It’s like the Marie Celeste out there
I have to admit that I find it absurdly touching, and humbling, to stand canvassing on the doorstep and to be told by the householder that she (it usually is “she” through the day) has already used her postal vote, and voted Conservative. She voted for me! (And for Emma, Rupert, Fiona and George, of course). I have to restrain myself from kissing her on both cheeks, Brussels-style, in sheer gratitude. Suddenly the election is not about remote national opinion polls, but about this lady on this doorstep putting her cross in the Conservative box.
I met a lot like that in Raunds, Northants, yesterday morning when I was out canvassing with Councillors Dudley and Sylvia Hughes. And amazingly in a couple of hours, while I met many intending Conservative voters, and some who wouldn’t say, I met not a single person who intended to vote for any other Party. Not Labour. Not Lib-Dem. Not UKIP or BNP or Green. I have to say that this was exceptional, based on my experience of the last three weeks — but also very encouraging.
I often say that if I had a pound for every East Midlands voter who has ever said to me “In the 1975 referendum we voted for trade and jobs, for a Common Market — we never voted for political union and all this nonsense from Brussels“, then I should be a rich man. And among the first half dozen voters we spoke to in Raunds, no fewer than three said exactly that. The winning proposition for Conservatives in this election is “We want trade and cooperation in Europe, but we don’t want to be governed from Brussels”.
The extraordinary thing about this campaign is the absence of other parties. I’ve been out with Conservative activists for three weeks, canvassing and door-knocking and leafleting on the streets, campaigning in high streets and market places and shopping areas. And in all that time I have seen not one — not one — campaigner for another party. I remember that in 1999 and 2004 we were constantly tripping over other parties with red and yellow rosettes and balloons. Not one this time. Deserted. Like the Marie Celeste.
On Tuesday I did a hustings event at the Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce with (inter alia) Bill Turncoat Dunn (Lib-Dem). Chamber members were complaining of the flood of EU regulation, and the difficulty they had in influencing legislation which damaged small businesses. Bill explained that it was really quite easy — all they had to do was to contact their hard-working MEPs and they would sort it all out. The Chambers had failed to do so. As soon as Bill had finished, I interjected “There you are, chaps, it’s all your fault!”. Of course I expected Bill to back off and try to smooth things over, as any professional politician would. But no. Bill insisted that it was, indeed, all their fault. A few Lib-Dem votes lost there, I should say.
I had the opportunity to explain why Bill was wrong. First of all, with the huge volume of legislation, much of it affecting business, going through the European parliament at any one time, it would be virtually impossible for a Chamber of Commerce to identify every threat to every member-company. Secondly, while we MEPs can and will seek to move amendments when problems are brought to our attention, it is idle to pretend that we can solve each problem that businesses raise. EU legislation is a runaway train, and no one can stop it.