Election Diary 3: Here comes the Storm….
I plunged into Bristol West like a dragonfly doesn’t dive into a Barbadian swimming pool. With circumspection tinged with hope.
From the Green Hub on Chichester Road, transported by a suitably modest and beaten up red car with only 3 operable doors, driven by the charmingly matronly M. She’s the sort of woman one needs to adopt as a dotty favourite aunt. Not quite earth mother, far too intelligent for that. To her house in Clifton, the posh part of town.
The name is the giveaway. Cliff Town. Snootily smiling Georgian houses sit way above the roiling masses, smirking down with pomaded elegance and all the privileges of entitlement, albeit of the somewhat arty and intelligent sort.
And this is where I had come from and what I have so long evaded with regret and secret longing. Admittedly in South Africa the house was not Georgian and not on a clifftop, except metaphorically. Neither was there much arty about my fam, though mother did like to buy expensive paintings and father had a collection of opera records he never listened to. But this is the house I would have had in the neighbourhood I would have lived in, had I been born British. And to different parents. Had I been able to choose them. And the place I would have ended up in by now had things happened. Had I been more proactive, more productive and lets face it, less stoned.
A big ramble of a mansion of the 1730’s atop a view of gorgeous hills and valleys stretching to a ridiculous distance. A comfort- inducing concatenation of lived on and lived in and loved furniture. A grand kitchen with herbs, spices and foodstuffs enough for dozens of family and their family and guests and their guests. Walls steeped in wine, tobacco long ago and laughter. Clutter of the ever so friendly kind, you know, “it might be useful one day soon and if it isn’t, what the hell it looks good”.
If I could I would have kidnapped and deported the family, moved in and placed a submachine gun in the hall pointing to the doors to defend my newly stolen home.
My purpose: to help Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party candidate for Bristol West to get the 4% swing necessary to oust the incumbent, Thangam Debbonaire. Well, hard to forgive her parents for that name as it may be, it’s perfect for the constituency. Vegan food, good coffee, handmade things – a community of intelligent, arty and very rich people in a neighbourhood where almost every neighbour has something interesting to say.
Which was confirmed when, with Chris Chris and Chris (all Greens around here seem to be called Chris, have beards and PhDs, including the women. That’s not true but it makes a moderately annoying but smile-inducing weak joke.) clipboards deployed like shields we went door knocking at a very royal-looking Georgian crescent (probably called Royal Crescent, or is that in Bath). Admittedly on this picnic-inducing day, there were few people to talk to, but those who did talk to us were so interesting, informed, humorous and, of course, arty. My favourites being a pair of women in their thirties, neighbours who obviously were very fond of each-other but politically at the most extreme of odds. I want to write more about them. But I want to publish this blog fast. The election looms like a Vulgarian army, trailing clouds of doom.
And sadly, Molly, considering the number of voters I spoke to both in person on Saturday and on the phone, the doom is for you. So many Green voters have gone to Labour – it’s the Corbyn factor, Ms Debbonaire will sweep in with style in a cloud of Chanel.
So to my other masters. Labour is, of course, my second best Party, with the second best manifesto. And as there is no Green Party candidate in my constituency, I am working my ass off here in Chiswick for Labour. Ruth Cadbury (see my last Diary) had a majority of only 465 over the Tory Mary McCloud in the last election. So it’s critical to get our Ruth (or their Ruth) elected. A Ruthless parliament would result if she isn’t. Apologies for that.
Meanwhile the Tory Liestorm rages about the Corbyn head like bees with rabies and a death wish. My good friend and ex-pupil Gorprit posted this on Facebook – if you have already read it, skip to the end:
“Here are the reasons the media have told you not to vote Labour alongside the facts. I don’t agree with all of JC’s policies and I don’t consider myself left wing. Principled people intrigue me though and that’s why I’ve made the effort to put his together as I know our media have not given him a fair crack of the whip.
Hope it helps and please make the effort and vote (whoever it’s for):
Corbyn is an IRA sympathiser – The truth is he engaged with them to bring about peace. Ask yourself, if you were splitting up a fight would you stand with one side and shout at the other or would you stand in the middle and try to appease both sides? JC stood in the middle – Every parliamentary transcript I’ve read corroborates this.
Corbyn will not handle Brexit well – The truth is that Sir Keir Starmer (an award winning human rights QC barrister) is Labour’s Brexit Secretary. David Davis who has less than 3 years experience (around 20yrs ago) as a diplomat is the Tories Brexit Secretary. The EU have also stated that they will give a Labour government more time to prepare to Brexit – make of that what you will.
Corbyn calls the terrorists Hamas ‘friends’ – The truth is he said this once when trying to facilitate peace negotiations for the Middle East in parliament. He was yet again trying to stand in the middle as a negotiator. He has since said he regrets using those words. I don’t think he should have apologised as per the parliamentary transcripts as this is semantics exploited by our media.
Corbyn is too weak – The truth is he has survived the blairites in his own party trying to oust him (twice). The second time he got an even bigger majority. He was arrested for his protests against apartheid. He has repeatedly fought for worthy causes his entire political life sometimes massively against the grain (His vote against the Iraq war is a classic example). He has been on the right side of these type of arguments throughout his career. His respect for the democratic process of the Labour Party has been sold by the media as weakness. I personally think it shows great leadership in the fact other people’s opinions are taken into account – There’s no ‘I’ in team is there?
Corbyn’s pacifism will put us in danger – The truth is this is probably the side of him that has been most misrepresented by the media (Yes you Laura Kuessenberg). He recently said this “No, I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist, but I would describe an act of violence, an act of war, as absolutely a very last resort.” …Seems a pretty sensible stance to me.
Corbyn’s tax rises will force businesses to leave the U.K. – The truth is even with the rises we will still have the lowest corporation tax in any developed country in the G20 under a Labour government so where will they go? corporation tax for small businesses will increase by a lesser amount (2% over 4yrs) but they’ll have a national investment bank to tap into.
Corbyn’s magic money tree – The truth is the manifesto is fully costed and the radical changes will be paid for predominantly by corporate tax rises and measures to avoid tax by big companies who scandalously pay next to nothing at the moment (Google, Starbucks, most of the Tory donors, Media moguls etc).
Corbyn’s policies will mean ordinary people will pay more – The truth is unless you are earning over £85k a year you will not pay a penny more in tax. The Torys have not ruled out any tax rises.
Corbyn will be soft on immigration – the manifesto is clear that unrestricted immigration from the EU will stop after Brexit. It is as equally as robust a policy as the Torys’ one.
Finally, Labour’s manifesto would not be seen as radical in Norway and Norway has been consistently voted the happiest place to live on earth.”
To my massive relief Corbyn has just announced that the truly awful Diane Abbott has had to step down “for reasons of ill-health”, thus boosting Labour’s chances by several thousand votes. Only this morning I posted on Facebook “If Labour lose it will be for two reasons: Tory lies and Diane Abbott”. To which one Friend replied “and Jeremy Corbyn”, yah. And another “and people voting for other parties”, which latter is factually correct.
Tomorrow, Thursday. The Election. I will try to keep you informed, or, should I be too busy, I will publish an account of my day afterwards. I will be working for Labour out of their Local Office across the road, door knocking, conveying people to the polling booth, blackmailing, begging, bribing. None of the last three.