Today, Saturday August 10th, I was out canvassing with Barry Mahoney in Middleton Cheney, Northants, where Barry is standing as UKIP candidate in the September 5th County Council by-election. Overall we received a very encouraging reception. But there’s always the exception that proves the rule.
Approaching one gate, I saw a garden where a couple of people were sitting outside enjoying the morning sun. Close by the gate was a man of about my age, so I greeted him cheerily: “Good Morning! May I have a few words with you?”. Eyeing my UKIP rosette, he replied: “Not if you’re UKIP!”
Despite this unpromising start, I managed to engage him in conversation. Bizarrely, he seemed to appreciate a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak face-to-face with his MEP. And before long he was telling me his views on European questions.
“There’s no information. There’s never anything in the press about Europe”. (This is not entirely true, though it’s a complaint I often hear). “I have no idea what MEPs do”. I explained that I do a monthly electronic newsletter from Strasbourg — not heavy euro-speak, but a colloquial account of things I think may interest constituents. Before I left, he gave me his e-mail and agreed I could add him to the list. (Any reader is welcome to do the same, by the way — just e-mail “Newsletter” to firstname.lastname@example.org).
He thought we’d joined a common market, a free trade area (I wish I had a Pound for every time I hear that proposition from a constituent). He was terrified of the EU metastasising into a political union. He was sick to death of Brussels diktats (his word) over which he felt we had no control.
Then he turned to the economy. It was in a terrible state. Successive governments had allowed mass immigration, so why were we surprised that there were housing shortages and pressures on schools and hospitals?
I listened in amazement to this man who said he didn’t want to talk to UKIP. I told him that he’d written about half of our manifesto; that we thought exactly as he did. I didn’t actually take a membership subscription cheque from him, but I think he will have a very different view of the Party in future.
The very next house I met the householder setting off for the shops. I said “I’m canvassing on behalf of our UKIP candidate Barry Mahoney”, and noticing Barry over the road I added “There he is”. “I’ll be voting for him”, said the constituent. “In fact I think all of us around here will be. We’re sick of the current lot”. I just wish I had a film of the moment. But if I did, everyone would say it was too good to be true, and must be a set-up.