These reminiscences are part of a loose series which began with this article
My word, doesn’t time fly? The deep ancestral response of all true Englishmen has broken through my veneer of political sophistication and commitment, or, put another way, I’ve been planting vegetables and been far too busy to write. You can get all the news you need from Debbie’s summary and then get back to the worm in the bud, the fly in the beans and the wilt on the lettuce.
But still we watch the news. The seeds of doubt planted by advisers sneaking off for a quick how’syerfather, the green shoots of distrust that emerge when a senior politician fiddles the figures to prevent his bragging being revealed for what it is, the criminal waste of taxpayers’ money on schemes which have as their sole aim the enrichment of donors and a seat on the board, the reliance on atrociously poor science about disease prognostications and climate change, all these will ensure that eventually there will be a harvest time. Those still in the fight are watching them, ready to pounce, implacable enemies.
Why would anyone want to get involved in a business where every move you make is scrutinised and you can’t even stuff your pockets with taxpayers’ gold without some pecksniff poking around? That’s exactly the enigma.
Nigel Farage stood up in that little town hall in Brandon and spoke to the crowd. Every seat was taken. Every inch of the aisles was crammed with people, they were peering round the doors and looking through the windows. He stuck to the point and spoke the truth. He spoke for people like us, like me, the little people. Here, I thought, is a man I could follow. I found the local UKIP chairman at the back of the hall and paid my subscription there and then. No, I didn’t want to be a politician, I just wanted to help.
Having paid, I felt I’d done my bit. I could deliver a few leaflets, go to a few meetings and clap along, really get involved with politics at a local level. I reckoned it would be a good hobby, a few hours of agreeable time-consuming socialising with like-minded local people who, like me, thought that the government was run by idiots who needed a fundamental kick. But then the local elections appeared and county councillors were wanted. A big push was ordered because we wanted to give every voter the chance to express their feelings. Most of the Suffolk divisions had already been covered, including the one I live in. I volunteered to help – not stand for election of course, just leaflets, meetings, bag-carrying, but there was one particular email calling for a volunteer which kept coming in: no-one wanted to waste time standing in Haverhill, a working town about as far from our little village as possible as you can get and remain in Suffolk. Everything about my background, working life and lifestyle meant that I was the wrong man for the job. Me, village, small horticultural business owner, country boy. Haverhill, industrial town, London overspill, crowded and with an unenviable reputation in the leafier parts of the county. A total mismatch. So I volunteered.
The chairman was keen to put on up a full slate of candidates but even he told me not to be silly. The email kept coming from central office. OK, we agreed, I would be a paper candidate and the over-ambitious twerps who ran the party would then shut up.
The first thing you need is a batch of signatures on your nomination paper. For the usual suspects – Lab, Lib, Con – this is no trouble; they just get the list of their members, knock on a few doors and they’re home for tea. We had just two, a married couple. The day I called she was too ill to sign anything, so I got one signature and some badly-needed words of encouragement from an old soldier (Korean War, proud of his service and the comrades who died) for which I was grateful. I realised that I had agreed to stand in a division where I knew nobody, my party had two members and I had to find a list of people who would sign to help a total stranger from a party that was already being accused by the media of being to the right of the BNP. Choosing Honeysuckle Close – I’d sold a lot of honeysuckles when I was a nurseryman and I thought it might be a lucky omen – I knocked on a door.
“Hello. Sorry to bother you. I’m hoping to stand as the UKIP candidate in the local election. I need some signatures that will let me stand. It doesn’t mean you support me, it means you think that I’ve got a democratic right to stand, that’s all.” Or words to that effect. Do you remember Desmond Morris and his book about The Naked Ape? He would have loved to watch me on the doorstep. Cringe City. God, it was embarrassing.
It took two hours. I’d expected it to take two days. The world has a lot of good, kind, sensible people in it.
The local town chairman had plans for lots of leaflets, for a big push. I delivered a couple of hundred and vouchsafed to him that I had other plans. He looked at me and sighed.
“You’re right, of course. You could bang on every door but you won’t get in. What are you up to?”
“Walking in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I’ll be back for the count.”
Off on holiday with a clear conscience, I’d done my bit, my life was mine again but just before we left the West Suffolk chairman rang me up.
“Look, you know we said that there’s no chance of your being elected? Well we’ve been doing some polling. You might get in. It’s too late to pull out.”
“No problemo, señor. If I got in I’d do the job. Whatever it is.” The man was delusional but best to indulge him. Tapas and Rioja, here I come.
This series continues tomorrow here.