The Journal OF Lynton Charles FIDUCIARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY
Monday And this is a totally new one on me. It is one thing to do an election hustings when you're in opposition (which for most of my political life we were), but quite another when you are yourself the government. You become the local representative for everything that's gone wrong with their lives. Grandma spent half an hour on a trolley in Southampton General? This is because the NHS is collapsing and it's your fault. The council has failed to replace the pavement along Laburnum Road and Mr Bloggs has fallen over and dislocated his elbow? Public services are in disarray and it's your negligence that has caused it. Foot-and-mouth? My fault. Last autumn's floods? My fault. The cat's haemorrhoids? Need you ask.
The hall at the Charles Darwin primary school is set with bucket seats for 200 or more, and every seat is taken. There are little gaggles around the doors, mostly of Cheryl's friends in the Socialist Alliance. It isn't surprising they're here, because they live for moments like this when they have a whole audience at their mercy. They are all women, and, I would guess, mostly teachers. Cheryl is among them, and we exchange pleasant smiles as we pass.
The only people wearing our stickers are Harriet and her nephew Damien. Our main effort is up-county, where the majority is only 1,200. The Tories, however, are so disorganised and dim that they've turned out a dozen supporters who really ought to be facing off our canvassers in the marginal. Dolts. In addition, there are five Zimmers, three wheelchairs, any number of walking sticks, a man with a very large parrot, a man who looks exactly like Alfred, Lord Tennyson down to the stiff collar and a belligerent-looking fat old lady in the front row who - I can tell - means trouble.
We take our seats on the dais. The young Tory, the even younger Lib Dem, the infant Green, the grog-blossomed ex-actor who represents the UK Independence Party, a man dressed as an Edwardian duchess in tiara and spangly ballgown, and one of those God-awful, look-at-me grins who is standing as an Independent, Cheryl and me. …