Monday, May 16, 2005

Post Electoral Depression

Bad week for everybody. We hang on in the constituency. BBM behaving as if the election has not happened. Rushes round visiting people and dealing with their concerns all the while coughing desparately. Seems to have been through buckets of Benylin (non drowsy) Well, that's what it says on the packet, but he seems pretty drowsy to me.

Chuck mountains of unused campaign literature out with the rubbish, and spend a lot of time packing to go home. We don't finally make it until Saturday. Beginning to wonder if BBM has gone troppo because he says now that he never wants to go back to London.

Suggest visit to doctor to get something for cough but am not surprised when he says no. I don't really believe he should go myself. His eyes are still bright and he doesn't have a temperature, so I guess he will improve slowly. He may even improve quickly if something new and exciting happens. Developing a theory that BBM has first recorded case of Post Electoral Depression

Transfer suitcases of clothing and electronic equipent from constituency to home. Go to Tesco to replenish all the boring things we have run out of while we have not been there (puzzle: explain?)

Pack new suitcase of clothes and electronic equipment to take to London and then forced to leave the whole lot behind. We have to walk the mile and a half to the station, the local cab company being too busy on a Sunday afternoon to pick us up within an hour of the train departure time.

Arrive in London sans clothes sans laptop. In addition I have forgotten mobile phone, house keys, swimming goggles.

Will I ever get back in the routine again?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The importance of fish

My sister had never been to Scotland although two of our grandparents were born there. As she is off back to Oz in a week we agreed to a short visit after the election. Well, I agreed, BBM just came along. He seemed pretty tired but it took about three days for a really bad cold to develop. Ghastly cough and a sneeze that would reverberate around the Grand Canyon for hours. Then he burst a blood vessel in his left eye. Red Eye which he as a photographer should appreciate. But he refuses to look when I give him a mirror.

First to Inverness where they seem to have had a General Election of the old fashioned kind. Every lamppost and every tree were voting either Labour or Lib Dem sadly not many Scot Nats. We stayed Saturday night at a gentle countryhouse hotel. I was consoled by a silver framed photo of Alex Salmond and Sean Connery with the proprietor, on a table in the hall.

On Sunday we drove to Oban. A change of constituency to Argyll I think, but still in the land of the Liberal Democrats. Asked at the hotel for best fish restaurant, and after a couple of mini lessons in Gaelic and the pronunciation thereof-set off for "EE Usk" on the waterfront. "EE Usk" is Gaelic for fish (as in EE Usk and chips).

On the glass door of the restaurant we read "Seafish restaurant of the year-2005" It must be at the most eight weeks since BBM and I attended the Seafish Awards dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London where the owners of EE Usk were the winners of the top award.

We all had marvellous mussels followed by various EE Usks with our chips. Haddock, Halibut, Turbot. Wish we had a restaurant like this in the constituency.

Drove to Tarbert Loch Fyne the fishing village our great-grandafther set out from for New Zealand. Our grandfather, a merchant seaman and master mariner went back to visit Tarbert several times when working at sea. Someone sent us a copy of a letter he wrote in 1902 lamenting the fact that now he was married with three children(our father wasn't born for another decade) he doubted if he would ever see Tarbert again. He dreamed about those wonderful fish suppers he had with the family in "the old country". Fish so fresh, straight from the loch. New Zealand fish he wrote, were not nearly so tasty.

Maybe it was our grandmother's cooking.

Our grandmother was a Bute woman, so we went off to Rothesay by three ferries and a few narrow country roads to look at the place where she was born in 1869. Her father was a tailor . She was born in a room above his shop on Victoria terrace looking out to sea.

Suggest to BBM that as a grand daughter of Tarbert and Bute and the wife of a fishing MP, the sea has played a big part in my life. No reaction at all. Just another bout of old man's coughing.

BBM says he has not the strength to go to London for the party meeting and to listen to Blair's Apologia. Think this is a good idea as it will stop him being tempted into the troublemakers team on day one.

Suprise myself that I feel very strongly that unity is what is now required. Blair has said he will go. That should be enough.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Family day out at the Polls

Election day was like a huge family party. They came in their sub- groups from every corner of South London. BBM has eight grandchildren now and their parents had escaped them from school to witness democracy in action. I suppose they reckoned they could spark a lifetime's interest in politics if they started early enough.

I started early. Leapt out of bed at five am and ran about searching for unwashed glasses and crumbed plates at every level. Emptied and refilled all the cleaning machines and pressed all their buttons.

Gave the loos a final scrub with my new disposable toilet duck brushes and hopped across the bridge for the morning papers. The paper shop is a very unlikely place for a provincial town. Half a dozen job sharing metro style gays- openly very right wing, prepared to tickle BBM gently but not enough to lose my patronage. Didn't exactly wish us well but said it should be an exciting day.

Long shower, careful application of makeup lite suitable for polling station appearance with BBM at 9am.

BBM appears and we eat breakfast pretty much in silence. We leave all the chat to John Humphries these days.

Town are warm hearted to us. Several people I don't know have come to the front door to wish us well. Not hard to find. We are right by the bus stop and there's a huge poster hanging from our balcony. It's the only Labour poster in town.

Others throw cheery comments as we pass by. "You'll be alright lad." "It'll all be over tomorrow" and "I've already voted for you three times!"

Of course the local paper does not turn up for the photo op at the polling booth. Why would they? They have been through this with us eight times before.

Agent M has instructed BBM and the Candidates Friend that they are to spend the morning in Starbucks in the shopping centre. This is not such a daft idea because it is an open Starbucks bang in the centre of the walkways with MandS on one side and Boots and WHSmith on the other. Do not really believe that BBM will sit in a Starbucks. Never seen him do it before but I think he is now on auto pilot and doing what he is told. He whispers to me that he hasn't got any money so can I come to pay for the coffee. He hasn't got a hole in the wall card and can't remember a pin number but doesn't seem to have any trouble ordering a vente caramel macchiato.

Loads of people stop to chat to him so I guess this expedition was a success. He keeps the change from my twenty quid the bugger.

First South London contingent arrives and BBM grabs two of the lads for a loudspeakering trip round town. One drives, one sits in the back blowing up Vote Labour balloons and chucking them out the windows. BBM shouts "Today is polling day. Vote Labour" until he can hardly speak at all.

By lunch time there seem to be 11 or so. We head for the fish and chip shop. Everyone has haddock and chips except the small children who are fed from their parents portions. I go off to pay and the bill is seventy five quid. Have fish and chips rocketed in price ? Is dandelion and burdock a fiver a bottle, or did they think I would buy lunch for everyone in the place because it's election day? I guess it will be a mystery for ever. They've got me. How could I question the bill today. Son in law offers a tenner presumably thinking it will pay for his family's meal. I use it for the tip.

Go to Sainsbury's with my daughter. We buy some champagne and a cake for later and run slap bang into the Tory chairman and wife doing their weekly shop. The woman on the checkout listens to our conversation and says "Well, he should be alright shouldn't he? But you can always bring it back if the worst happens!"

Filled in the time till close of poll driving canvassing teams of family enthusiasts out to understaffed committee rooms. They all seem amazed that BBM has so many children.

My sister arrives from Oz via Kings Cross and we go out to the local Greek restaurant for a huge family meal babies and all. We have only been there two minutes when the Tory candidate and his team turn up. I listen to the exit poll on my walkman and tell the Tories the good news for them that the predicted Labour majority is 66. I begin to feel gloomy because I sort of sense that it's all over and the result isn't really going to make anyone happy.

BBM's turn out is low. Just over fifty percent. I always knew his majority would be reduced but cannot understand why the whole family on the balcony look incredibly gloomy. Go upstairs and find that they are watchin the wrong count in the other part of the hall, and think that BBM is going to lose! Explain where to look and everyone cheers up.

It all ended about 2am. It's still a safe Labour seat, but the election sysytem seems nonsensical. A change to proportional representation should be the first bill of the new parliament.

Of course I am exhausted when I go to bed at four thirty but also depressed and miserable . Somehow it ended up being the gloomiest election yet for me and I don't know why.

We are off to Scotland with my sister for a few days. She's never been there and two of our granparents were born there. Mention to our party chairman how keen I am on the SNP and how I would vote for them if only they had a candidate here. She looks amazed and points out weakly that my husband is the MP for our constituency. I would still like to vote SNP if I could! My heart's in the highlands.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

To London and beyond

A programme I had never heard of- the Desk BBC4 -asked me to take part in a discussion in London. I didn't gather too many details, but I was to discuss something to do with MPs wifery with Michael Cockrell so I siezed the opportunity for a twenty four hour escape.

Arrived in London late on the night of the bank holiday. My sister from Oz was staying in our flat and had been there a while. It didn't feel like our flat at all. I had removed most of our lying about stuff before the election started (a golden opportunity) and she had replaced it with all the paraphenalia of a woman alone. Half empty wine bottles, pink razors.

Got up early to visit my London pool. Lovely. No one else there. London looks quiet, or my bit of it does. At five forty five am the battle of Victoria Street was getting underway. Tory HQ and Labour HQ both had police guards and early young suits with damp hair were chatting outside.

The Desk happens at Channel 4. Wasn't my kind of thing. They were all style gurus. Had a mild disagreement in the greenroom with Michael re the importance of Iraq and "lying" He was very involved in the detail, and the terrible effects on Blair. I suggested that his view was metropolitan eletism and these things didn't play too much in the constituency. Quoted poll Iraq only 11th on issues running order. This annoyed the producer who thought I was accusing her show of metropolitan eletism. I was. She pointed out brusquely that she lived in Cheshire! (ME's only northern outpost!)

Found myself during the programme supporting Blair vociferously. Well that's a first. Maybe 4 weeks in the constituency have addled my brain, but feel that "everyone I know is voting Lib Dem" is a London phenomenon exaggerated by journalists who are the real swingers.

Watched Channel 4 news last night. Blair seemed to me very patient as Jon Snow pressed him again and again about Iraq and the detail. This endless picking at Labour's damaged bits works in Blair's favour as far as I am concerned. I just get more sympathetic.

BUT I don't want another big majority. Blair is at his worst when he escapes from the people and the parliament and he won't be able to do that if he's down to sixty or so. Suspect that's what everybody wants and the real problem is how to deliver such a precise punishment in a first past the post system.

Intense pleasure from The House Magazine. Sir Patrick Cormack's campaign diary describing his rural idyll in South Staffordshire - nodding daffs, leaping lambs, verdant pastures, made even more poignant because in his constituency the election has beeen cancelled. Owing to the death of a candidate they have to wait twenty eight days and have a By- election. Even BBM (who is very nervous and jumpy and not really with us any more) smiled at the prospect of Patrick locked out of his office and unable to perform his duties as the Parliamentary Malvolio.

Just as the light was fading and BBM and I were working away in the downstairs office, there was a click and a sort of whine and the power failed. I was just about to email BBM's views on school closures to a journalist on the local paper when everything switched off. Went out to the front gate to peer into the dusk and was met by the extrodinary sight of young men appearing in pain at every front door. Power seems to be out for several blocks and right in the middle of Chelsea versus Liverpool. After ten minutes of agitation and misery most male residents (BBM excluded of course) set out to find the nearest pub where the power is on. I find a box of Sainsbury's night lights and hand them out in lit saucersful to young women from the flats next door. Bloody girl guide says BBM. Power comes on just before the Desk is due to begin on BBC4. Don't watch. Suspect I may have been the victim of a judicial revue of the contents.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Mayday mayday

Went for a swim. Although the constituency pool is only fifteen meters long (it makes you dizzy counting the lengths) it’s very pretty. Turquoise tiles, statues, some greenery. Like most private pools which are part of a gym, its underused and I can often get it all to myself . And so it was on the morning of Mayday.

The rest of the club is grim. Dingy cold changing rooms and dribbly showers . A wonky boiler. The showers are often freezing. But a hundred lengths made me feel good and I went home singing.

BBM and His Excellency waiting hopefully.Lurking might be a better word. I speed to the kitchen, ask whether scrambled eggs will fill the bill and watch their faces warm. Crack 8 eggs, melt butter in pan, use the other hand to throw on some toast (Burgen – it’s terrific. Bet Paula Radcliffe eats it) Eggs turn out creamy and delicious. Pass out two platefuls to the grateful, and then discover I have left myself approximately twice as much as I doled out to BBM and HE. Bugger it! I think, just this once. After all I am the one who has swum a hundred lengths. By the time I sit down they have almost finished their portions and they fix on my plate in amazement. Four resentful eyes watch every mouthful.

We set out for Lincoln. HE in the front with me. BBM in the back calling out every speed sign we pass like a scrutineer . “40. 50 60, 40 40 FORTY!!”
“Watch it there’s a speed camera on the left.”
HE falls asleep.
When we get within 5 miles of the cathedral BBM starts looking for a parking spot. Manage to hold on until we are within a few swimming pool lengths. HE stirs and pronounces Lincoln the world’s best cathedral (I think he is in diplomacy training). Then he starts looking for lunch. A pie shop is the choice. It turns out to be a good one with local delicacies. BBM asks me what Haslet is and I describe a sort of local pate. They both have that. BBM goes for sausages and mash and HE for the steak and porter pie to follow. Mindful of my double breakfast sin I order a salad and no starter.

On our way home both men are soundly asleep. The day is only half over. BBM has an evening appearance at a local church hall. All candidates will speak for four minutes and then answer questions from the floor.

Well the Green was green, the BNP a cheeky chappy, the UKIP a rosy faced bundle of righteous indignation.

The real politicians weren’t much better. The Lib Dem grumbled on about BBM. Tory Boy who is incredibly good looking and has a glorious girl wife in black suede booties and a Pucci pinafore turns out to be so laid back that he wouldn’t know a political point or how to kill with it. Whew! If the Tories ever thought to hire me I could deliver some knockout punches to BBM.

BBM well, he’s a disappointment too. Nervous like it’s 1977. Hoarse voiced and diffident.

“Darling, they simply loved you.” I know my duty.

The vicar came up to me afterwards. “You have no need to worry! BBM was a slow starter, but by the end I realised he simply had to win again!”

Well, thanks vicar. Really.

We move into the last three days with guns a smokin’ gently.

I am now quietly terrified about what might happen on Thursday.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Payback time begins Friday

Lost the plot a bit over the last couple of days. We had developed quite a routine BBM and I. Him walking the streets from dawn to dusk pushing paper through front doors. Me multiskilling away on the domestic front, joining the afternoon canvass rounds and the evening speculation about what Labour's majority might be come Friday morning.

On Saturday morning one of our oldest political mates arrived from London for the weekend. He's just become Ambassador for his country here, and has had some pretty bad teasing from all of us about his new elevated position. Yes your excellency, no your excellency. Would you like some butter on the royal slice of bread?

I invited the three Labour MPs (well OK candidates then) from our patch plus their partners to dinner on Saturday night to meet His Excellency. Ms Nextdoor constituency turned me down. She's quite marginal, and frankly quite terrified that she's going to be the loser come Friday. Looking at the polls it seems unlikely, but she says she is spening every minute of every hour cajoling her voters.

Still seven for dinner is quite daunting and the day disappeared under a wave of food preparation. Crushing fennel seeds, scrubbing spuds, chopping garlic. BBM spent most of his day in supermarket car parks handing out leaflets. Of course it never occured to him to cross the threshold to the place where they actually sell the food. Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury: to him they are just places where voters hang out rather than the front line where the domestic economy meets the nation's.

Delighted to discover that the other MPs wives at the dinner were having feelings identical to mine. All three husbands seemed to have been given a month off chores to try to get their jobs back. A month where unreasonable demands on us wives had been met with weary smiles of resignation. A month where we'd all worn lipstick and combed our hair just to pop out to the Post Office. Where we'd ironed shirts, polished shoes for weary feet and put glasses of red wine into tired hands. Most of all a month where rows just hadn't happened. Lips had been bitten, angry words swallowed. Great injustices suffered in total silence. A month where praise for last night's speech "They loved you darling they really did" was the only item on the domestic agenda.

With a bit of luck this will all end abruptly sometime early on Friday morning. Our fairy godmothers dressed at Returning Officers will wave their magic wands declare the right result and payback time will begin.

The three candidates looked deeply gloomy as we wives warned of their future prospects.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Swimming to insanity

Weekly visit home to collect the post. Utterly depressing news. The flood was caused by squirrels who seem to have taken up occupation in loft and chewed their way through the overflow pipe. BBM thinks they may be going further and sitting in his chair, reading with his special lamp, and enjoying themselves watching the telly in our absence.

Both cloakroom ceilings are down. Flaking plaster everywhere.

Go for a swim in my home pool for old times sake and wish I hadn't. A couple of old women are caling (is that how you spell it? Yorks for chatting) in the fast lane designed for swimming. Ask them very politely to move over the other side of the rope. It is the biggest mistake I have made for months. I am heaped with abuse. "Do you realise you take up twice as much space as me? Do you? Do you? said the chief bully. "Well, yes" I said honestly enough but it didn't work. She told me her mate was dying of cancer perhaps, and how dare I etc. The abuse went on and on ending with a shouted threat that she would pee in the pool if I didn't p off and leave her alone.

To my humiliation I was shivering and felt sick Jesus I really have turned into an old lady. Considered biffing her one really hard but realised she would respond in kind, so like all good middle class ladies I slunk off to get the attendant. Gasps of horror when I arrived in reception in my swimsuit hat and goggles.

Attendant arrives poolside to say that she can't possibly intervene. She's no doubt been on some human relations course while doing her sports management degree, and its rule one - encourage participants in rows to see that there are two sides to every story.

Suggest to her that I only want her to enforce the rules but she ignores me and other participant starts shouting that I assaulted her mate. That I am an attention seeker (well, yes, but not in the pool love)

I swim off. Attendant leaves and Other Participant hires in a huge bald male maybe eighteen stone and encourages him to try his butterfly in my lane. I leave utterly defeated. It takes me the 100 miles back to the constituency to calm down. Speed because BBM will want his lunch. Make it at the same time as him to find that he got fish and chips at the Old Peopl'es home he was visiting. Hope he dies of raised chlorestrol levels.

Freeze all afternoon finishing my survey
200 voters in the two electorates were interviewed in the street on 26.27.28 April. Only positive responses were counted. All"don't knows" "not voting" and people who appeared not to understand the question were excluded.Overall the results were as follows.59% of respondents thought their votes would not make a difference. 44% thought they would.

Constituency A is fairly marginal. B is regarded as a safe Labour seat.In A 44% thought their votes would make a difference, 56% thought their votes would not make a differenceIn B 38% thought their votes would make a difference . 62% thought they would not.

Depressing isn't it. The sooner we get PR the better.

Sleep through Charles Kennedy on Questiontime. Wake up for Michael Howard and decide he is so nasty I have to go away and read a novel. Sad really. I thought he was a lovely bloke when we went to the States with him. Can Australians really transform someone from good to evil in just a few weeks? MaybeI should get an Australian personal trainer to improve life in the swimming pool.

Trotted round to Radio Homicide (local station) to be interviewed by John Humphreys re candidates clothes. Good. We both laughed on a rather serious morning when serious accusations re Blair and the war were the story of the day.

Off now to the market to buy armfuls of flowers to cheer the last weekend. Guests to stay, guests to dinner. Dinner to cook.Sister's partner is faxing posh fish recipe from OZ (nothing violent though)