Out here in rural Devon, distant from London, the General Election is being no less hotly contested. As I drive along, I see a succession of roadside posters, urging one to vote for this person or that. Mostly Conservative Party posters. There have also been some for UKIP, one or two for the LibDems, but so far I haven't seen a single one for Labour. Perhaps in this southeastern corner of Devon, with its abiding image of retired colonels and genteel ladies, and glorious bucket-and-spade sandy beaches, Labour see their cause as lost out of hand, and are not seriously trying. Better to campaign in colder, grittier places up north, where everyone is called Grimthorpe or Boothroyd or McHoots or Miliband.
The Conservatives are however leaving nothing to chance. Over in the Sidmouth area they are fielding a candidate with a cracking name: Hugo Swire. Wow! That's a name to conjure with, and no mistake. A name to stick in the mind all the way to the Polling Station.
'Swire', of course, rhymes with 'squire', and will resonate with the County Set. And I must say the handsome Mr Swire takes a jolly good photo. He faces you as you leave Waitrose in Sidmouth, the green hill behind the poster nicely matching the green Conservative oak-tree logo next to his name. His eyes are smouldering, hungry for your vote. He looks like a man of action and distinction, in a blue-suited Darcy/Heathcliff/Rochester/James Bond sort of way. And despite being the right side of forty, and therefore energetic and youthful, he's clearly also a man of presence and gravitas. The very person the PM might select straight away to be a Junior Minister - for the Department of Blood Sports, say. Yes, a perfect choice.
Lest you think I am poking gentle fun at Mr Swire, I assure you that were I a Sidmouth resident I would jostle to see him speak, and pledge my vote. I conjecture that when in the grip of oratory this man can seduce any audience. As for his name, why, it's no better or worse than my own. A right honest West Country sounding name, like Lucy Melford. In fact, with a name like mine, I really don't know why I haven't yet offered myself as a candidate! I suppose the truth is, after my sweeping victory over the local UKIP and LibDem pretenders, the PM wouldn't be able to find a suitable Department for me to head. Health? Education? Defence? How would these use my unique abilities?
Perhaps the Department of Blogging and Caravanning?
A friend mentioned that Hugo Swire has in fact been the local MP for some while. I looked him up on Wikipedia, and sure enough, he has represented his constituents since 2001. A seat in safe hands then. He's actually aged fifty-five.
His pre-election ministerial responsibilities included looking after the affairs of the Falklands, and coincidentally his wife is the daughter of John Nott, the responsible minister during the Falklands War in 1982, whose daily announcements on TV concerning the progress of the conflict were such a feature of the News At Six at the time.