Sunday, March 13, 2005

Confessions of a doorstep virgin

Look, out here in the Blogosphere we know all about the Tories- they’re the stupid party, right? They’re the ones that should be so much bolder about cutting taxes, privatising health, education and the BBC, and cracking down on the EU and all those other bad guys. They’re the ones blessed with the one true philosophy of life and liberty, so why the hell don’t they exploit it?

Of course we know why- because they’ve been scared witless by the triumph of Third Way niceness, and the risk of being branded I’m Alright Jack NHS trashing nasties.

Drained of conviction, they really didn’t deserve to win in 1997 or 2001. And we don’t really think they deserve to win this one either.

It’s just that…God, can you seriously contemplate another five years of this lot? Another five years sitting here in pyjamas railing against the enveloping chaos, but having absolutely zero power to do anything?

No, I’ve decided I’ve got to do something practical right now. It can’t wait. So for the first time in my life, I’m getting involved in the grubby compromises of the formal political process.

But exactly what to do? Join the Lib Dems, like so many others round the leafy glades of Surrey? Hmm…more tax than even New Labour, sinking further into the dark protracted abyss of the European project? Etc, etc. I don’t think so.

UKIP? Kilroy? Not without some serious drug abuse.

Which is why I’ve bitten the bullet. I’ve been out doorstep canvassing for the…yes, yes, OK, the stupids.

And you know what? It’s riveting. Much more upbeat than I would ever have imagined.

To start with, it’s much more organised than I’d expected, and the widely trailed Voter Vault, provided free by the US Republicans, really seems to do the biz.

The reception on the doorsteps is generally quite warm. Most people are very willing to tell you what they think, and I definitely haven’t been shouted at, spat at, punched, or had attack dogs set on me. I even got a cup of tea.

So what do the real flesh and blood people say?

First, and encouragingly, there is a universal loathing of Tony and the legions of New Labour. I know I was in the Home Counties and being targeted by the Vault, but even people who admitted voting Labour last time can now barely bring themselves to discuss them.

Second, the issue that comes up most often (by far) is not that tax and spend thing I’m so concerned about, not health or education, not even law and order.

It’s immigration.

For a sensitive soul like me, that’s a shock, reinforced when the old hands tell me that immigration was not an issue in any of the last few elections. This is the bitter legacy of New Labour’s incompetence in totally losing control (notwithstanding the contrary result from the packed studio jury on last night’s Channel Four debate).

Other hot issues are school discipline, and law and order. But I’m pleased to find that tax is bubbling under, just outside the top three. Especially the highly visible Council Tax.

All of which chimes very well with the Tory ‘pledge card’ that we handed out. It says:

‘Lower Taxes
More Police
Cleaner Hospitals
School Discipline
Controlled Immigration’

The pledges didn’t do much for me when I first saw them, but there’s no doubt they hit the top four doorstep issues. Someone’s been thinking about all this.

The only bad news for the Tories seems to be poor old M Howard. Why anyone should think Chuck Kennedy would make a better PM is beyond me, but that seems to be the way quite a few people see it. Others just say they ‘have a few questions’ about MH, without always being sure what they are.

My fellow canvassers were circumspect. There’s loyalty to Howard, a man who took the controls when the ship was disappearing into a black hole, and who has at least got them heading in the right general direction again. Even if the speed is only warp factor 0.000001.

Anyway, I’m no longer just sitting alone in my pyjamas.

For good or ill I’ve lost my virginity.

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