Saturday, 1 May 2010

Amicable coalition anyone?

Anyone concerned about our immediate political future should have been at Marple Methodist church in the Hazel Grove constituency last night. It was a most amiable and courteous occasion with a predominantly elderly audience. All three main parties were present. UKIP were running their own meeting elsewhere, following confusion over invites. Questions were submitted on the night so candidates had to respond spontaneously.
The sitting MP, a very experienced LibDem, is a thoroughly decent chap and is recognised as such by his opponents. He has a nice line in gentle humour and gives credit to his rivals when appropriate. The Labour candidate is very effective and relaxed about his non-chances. He is happy to go ‘off-message’ and detached himself from key Labour decisions. The young Tory is well briefed, articulate and personable but struggles to think on his feet when asked questions outside the usual. He does however parrot vapid nonsense from campaign briefing notes. Having seen many candidates in action over the past few days it is clear the Tory campaign machine brief candidates with bullet-point issue notes. It is striking to hear the same answers in very different locations. The responses to the ‘Hung Parliament’ issue have been identical – and generally not well received. Let us hope the candidates feed the reaction back to their masters.
This was not red-blooded politics. Any cut and thrust was gentle and good-natured. There was consensus on several issues. Candidates acknowledged their rival’s good points and the Tory even applauded (yes, incredible but true) a comment by the LibDem.

Since posting the above earlier today, it has emerged that the Tory candidate is a special advisor to Oliver Letwyn, who is in charge of the Tory policy unit. Funnily enough he never mentioned any of that. The noticeable absence of any personal background in his opening remarks in retrospect appears even more telling.

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