Being a local candidate in a General Election must be rather like being a private soldier in the front line in some old-fashioned war. The very great and good rush around doing press conferences, touring factories, TV leaders’ hustings and all the rest of the paraphernalia which seems to go with modern elections. And I suppose that the very clever people in Conservative Central Office must know what they are doing.
Now Parliament has been dissolved, and the North Wiltshire Campaign is underway, I get a very pleasant feeling of being able to leave all that national stuff to them, and just focus on my own patch - every corner of which I know and love. Its all about posters (very important in my view - let me know if you have a good site in your front garden or elsewhere, and one will be dropped off to you); its about leaflets galore – hand delivered or via Freepost; it’s about knocking on thousands of doors to get a feel for what my constituents are thinking; it’s about visibility, walkabouts, and so much more. Once its underway its all good fun, and if you want to volunteer any kind of help, let me know.
I always take campaigning in North Wiltshire very seriously and fight for every vote. That seems to me to be my job, and my constitutional and democratic duty. So I take every letter and email and doorstep conversation deeply seriously. Yet North Wiltshire has never been at the cutting edge of party politics. I like to think of myself as the MP for all - of whatever party-political persuasion, or none. I have never thought that ‘everything the Conservatives do and say is good’, ‘everything Labour do and say is bad’. Most of politics is much more consensual than that; and I admire the strength of conviction of many Labour and Green politicians, albeit disagreeing with many of their conclusions.
The Lib Dems, by contrast, tend to be a bit lacking in the conviction stakes, and always have a distressing tendency to personalise everything. “Winning Here” has always seemed to me to be a pretty worthless, and nearly always misleading, boast. Their bar charts and bogus polls have recently been exposed in the national press. The reality is that 32,398 people voted Conservative at the last election, or 60.3% of the votes cast, a majority of 22,877 over Lib Dems and Labour who were more or less evenly placed with 17.7% and 17.5% of the vote respectively.
Of the 32,398 who voted for me, I like to think that quite a few voted for me as a hardworking local MP; but I am fully aware that most of them voted to get a Conservative Government. And I hope they will do so again. It will be either that or a hard-left Labour one, and a vote for any other minority party risks letting Mr Corbyn into No 10 by the back door.
I will be keeping up these circular emails at least once a week during the campaign. I recognise that they go to a variety of people who are not Conservatives. They will just have to put up with a bit of party-political stuff over this crucial election, and look forward to a more consensual approach thereafter. After all, if you don’t like it, you can always hit the ‘delete’ button.
With all best wishes for a peaceful and civilised campaign.