A week in, dust begins to settle allowing an early shape of this election campaign to emerge. Main goals, in no particular order, are, get Brexit done, cancel Brexit, keep Corbyn out, get Boris out, get the second referendum.
Tactical voting, pacts and alliances seems to be what it’s all about. Except it shouldn’t be. Blinded by Brexit we are running a risk of overlooking what should be a primary consideration, namely, the person behind each name on the ballot paper. Who they are, what they stand for, and if they are currently in office, how they have been doing so far.
I stopped being surprised at life’s little surprises long time ago, so when I found myself in a ringside seat for the prelude to this campaign in a deeply rural part of the country, I just ran with it.
Traditionally, October half term is the time when we, as a family, explore a part of the UK we have not been before, or revisit the parts we are particularly fond of. It is also the time when I arrive at an annual realisation that there is indeed life outside London. My metropolitan arrogance is taken down a notch as I am reminded that it is possible to have a fulfilled existence without the trappings of urban life.
This year our pumpkin season short break took us to Launceston, North Cornwall. We were visiting our son, Matt, who had been working at North Cornwall Liberal Democrats Headquarters down there for the last few months. It made sense to check on him and bring him warm underwear. Matt told us not to worry about booking a hotel, he had it all under control. I began to worry. As it turned out, I needn’t have, he did well.
I knew we were likely to meet Danny Chambers, the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall, whose campaign Matt had been put in charge of. What I didn’t know was that we would be staying as house guests at his farmhouse.
It might be worth mentioning at this point that I am a lifelong Conservative voter and a no regrets Brexiteer.
Small talk kept us going for a couple of hours, we carefully avoided eye contact with the huge elephant in the corner. It was only after the last crumbs of homemade scones were cleared away that the B word was mentioned.
Danny sounded genuinely incredulous when he asked me my reasons for voting Leave. The conversation ran its usual course, the NHS bus, Turkey membership, refugee quotas, sovereignty, naivety, ignorance, emotional voting, patriotism, you name it. We skipped the fish and the bananas, as these do sound rather silly.
The discussion got as heated as it possibly could in the circumstances. We were all aware of the awkwardness of the situation. Danny was talking to the mother of his most trusted employee, I was talking to somebody who offered us a place to stay for the night. It was wise to cool down, as the only alternative would have been to walk out into cold damp Cornish night and stay there. Not clever.
We steered the conversation away from Brexit and onto a safer territory of local farming matters, and that is when it became really interesting. Danny is North Cornwall born and bred, his parents had a farm nearby, Danny himself is a neighbourhood vet. He knows farming first hand, he knows how hard it is, what dedication it requires, he speaks farmers’ language. He knows farm animals, he treats them, injects them, cleans their hooves and teeth, he delivers their babies. He has been doing it for donkey’s years. He understands how weather affects farming, he speaks about climate change from the position of somebody who has been on the receiving end of it for a while. He is the perfect man to represent North Cornwall’s interests in Westminster.
And yet. He is up against the Conservative MP, Scott Mann, also a local lad, and an ex-postman. So far so head to head. Scott Mann’s parliamentary voting record, is where their paths diverge. I’ll spare you googling time. Scott Mann generally votes against laws to promote equality and human rights, against the right for EU nationals already living in the UK to remain in the UK, despite government’s assurances on the subject, and, what is possibly most significant for somebody from rural part of the country, he consistently votes against measures to prevent climate change.
How on Earth was this man elected, and re-elected as an MP for Cornwall? One word. Brexit.
Make no mistake, I want Brexit, I do, I was hoping for a Halloween one. What I don’t want is for people all over the country to vote for the wrong person for their region based on Brexit and Brexit alone ignoring what is good for them locally.
I never viewed politics at such close range, so that weekend at Danny’s was an eye-opener. I don’t really have a witty closing sentence, I wish I did.
Oh, wait, I do. Vote Danny Chambers for North Cornwall.
Below, Danny tries his best to remain polite in the face of my out of control brexiteering under his roof, whilst my husband looks on and my daughter strives to retain her sanity by building a house of cards.