Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A lucky escape

Well, that was fortunate! It was late morning, and I'd been busy at the computer, filing away my holiday photos. Cup of tea after cup of tea. Eventually, I'd had to go to the loo. While sitting there, my doorbell went. I was disinclined to respond, anyway - it might be a doorstep seller - but as it was, there was no chance of answering before whoever it was got fed up with waiting, and pushed off.

Still, I was of course curious to know who it had been - although there was a Conservative Party leaflet on my doormat, boosting the virtues of the sitting MP, Nick Herbert, which was a strong clue!

Twitching my front net curtains, I couldn't at first see anyone knocking on nearby doors. Then I saw two men in suits. They were ringing the doorbell opposite. The younger one carried a clipboard, and was clearly ticking off addresses. The older one had the air of a man ready to speak persuasively to the householder, and he wore a blue rosette. Aha. Not Nick Herbert in person, but the local party agent and his assistant!

Had they caught me at a slightly earlier or later moment, I imagine I'd be subjected to a doorstep spiel, and told what the Conservatives were pledging to do for a host of special groups that didn't include me, such as young people, families, first-time buyers, and high-earning middle-aged people wanting lower taxes and investment freedoms. And a spiel on what the Conservative approach to immigration and defence and Europe was.

All very interesting, but I'd heard it all already, and wouldn't want to hear it again.

It's possible that they might actually ask me which Big Issue concerned me most. But there wouldn't be time to discuss it, nor anything else, properly. In fact I'd expect them to treat a doorstep conversation as simply a chance to get a gut feeling on the local people's attitude seven days before polling. A research exercise. To find out which issue was being mentioned most, and might therefore become critical in the last few days. So if they got twenty opened front doors that morning, and nineteen householders shivering on the threshold said that the main thing dragging down their lives was the cost of potatoes, then this would be passed up to Conservative Central Office and a Potato Pledge would quickly be formulated and announced by David Cameron.

What would I have said concerned me most?

Well, no complaint here about potatoes! I'd want irritating noise and litter tackled, although neither is a glamorous election issue that would lead to a landslide victory. I would want to see the armed forces properly equipped to defend the country. I would want to see the development of a whole range of food and energy strategies, that exploited our own resources and avoided dependence on unsavoury regimes abroad.

I'd like in fact to see all kinds of little improvements in every area of society. Hmm - perhaps I should have a printed list ready, so that as they press their leaflet into my hand, I press mine into theirs!

There's one question they would make sure to ask: could they count on my vote at next week's General Election? I'd refuse to answer, just as I'd refuse to identify myself to the cordon of party officials standing outside the Polling Station on the day, nor say how I'd just voted. It's a secret ballot. They are not entitled to know, even if I do in fact support them.

And here is the real reason why I don't want to answer that doorbell and talk to a party agent. He is cheating the system. He is trying to find out which way the vote will go, before the proper time. He wants inside information. I don't want to give him any indication of my inner thinking, not by what I say, nor my facial expression, nor by my body language. If I did, I would be surrendering my rights to complete secrecy and absolutely free choice, and subverting the basic pact between government and the governed.

I could of course lie to him, or mislead, but those actions would also mock the electoral system - and undermine my own personal integrity too. I've been making my mind up over the last five years, sifting the evidence, weighing up the personalities, remembering the pledges made and the pledges broken, objectively comparing the achievements and failures of those five years with memories of forty more in the past. No last-minute chat on the doorstep is going to make any difference.


  1. Perhaps they had come to offer you a ride to the polling station in their smart limousine. My grandfather was thus transported once, thanks to gran's membership of the Conservative Party. He was always proud to tell the story that, when he got there, he voted Liberal.

  2. I thought they only did that if you were noticeably infirm. But an airlift by helicopter would be a treat - my front lawn to the village hall. Easily three hundred yards, I'd say!



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