You may have noticed an eruption of bad analogies of late, as Iceland unleashed a belch of filth over Europe unsurpassed since Bjork’s third album, and Nick Clegg went from Mr ‘Who Hell he?’ to a man more popular than Jesus, even if Jesus was promising every one on Earth a Crunchie Ice Cream and eternal Battenburg. The comment writers had a field day with the simultaneous phenomena, excruciatingly predictable. Yes, while we waited for the wind to change, a wind of change blew across the country. Thats one of the least offensive. If it wasn’t for the glorious fact Chris Moyles was stuck in the US and Status Quo in Russia, I would have blew my…ahhh, no, I can’t do it.
So Tuesday, and I’m off to College House (famous alumni: Richard Beckinsale; my dad) to see how the weird polls would influence the debate. Would Watts be courted by Palmer and Soubry, or attacked? Would Watts revel in his role not as kingmaker, but potential king?
I arrive, and my entrance is announced with great gusto by David Patrick, the Husting’s organizer. ‘Ah Beestonia, welcome, and well done for telling these people that it began at 7pm”. About twenty people are already sitting there, a good half hour before the start, due to my inability to cut and paste the right time. Apologies if that was you. It was cold out anyway, you were best in, safely warm.
I meet my friend Dave B, a staunch Labour voter who should have been in Spain, but instead abandoned his plans when he heard about the event. And nothing to do with the flight ban,oh no. ‘Been swept up in the yellow wave?’ I ask. He snorts ‘It will be a cold day in hell..’ Dave B is not a swing voter.
The format differs from the Evening Post event,with questions being solicited from the floor, with Notingham Uni’s Prof. Stephen Diacon chairing. 150+ Beestonians turned up, a good mix of demographic rather than the usual profusion of grey that tend to dominate these events. This is by no means an ageist observation, its just good to get a seemingly increasingly disinterested youth engaged . The Beeston Express’s Sheila Eden lay down the ground rules, and we were off.
The BNP again were absent, and I later discovered the mystery seventh candidate had withdrew from the race altogether. So the same line-up sat before us, nervously sipping water and adjusting the microphones.
The candidates were asked to give a brief opening statement, and Chris Cobb trotted out the UKIP agenda; David Mitchell (Green) looked slightly less nervous than last time but still far too agreeable to look like a politician; Nick Palmer (incumbent, Labour) flagged up his progressive credentials and his record of integrity;Lib Dem David Watts stressed his local roots and warned against getting carried away on the strength of a few good polls (though his smile seemed to suggest otherwise); and then Anna Soubry (Conservative) did a couple of interesting things…
First, she asked how many people were still undecided. Ten people rose their hands. I mentioned in my last Husting’s report that such events are normally attended by party faithfuls. But I think there is a natural reluctance with the British to state their political preferences in public, its akin to that awful faux pas of letting slip how much you earn, and even expressing an open mind is seen as faintly embarrassing. So I imagine there were more less brazen souls, but still, Anna made a valid point.
She then appealed to these swing voters to see through the myths that they might believe are true about her and her party, and not to be influenced in ‘gossipy, man-in-the-pub websites’ . My companion Dave claims I squeaked with glee at this. That one sentence possibly validated Beestonias existence more than any other. Of course, I might just be experiencing high levels of hubris, but if she wasn’t talking to me, to steal from Travis Bickle, ‘well I don’t see anyone else round here’.
Again, I will only skirt briefly over policy, and not only cos my notes smudged quite badly and resemble a dirty-protester’s prison diary. There were interesting snippets however. The subject of PR over first-past-the-vote was raised, Palmer touting the ‘Alternative Preference’ idea over out-right PR, and threatened to resign the party whip should Labour renege on promises of electoral reform. Soubry bizarrely claimed she was against reform as ‘a referendum would be too expensive’, yet was all for Trident in a further question.
Climate change, pensions, NICE and the decline of a manufacturing base were all raised, and there was little clear ground between the parties. David Mitchell was still pleasantly agreeable, but failed to take the high ground on the issues that he really could claim high moral ground: sadly for the Greens, so much of their agenda has been co-opted by the major parties there undoubted radical agenda gets ignored. Mitchell is a lovely man by all accounts, but his quiet demeanour and his inability to throw out a concise sound-bite means that he is not made of the stuff politicians need to be made of. I hope if he reads this, he’ll recognize thats a compliment.
Chris Cobb was infuriatingly liberal for a UKIP member, and I once again found little disagreeable about him , outside his party allegiance. I really wanted a Kilroy-Silk to shout against, but aside from planting the uneasy image that he was ‘comfortable in bed with Trident’, he could on occasion have been standing for anyone. Please, Chris, next hustings, for my sake, and to stop this blog becoming a love-fest next hustings,please use the F-word judiciously, and blame foreigners for something. Farage slagged off a whole country, show some form please. Ok, just one ‘Its political correctness gone MADDDDDD’?
Watts was not quite triumphant, and aware that such is the bizarre nature of the politics right now polls will be up and down like a whore’s drawers, but still put in a bombastic performance. He is undoubtedly a gifted speaker, and comes pre-armed with facts to fight on both left and right flanks, and does so well. I don’t know how effective he is being in keeping the Lib Dem vote from slipping towards a tactical Labour vote, but he isn’t going down with a fight. Thursday’s TV debate should do him no harm, foreign policy being a strong front for the centre party to rally on, their opposition to Iraq elevating them morally above the support of both Soubry and Palmer’s parties.
Soubry had toned down her hectoring style that was on display at Roundhill, yet still lacked the necessary charisma. Just months ago, I really expected her to take the seat with ease, now shes looking a bit panicky, and unsure where to go next. Nothing policy-wise lit up the room, and one response, on her unequivocal support for Trident, elicited actual hisses from some quarters of the crowd. Can she do it? Like Cameron on a nationwide scale, she is appearing to be a busted flush, peaking too early and now scrabbling to keep what lead they have as initially star-struck voters drift away.
Plus, I’m now officially scared she’ll banish me if she gets in. If I’m living in Clifton come mid-May, I can only blame myself. Hell hath no fury…
Palmer was strong on policy, and able to pick fault in others with a clinical touch, and pleasing self-effacing at times. Campaigning in Chilwell, he realised he had green credentials when a youth asked him ‘Why have you got such a rubbish car?’. His final appeal was the same tact as the last hustings: stating that Soubry is a shoe-in come May 7th should people not realise that this is a two party race.
Im no psephologist, you’ll be shocked to hear, but I recieved an interesting email from Nick Palmer this morning that seems to suggest a Lib Dem victory could be pie-in-the-sky. I’m printing it in full, not through any allegiance, but as it explains things with numbers, those weird things that look like words but are too baffling for a simple child like myself. I am however offering to print a full right of reply from David Watts, as soon as received.I know this issue is forming one of the central themes of the debate, and Mr Watts will not want to let this go unanswered. If Soubry, Cobb and Mitchell also want to weigh in, they also are guaranteed space here. Oh, and if Mick Shore, the invisible BNP candidate fancies getting his tuppence in too, I await the scrawled crayon missive tentatively. Please refrain from wrapping it around a brick next time, I have a perfectly (fireproof) letterbox.
I quote: Hi Matt!Just a quick note re the tactical voting position. The LibDems are saying that they only need a 13% swing to win here, but assuming tha tthe Tory vote doesn’t actually go down the LibDems need a mind-boggling 24% swing – in other words, they need to persuade more than one in two of my voters to switch to them. That ereally isn’t going to happen. By contrast, I don’t need a swing at all – I just need to avoid losing 4.7% of my vote (assuming the Tory vote doesn’t go up).
The most likely way that this will happen is if the LibDems persuade people that it’s a three-horse race and take, say, 6% of my vote – then the result will be Con 37 Lab 36 LibDem 22. We’ve been here before – that sort of result was common before 1997 and it’s the reason the seat was always Tory in the past.
Best regards, Nick.
I know you might all be too busy campaigning to wade into a fight on a man-in-the-pub blog (chance would be a fine thing, Im resigned to park-bench cider drinking until further economical upturn) but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting forum to debate on. Im available via (matt beestonia), or email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Go on, make my Blackberry ping.
A little note…walking back from the debate last night, I strolled by the Hop Pole Inn, and saw Nick Palmer having a post-punch up drink in the front bar. ‘Excellent’ I thought ‘This could make a cracking photo’ and I was just about to turn and hit the bar when I went arse over tit, falling in a heap and doing something evil to my ankle. For no discernible reason, I was sober, laces were tightly secured, the pavement even… but I vowed to abandon any side-line in paparazzi shots, its a cursed business.
Again very nice last night to meet people who read this gubbins,thank you for saying hello, even though my crippling shyness renders me a gabbling wreck.
With the election presently taking up all my brainspace, a limited area at the best of times, I have neglected a few other things that need a mention round Beeston. So, until I get round to writing more thoroughly on them, a little round up
- Theres a very interesting event cracking off on the campus this weekend, which you, yes YOU are invited too: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/Community/OpenDay/CommunityOpenDay.aspx . I’ve been asked to blog live from the event, so shall be doing so from around 11am, Saturday. The campus is a beautiful place this time of year, and there will be some fascinating things to see: if you don’t see an IQ boost of 20 points by the end of the day I shall personally reimburse your admission fee. Entry is free.
- The Crown is the BEST PUB IN THE WORLD-OFFICIAL!! Well, if you consider Britain is the best palace for pubs-and you do, unless under a Section 4; and Notts is the best place for pubs on this tipsy archipelago (a slightly more spurious claim, but I reckon it might be true), then the Crown, Beeston’s Oldest boozer, has been voted the best in the county by CAMRA. Those blokes with gin-blossomed cheeks and furry beards know their stuff, cos its my local. Third was the Vic. Also in Beeston. Beestonia: Booze heaven.
- I am One! Sometime over the weekend this blog hit its first anniversary, I was so busy with the election and discovering the delights of the sublime sitcom Summer Heights High I forgot all about it. I never expected it to last more than a few posts, and definitely didn’t think it would be read by anyone. But, several gallons of wine, three laptops, and weeks of lost sleep later, I now enter my second year.
I’m off to celebrate. Feel free to buy me a pint/call me an ambulance.