Perspective: The Facts about Politicians and Elections
Byline: Jonathan Walker
Why do politicians feel a need to listen to ordinary people when elections are coming? Surely this is the worst possible time to go on a fact-finding mission. The political parties have already made up their minds.
The manifestos are written and the speeches drafted. It's a bit late to go and ask voters what the policies ought to be.
Yet it happens every time. In the General Election Tony Blair headed for Leamington Spa, where an impartial crowd of Labour supporters urged him to keep up the good work. Yesterday he was on slightly more challenging ground, meeting residents concerned about crime on a Birmingham inner city estate.
Only four could probably be described as ordinary residents, and even these tended to be people with a history of working with the council on local issues, or holding senior posts in the local traders association. Pillars of the community, in other words.
Then you had two council officers, an official from Crime Concern, a local councillor, and Sir Albert, leader of the city council. Oh yes, and a few local bobbies there to put the view of the boys in blue.
Ordinary men on the street were kept firmly where they belonged - on the street, safely outside the community centre where the meeting took place. There was little chance of a crowd turning up as the very fact Mr Blair was visiting the city had been kept a well guarded secret.
The only ordinary folk who arrived to greet him were four silver-haired old ladies and an equal number of elderly men, who presumably lived nearby and had wandered out to see why all these policemen had suddenly turned up. When Mr Blair got out of his car, they greeted him like a Beatle. He seemed to like it. But then he dashed inside the safe environment of the community hall.
The delegation sat down, chairs arranged in a circle. …