the British – has admitted that what the UK has done “has actually worked.”
There would appear to be nothing short of a jobs miracle in the area of our land that I occupy. Unemployment down 50 per cent in one Parliament…has that happened before?
Overlay onto this the state of a very unpopular Nick Clegg. Further overlay a Labour Party headed up by “the most annoying man in politics”, an opposition leader who has almost record low approval ratings. And what do we have? Neck and neck polls.
Polls are an “inexact science” according to one leading pollster, but if they all keep saying the same thing over and over again, they are probably right.
Why aren’t we pulling away?
On the ground we literally could not do any more. One of my canvassers who is absolutely committed to the cause works nights (as a janitor), and comes out in this hot weather during the day for at least three hours before grabbing a bit of sleep and going back on duty. Unsurprisingly he is off today with exhaustion and sunstroke. With this committed support on the ground, an unrivalled record in government, such a weak opposition and an electorate crying out to be led and inspired, we couldn’t, could we?
Hustings are coming thick and fast. I don’t enjoy the games of hustings. I would enjoy them if they were far more honest. Hustings are when you finally get to meet the snivelling creeps who have been online stalking you for months. Twitter, Facebook – what horrific inventions. The keyboard warriors have never had it so good.
Tonight it’s at the local university. I walk in to be immediately met by someone I blocked only two days ago. Awkward. She’s nice enough, but seems to think I have little else to do but engage her in debate online. I meet the other candidates. Many are reserved, not wanting to get caught out talking to the others. I make a point of introducing myself to each one. The mediator comes in and says hello. He’s irritatingly happy.
The event starts. We start with a completely unbiased question about how the Conservatives “deliberately make the system unfair to favour the rich”. I point out that if we look at both sides of that question, the rich are paying more under this Government than they have done ever before, and the poor are paying less in tax than they have ever paid before. It’s clear that we are not going to let facts get in the way of this debate.
UKIP are rife here. Their representative looks as confused by his presence as I am – he is standing in for someone at the last minute. It looks like he has just come from the pub. We have the predictable question about immigration. The UKIP representative springs to life. I am booed when I say that statistically speaking we do not have an immigration problem in this town, and that we need to be careful about demonising those fleeing foreign conflict in light of recent events.
The evening finishes with what I call a top result – nothing said that will make the paper. It’s almost a game of standing up for what you believe in, but not vigorously enough to say something that can be taken out of context and put on the front of the paper the next day. Does anyone enjoy these?
We are getting close now. Yesterday, I made time for lunch with an old supporter who has hit hard times. He is dying, and his wife has just gone into a home to submit to her cancer. He wrote to me, despite his severe muscle wastage. He wrote to say that I had finally inspired him in this town. He said there used to be a huge Conservative community. They weren’t professional politicos, but they just went round having good social occasions, and helping anyone in need. They have filtered away over the years into the Rotary Clubs, the Royal British Legion and others because they felt their community home – the Conservative Party – had asked them to leave. He was enraged when I informed him that being outside of a supported seat, I received nothing from CCHQ, even being called the wrong name in public by the Candidates Department just a fortnight ago. I’m sure I saw a tear form in his eye as he harked back to a day when agents supported all associations – the weaker the more so, because it was in the spirit of the Conservative Party. The idea of getting just enough votes, from just the right people, was alien to him. It was about aspirations, winning the argument positively, about having a go and fighting for a strong stable economy to look after our most vulnerable, of which he was now a member.
I came away rather humbled, but determined as ever to finish this campaign in the manner in which it started. Yes the SNP and Labour are a scary thought. But what would be more frightening is if we couldn’t win this election without using them as stick to make the electorate settle for us as the ‘lesser of two evils’. Our story is that good. Lets tell it better.