Meetings come in a few briefly described types: those where the result is stitched up beforehand and the members are a rubber stamp; those of high tension and raised voices with fortunes and careers made or broken on a knife-edge; ones where the members doze while the few who are interested get on with the business; and those like tonight’s where nationally important issues are at stake but everyone is too polite to make a thing of it.
This is a bizarre election: you should never have constituencies still without candidates barely a month from the poll, but this has been a bizarre time for politics for a long time, and several Conservative Associations were having their selections tonight – and some still have not had theirs, and at least one has had a spill already and needs a new man. This is unprecedented. On the Labour side it is worse – they find themselves with a slate of candidates full of those whose advancement came through publishing weird, hatred-laden conspiracy theories, and they cannot be removed or there would be few candidates left. (My, the next Parliament will be fun.) That is where we are though.
Back to tonight and a packed village hall. Three candidates, all of them good, all knowing their political careers are on the line. All have a line in big speeches, which helps I suppose. Only one is local though, and that counts in a parochial part of the county like ours. It does not help that it was all last-minute, our longstanding member having deselected himself. (The number of defenestrations has been an unwonted phenomena.)
We have to ask how far personal favours go. It is for local members of course, and if one candidate was obviously parachuted in at the will of CCHQ, that does not give her a free pass, especially against a local lass.
They were all impressive. I thought we might skip over how they had voted in the Referendum, which would have been damning, but no: out it came and was damning indeed. Next – would they turn renegade like the man they were to replace? All were ready for that question and all had pledges of loyalty of course. (Every man has his price. I do not want to find out what it is.)
No favours; that is what I decided when I went in. Come off it though – politics is all about personal favours and whom you can best assume will give a leg-up when you need it. I have shamelessly schmoozed cabinet ministers (only to find them in turn ejected from their offices, so perhaps I am best avoided). “The best for the nation” often comes down to “if they are all equally good, who is a friend?”
Three on the stand, all with jawdropping achievements in their CVs – I reflected on how empty mine would be were I invited to try my hand. Not a single Protestant among them disappointingly: an unheard of position not so long since. All otherwise had good records and good pitches.
I know who had the best pitch and the best presentation, but only one had voted Leave in the Referendum, and for some in the hall that was the decider, for enough to secure the nomination.
I wonder how often the same game has been played out in village halls up and down the kingdom.