Little did I think that the sight of con trails in a clear sky would lift the spirits, but lo and behold they did, on this first morning since the lifting of the volcanic ash flight ban. Two trails, pale gold against blue, and making an X in the sky, like a cross on a voting paper. As I was seeing them over the head of our candidate in Northampton North, Michael Ellis, I could only interpret this as a good omen for Thursday fortnight.
We had just had a good couple of hours canvassing in the constituency, and I had one exchange on the doorstep which while by no means untypical, was instructive. It went something like this.
Me: So have you decided how to vote this time?
She: Well I was very impressed by that Lib-Dem young man in the TV debate.
Me: Nick Clegg is very impressive on the box – I knew him when we were both MEPs for the East Midlands – but have you looked at Lib-Dem policies? You know they want an amnesty for illegal immigrants?
She: Yes! I only heard that a couple of days ago. It’s a disgrace. We mustn’t do that.
Me: Well we Conservatives have the most robust immigration policy of all the major parties. We’ll cut immigration back to where it used to be before Labour let rip, with a fixed upper limit.
There is no point in attacking Nick Clegg in personal terms. He’s a very personable and agreeable young man, and saying otherwise would be counter-productive. But most voters, dazzled by his TV debate, have no idea about Lib-Dem policies, and when they hear about them, they don’t like them. As I Tweeted recently: “Lib-Dem policies: Soft on immigration; Soft on crime; Soft on the EU. And confused on tax”. That one sound-bite is all you need to spike the guns of the Lib-Dem Juggernaut.
After canvassing, we popped into the Café of a local health charity, staffed by volunteers, for a coffee. The two volunteers, ladies in late middle age, were exactly the sort of engaged, committed middle-class folk that we are appealing to with Cameron’s national volunteering scheme. Indeed they were the archetype of those who should vote Conservative – but could be tempted by a resurgent Clegg, “the nation’s favourite son-in-law”. One of them, rather charmingly, asked “Whether she could ask us a question?”
She: I want to know if we can do anything about immigration from EU countries? What if Turkey joins the EU and all those millions of Turks want to come?
Me: We have a very robust policy on immigration, and we will impose a fixed limit on non-EU immigration – in contrast with the Lib-Dems, who want an amnesty for illegal immigrants. As the law stands now, however, No, we can’t do anything about EU immigration. I should add that for me personally, (not party policy), I should want to opt out from unfettered free movement within the EU, and I would not support Turkish admission to the EU.
She: Thank heaven for that! Besides working here, I also work as a volunteer in an Oxfam shop, and there are lots of people like me who help there or shop there. This (immigration) is the biggest issue for all of them.
The message is clear: we in the Conservative Party have a killer policy – a killer anti-Lib-Dem policy. All we need is the courage of our convictions to get it out of the closet and talk about it. And we have just two weeks in which to do it.