My third hustings, and Im starting to feel like a professional attendee. I have, as people do in cinemas and buses, my own seat preference. I like to arrive a little earlier, to assess the demographic of the other audience members. I carry at least six pens and two notepads, have a glass of red before setting out and debrief myself at The Crown Inn afterwards. Alas, these idiosyncratic habits are now to be put to bed for five years, as election day looms towards us…
So to Bramcote, driven by my friend Dave, who later acts as my security detail : I subsequently nearly get him divorced. More on both later. First, I enter the church hall, and as I fail to fall to the floor, mouth frothing and speaking in tongues, I can confirm that previous rumours that my dad was a jackal and my mum a Satanic nun are unfounded, and the 666 birthmark under my fringe is just coincidence. The audience file in, the vast majority grey haired and significantly older than the audiences at Roundhill and College House. This is no longer a home crowd for Palmer, and Soubry looks a lot more at ease as she takes her seat. Rob Cleave chairs, and we’re off.
And so it proves, the questions more in the style of the Daily Maill than the previous two debates. When Soubry states her opinion that Ken Clarke was the Messiah of the Exchequer, there are ‘hear hear’ grunts rather than the snorts of hysterical laughter in Beeston.
Next to me are a group of elderly men, who annoyingly ‘hearrrrr hearrr’ EVERTHING Soubry says, or make weird ‘yaaaaarrr’ noises at points, then grunt disapprovingly at everything else. They evidently think this is the House Of Lords, and this is how you should act. They have the appearance of men who spend their days on golf courses and in golf club bars, muttering about political correctness going crazy, standards dropping and how you can’t even call a black person a darkie these days without some do-gooder getting angry. These are the true tories, the nasty, gin-blossomed faces with a disdain of anything they fail to understand or can’t control. For every rolled-up shirt sleeve, green-issue spouting, middle of the road walking tory, there are ten of these antiquated beasts in tow.
The issues are broadly the same as other debates, so I won’t dwell on detail. The differences make it interesting The fate of Bramwell Care Home is discussed with a real passion, Soubry admitting she cant persuade Nottingham City Council’s Thatcherite Ideologue Kay Cutts to drop plans to sell it off, leading Watts to remark ‘Cutts is Labour’s best chance of winning Broxtowe’.
The Brown/Bigot scandal, or as a Tory friend of mine remarked earlier ‘the biggest shit to hit the smallest fan’ is of course raised, and its heartening to hear Soubry say how awful it is to disdainfully accuse your electorate of bigotry. Cheers Anna, I know you would never make an accusation of say, sexism, to a member of the public who dared to disapprove of elements of your campaign? Oh hold on…perhaps she’ll send an apology to Beestonia. My breath is unheld.
A question on the Tobin and Robin Hood taxes are raised, but despite the fact both ideas have been thrown around the media and the political playing-fields of late, and huge campaigns set up to endorse them ( http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/ ), Soubry is not aware and insteads tells the audience member who asked the question to ’email me with the details’. As even the Quakers didn’t get a response when they asked Soubry’s take on relevant policy in a recent email, I felt like telling the fellow to not waste his typing time. Palmer and Watts both expressed support for the Tobin/ Robin Hood tax, Watts going as far to issue a pledge to vote for it if elected, which ever way his whips suggested.
A more light-hearted, last-question-on-Question- Time was asked: What book most inspired and influenced you? This is actually a clever bit of pop-psychology, as the choices reveal the image the respondent wishes to convey. By this totem and the answers given, Palmer would be Barack Obama, Soubry the feminist writer Marilyn French, Mitchell would be Gandhi and Watts, well Watts would be God. Could he wrestle that crown off Clegg?
A real surprise of the night, and a heartening one, was the way David Mitchell came across. I’ve previously noted his nervous, over-mannered style, and while he still looked out of his depth compared to the the bombastic Watts, the careful precision of Palmer and the Thatcher-esque outrage of Soubry, he has blossomed into a more impassioned,coherant candidate. He put across points well, cut back on the verbal tic of saying ‘y’know’, shows passion on the issues the Greens really should be cleaning up on and even gets a few laughs. I think we will be seeing a lot more of him over the years, and I hope so. He also revealed that he was 50. He looks about 35. I have more grey than him, and how come my face looks like a topographical map of the Cairngorms while his could be a L’Oreal ad?
I will miss these little scraps I’ve been attending. Now its all over for the next five years, unless a hung parliament leads to another set of Hustings. I hope so, as I am presently lobbying organisers to make some changes next time; these generally involve a bar, free to correspondants.
I would like to also ask the bloke sitting in front of me, if he should be reading this, why he seemed so intent to read my notes and then thrust his iPhones camera into my face and try and take my picture. As he was also making ‘hear-hear’ noises throughout at anything Soubry said, I do have my suspicions about who it was, but hes quite litigious so I shall keep my accusations to myself for now. Bloody i-Phone too. A Blackberry, yes, but an iPhone? Tsk.
The most accurate ‘Who Should I Vote For?’ website yet: http://whoshouldgetmyvote.co.uk/
I have been asked to also issue a statement for the benefit ofmy friend Dave and his other half, Sharon. He drove me to and from the hustings and somewhere along the way, while rifling through my fetching man-bag, I dropped a tub of Wilko’s Cocoa Body Butter into the footwell of his car. Now, I use this stuff to counter the dryness of my skin over the winter months, but this excuse wouldn’t wash with Sharon who suspected Dave’s frequent disappearances on a Thursday night were less about hustings and more about something far more nefarious. I am happy to make this clear to Sharon, and also any scratch marks on Dave’s back were caused by the uncomfortable seating arrangement in the church hall.
I’ve had an interesting email from self-confessed anorak Ross Bofinger who has provided me with some figures on what he sees as the swings needed to get Watts in power, and they are worth a look. Unfortunately, I’m a Luddite and can’t port the info onto this site without buggering up the formatting, so they will have to wait. If you want to have a look however, email me and I’ll forward them on
Best political moment of the last few days was after a chance meeting with a friend on the Nottingham-London train last night. I was only on for a short hop, but Dan, for that was his name, was on right the way to Berkshire and sent me this following piece of insightful reportage after seeing Ed Miliband in the same carriage:
“He was sitting in economy of all places. I think he walked past to use the bog and it was probably a number 2 as he took his time”