Andrew Kennedy is the Group Agent & Campaign Director in West Kent. He blogs at www.votingandboating.blogspot.com.
This year, I turned 50 – so I can now officially join the ranks of grumpy old men. Many who know me say I have been a grumpy old man for decades. I would argue back if it wasn’t true.
Ask any grumpy old man what irritates them most, and top of the list will be Christmas gift shopping. In recent weeks, I have been dragged around Bluewater, Whitstable and Canterbury, petulantly spending hard-earned cash on gifts which the recipients probably don’t want or need, and which could have been bought on-line from the comfort of my armchair, and delivered to my door free of charge.
But no. My other half ‘enjoys’ Christmas shopping, so round and round we go, “feeling the quality” of dressing gowns and “seeing what’s available”. Personally, I would buy everyone a Simpsons-in-the-Strand gift voucher with the offer of a cash value “buy-back” if they didn’t want to go. That way, they would end up with cash to buy what they really wanted, and I would get a good rare roast beef lunch. Everyone’s a winner.
What irritates me most about Christmas shopping is not the traipsing around soulless malls with endless jingly music and surly disinterested assistants dressed up as elves. The real problem is being forced into close proximity and prolonged exposure to the selfish “me me me” society. By this, I don’t mean crowds of loud people with sharp elbows. I am referring to thoughtless and self-absorbed behaviour which would not have been seen or tolerated a generation ago, but is now increasingly the norm and appears to be accepted as an unfortunate by-product of modern life. Four examples:
- People at the till gabbling endless tripe on their phone, whilst the poor harassed cashier waits for payment and the queue grows ever longer.
- Those who step off the escalator laden with bulky bags, and believe that this is a good place to stop to discuss where to go next – oblivious to the fact they are blocking the way of everyone else. These are the same people who stand in doorways to send a text message, update Facebook or apply more make-up with complete disregard to the inconvenience they are causing others.
- Passengers who place bulky suitcases on train seats and seem to have no shame or moral compass when they can see there are people all around them, often elderly or disabled, having to stand whilst their luggage takes up an (unpaid-for) seat.
- Drivers who double park on busy roads, since they are just “popping in”, and think that putting on their hazard lights excuses the danger and congestion they are causing to other road users.
These examples, and I could have given many more, are not a result of a failing education system, or income inequality. We cannot even blame Brexit! They are a result of a “me me me” culture, where no-one else matters “provided I get what I want, when I want it”.
Sadly, I can see the same selfish behaviour is starting to invade politics, too.
Many years ago, what we now call “Campaign Support” was called “Mutual Aid”, the idea being that people would help and support each other. By redefining Mutual Aid into Campaign Support we appear to have created a “welfare state”, in which people think they are “entitled” to receive help, with no offer of anything in return.
Very recently, a local County Council candidate sent a prickly email to neighbouring Association Chairmen complaining that he wasn’t getting as much support as he thought he was “entitled to”. I replied by listing the nine local government by-elections we have fought in his area during the last few years, and suggested that the best way to attract help would be to contact all those candidates he had supported when they need it, and ask them to reciprocate. I suspect he will be waiting a long time. “Me, me, me”.
Likewise the branch Chairman who emailed to complain that so few from outside her village were supporting her event. “Why don’t you contact all those branches whose events you have been to this year and ask if they could buy tickets for yours?” No answer came!
Last week in West Kent, we pulled off a magnificent victory. In a council by-election in a ward which had been solidly Labour from 1950 until 2007, and which still contains over 60 per cent social housing, we polled 61 per cent of the vote compared with 21 per cent for Labour and 18 per cent for UKIP.
What was most delicious is the fact that Liberal Democrats and Greens had withdrawn from the election, and backed the Labour candidate in what they called “an anti-Tory progressive alliance”, only to see their combined vote share fall from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. We increased our vote by 17.4 per cent. We achieved this through team work. Volunteers came not just from Tonbridge, but from Tunbridge Wells, Chatham & Aylesford, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Croydon, and many other places where we have previously helped. This great effort enabled us to knock on every door three times, record voting intentions for 70 per cent of the population and deliver seven leaflets. As I have said so often, “winning elections isn’t difficult, it’s just hard work. More leaflets = more votes.
After Christmas, our attention in most of the country will turn to May’s county council elections. These provide a great opportunity, since four years ago (when these elections were last fought) UKIP were on a high and we lost many divisions that we should normally win. If ever there was a time to demonstrate “it’s not about me, it’s about us” then this is it.
It is a vanity for candidates in safe seats to add 500 to their majority at the expense of the marginal candidate fighting for his political life next door. It is an ego trip for candidates in unwinnable seats to demand resources to reduce their opponents majority by 200, when those resources should be employed winning back a seat from UKIP.
And it is simply not acceptable for borough and ddistrict councillors to sit on their hands as “these elections are nothing to do with me”, because every election is a launch pad for the next, and every victory is a building block for future success.
As the May elections approach, our candidates need to decide if they are the double-parked driver unconcerned about the progress of others provided they get what they want, or are they the decent bloke who holds open the door for the heavily burdened person behind, easing their progress at little personal loss. Until then, Happy Christmas from West Kent Campaign headquarters, and thank you for your feedback, comments and suggestions over the past twelve months.