Much as Trails from the Rails is getting more views, likes and general interest than my politics stuff usually does, and it’s nice to have a break from politics by sitting down and writing about peaceful walks around Duirinish, I’ve done this run-down for the last two nationwide elections so will pick up keyboard and go through it again.
Having attended the hustings it appears that for the first time the election material I have procured does actually match up with the number of candidates who think they are standing. So all I have to worry about is that I can’t find my polling card…
Conservative and Unionist Party (Tory)
- Summary: The Tories have supplied two leaflets; the first is an awkwardly-folded bit of recycled paper and the second is a very posh “magazine” that calls itself the “Election Special” edition but which I have never heard of before. Note to parties – this sort of thing works better if the magazine comes round between elections too.
- Key Policy 1: Advocate for the town.
- Key Policy 2: Strong and stable Brexit.
- Transport: Ongoing rail electrification and better roads.
- Proud of: Living locally and producing jobs.
- Quality of election material: Quite blue. Second one rather more impressive than the first. Couple of the pictures could do with being better quality; one looks like it might feature Theresa but might equally be a woman from round the corner. Exceedingly detailed; the magazine is a summary of the manifesto. While liking detail and thinking in politics, and nice to see the party does actually have some policies (they do an excellent impression that they have none at all), a summary pledge card on top of the detailed document might have been an idea.
- Party has leader?: Yes.
- Candidate remarks: Still a friendly chap who seems on top of his brief. Thoughtfully suggested in conversation that he’s in favour of actually privatising the railways. Gives an air that this is the candidate’s election more than the party leader’s, which given he is a better candidate than his party leader is sensible.
- Summary: Like the Tories, the Greens have put up the same candidate as last time. The leaflet promotes its policies through a series of Twitter “hashtags” and is very proud to have been “supported and funded by ordinary people.”
- Key Policy 1: Opposition to the Government’s extreme Brexit.
- Key Policy 2: “An economy for everyone”.
- Transport: Renationalise railways and better buses.
- Proud of: Campaigning to protect the libraries and buses.
- Quality of election material: Small and coloured green, with more enthusiasm than specifics.
- Party has leader?: No, but the Greens aim for localism and the leaflet is small so perhaps no mention expected.
- Candidate remarks: Still a pretty impressive Green candidate.
- Summary: The Labour Party have decided after last time that perhaps seven election communications is overkill. Two communications have appeared this time: one is a nice bit of A4 paper and the other is a newspaper-quality four-page spread.
- Key Policy 1: The NHS.
- Key Policy 2: Better education.
- Transport: Renationalise the railways (benefits of this seem to go without saying, aside from the last trial having come in only marginally below national average traffic growth).
- Proud of: Campaigning to protect the town’s libraries (opening hours and branches have been sacrificed on the alter of social care).
- Quality of election material: Still red. “Widow and orphan” control could have done with another quick rake-through. Candidate looks serious but generally happy.
- Party has leader?: No.
- Candidate remarks: New candidate after the previous one finally got the message (one win and two losses against the same Tory throughout). This one is ex-Army, now much involved in a community. Support for the party that sent her to Iraq (picture on the leaflet to prove it) presumably suggests Labour has moved on or Iraq was a while ago. Talks very fast. Blunt and direct. Unlike some of her door-knockers does actually know why her party supports certain policies, but doesn’t take kindly to being told the experts disagree.
- Summary: This leaflet was procured by going up to the candidate in the street and demanding an election leaflet, which it turned out he didn’t stock. This explained why one hadn’t come through the letterbox anyway. So this leaflet is for the candidate next door, which is inclined to focus on why you shouldn’t vote for the others. What the candidate for my constituency has provided is a questionnaire in which I can tell him what he thinks about the issues that he thinks matter to me.
- Key Policy 1: No damaging Brexit.
- Key Policy 2: The NHS and/ or £26,801,284 on education (see some railway prospectuses vis-a-vis the rather precise education offering).
- Transport: Wot?
- Proud of: Something about a strong local voice.
- Quality of election material: Orange and easy to read, though low on detail. Candidate seems to have only posed for one picture. Not sure if it opens the right way round. Grasp of commas is terrible.
- Party has leader?: No.
- Candidate remarks: Nice chap, but not very memorable. The candidate whose leaflet I’ve got is memorable, mostly for her impassioned call at hustings that we kill all the badgers.
United Kingdom Independence Party
- Summary: This seems to be the first time UKIP have stood in my constituency, or at any rate the first time they have felt it necessary to appeal for my vote. The latter suggests desperation. The leaflet (singular) explains that this is a second EU referendum, which I might find less irritating were there actually a party standing explicitly in favour of Remain.
- Key Policy 1: Reduce immigration
- Key Policy 2: Kill foreign aid
- Transport: Cancel High Speed 2 (not in election literature; had to go to hustings for this snippet).
- Proud of: Um. (Honestly “um”, not remoaner sarcasm. UKIP does not rest on its laurels, which means it never promotes its record.)
- Quality of election material: Purple-themed. Fairly easy to read, but not very upbeat. Candidate looks awkward.
- Party has leader?: No.
- Candidate remarks: Better than the candidate for the same party in the seat next door. Both trying to present themselves as centrists (an approach which is currently doing the Lib-Dems no good at all). Spent the hustings calling for the cancellation of High Speed 2, which obtained a sum total of no reaction at all. Would help if such key policies were more relevant to the constituency than irrigation methods in the Gobi Desert.
One thing we do seem to be fortunate about in this constituency is the candidates are all quite local; one hears about imposed party wonks from London and last time the Lib-Dem had been imported from 50-odd miles away, but this time it seems four of them live in the constituency. (The Labour candidate is the exception, being some rural rustic from ten miles down the road.) This is much to be praised, and suggestive of strong local parties, but means making the point of local candidates being a Good Thing is quite difficult because four of them have to lose.
In fact the whole constituency election is very local, with four of the five candidates standing seemingly wholly in their own right without any mention of party machines or who will be Prime Minister if enough of their fellow party members get elected.
The concept of fairness being hammered at in this election provides an opportunity to refresh (as though they’re newly discovered) some rules of how to tell where on the political spectrum your candidates lie. In order of likely controversiality:
- Left-wingers say fairness is everyone getting the same stuff. Right-wingers say fairness is everyone getting what they’ve worked for. (Variations on how broad the “same stuff” is and what flex is allowed to “worked” based on disability.)
- Libertarians trust you to do the right thing for everyone. Authoritarians trust themselves to decide what’s the right thing for everyone. (There is an awkward brand of authoritarian liberal who trusts themselves to decide on the certain definition of liberality that you are judged against.)
- Left-wingers blame the people above them in the social and economic pile for problems. Right-wingers blame the people below them in the social and economic pile for problems. (The embarrassing bit is that block of centrists who blame themselves for problems, which at least has the benefit of personal responsibility but makes identifying someone to blame for failed leadership very difficult.)
Here is a reminder of the circumstances in which you do not need to vote.
Here is a picture of some election hoardings, seen seven years ago:
Vote early, vote carefully and vote hopefully.
“Trails from the Rails” is going to Altnabreac tomorrow after which, barring a sudden splurge of blogging ideas, see you on the other side.