Thursday, April 07, 2005

Election Fever

The General Election campaign is upon us and from now until Polling Day, this commuter will blog the impact of it all as it affects him, personally. Future historians of social and political trends may find this invaluable material in analysing the nature of British democracy and public life. Or not. Time will tell but until then, here is today's digest.

The election should have been announced on Monday 4th but a long awaited event in Rome took precedence. Several commentators picked up on the relative importance given to the Pope's death and funeral arrangements compared to British domestic politics and the wedding of the heir to to the throne, postponed from Friday to Saturday (and in turn forcing a hasty rearrangement of the timing of the Grand National, which reminds me, I really must get a horse and put my shirt on it one fine day. I don't mean acquire a financial interest in a nag; what I am after is a hot tip straight from the stable, an unfailing winner totally unknown to the betting public returning huge odds. Trouble is, the only horses I have ever heard of are Red Rum, Arkle and Shergar and I understand from my sources that none of them is available to participate in this year's race. Or a race in any year come to that. But I digress).
Yes, the first theme of this election is the subordination of the Protestant Kingdom of Great Britain to the Church of Rome. Poor old Thomas Cromwell. He got his head chopped off anyway by an ungrateful Henry VIII but not before pushing through the most important social and economic changes in England since the Norman Conquest, and now the very Monarchy, of whose supremacy in religous matters he was the architect, is once more in thrall to an organisation that denies the very legitimacy of their coronation (given that Anglican priests are not recognised so the crowning by the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot be seen as authentic from a Catholic perspective).
Now I don't really care about this much, not espousing any variant of Christian belief, but it is amusing the extent to which the most carefully laid plans go astray through chance events. Tony Blair has had 5th May pencilled in as election day for at least a year but his chosen day to kick-off the campaign is ruled off-side (nice sporting metaphor there, hope you're enjoying this at home). And as for the Royal Wedding, the cock-ups deserve far more space than I intend to give them.

So the dissolution of Parliament was announced on Tuesday. Not in Parliament but to the press gathered in Downing Street. That struck me as odd. One might have thought that Parliament was the right place and that for TB to go on to give a speech to the hacks was an abuse of power.

That night I encountered my first campaigners. A noisy group of young men stood outside Baron's Court station with leaflets. One of them chanted "Conservative, Conservative" a few times. I've no idea if he thought that this was more likely to make me vote for them or if he was reminding his colleagues of the party they wish to support. They appeared to be clean, well-dressed and sober but I don't know which policies they sought to bring to my attention.

That night the LibDems dropped a newsletter off at home. Local councillor photographed with a policeman. Local councillor looks sternly at some thing in the street. Local councillor unhappy about development of Ruislip Manor station (now that one does strike a chord with this writer).
On Wednesday the Conservatives dropped in an offering. This tells us that one Nick Hurd is their candidate. Having recently read Douglas Hurd's autobiography, I fancy this must be his son. Ruislip-Northwood has traditionally returned very right wing Tories in what is one of their safest seats. Does he follow his father's more liberal views? Hurd the elder certainly came across in his book as being an essentially decent and well-meaning cove, not saddled with the obsession with ideology that screwed up many of his colleagues and I hope he has passed this on.

Apart from this no signs of any untoward going on. No election posters in any homes or shop windows, no loudspeaker vans, no canvassers at the stations with their brightly coloured button-holes. Perhaps everyone is waiting to see off the Pope and then when Charles has done the right thing by his mistress and a few kilos of prime catfood has clattered past the winning post at Aintree, the serious business can begin.

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