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Britain Decides – Election Fever in the Throbbing Heart of Surrey

December 8, 2019

The British national newspapers are full of reports from various parts of the country on the progress of the 2019 General Election. So I thought I’d add a few breathless words from Surrey, that notorious political hotbed, home of some of Britain’s most ferocious revolutionaries – Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt to name but two.

Sorry to disappoint, but if you live in Runnymede and Weybridge, my constituency, you’d barely notice there was a general election next week.

Posters are hardly to be seen. No canvasser has knocked on our door. We’ve had three leaflets. The first was from UKIP, featuring a rather sardonic-looking candidate who looks as if he’s having a laugh, which is good, because he hasn’t a cat’s chance in hell of being elected.

The other two are from the Conservatives. Why they bother I wouldn’t know, because their candidate hasn’t a cat’s chance in hell of not being elected. But I did read their stuff with interest, largely because Spreadsheet Phil, otherwise known as Philip Hammond, our rather dour former Chancellor of the Exchequer, is standing down after being kicked out of the party for being unreliable on Brexit.

The new candidate is a fresh-faced chap called Dr Ben Spencer. According to his blurb he’s a mental health doctor with the NHS. Why then he’s abandoning the health service for parliament would be worth exploring. Presumably he feels he can achieve more with the mentally ill in Westminster than he can with his hospital patients.

The UKIP candidate, Dr Nicholas Wood, according to Google is a lecturer in chemistry and pharmacology. He also would be useful to his fellow MPs as a source of advice on the most effective anti-depressants for those whose political careers are on a downward spiral, which, under Boris Johnson, would be most of them.

I imagine the other candidates are also called Dr something or other, because my constituency is impressed by titles. We’re in one of the main catchment areas for the Wimbledon tennis championships, and we’re well aware that when we’re entering the ballot, conferring a doctorate, knighthood or peerage upon ourselves greatly enhances our chances of getting tickets.

Dr Ben’s blurb is full of well-meaning local stuff about building flood defences, getting Weybridge and Runnymede moving, and protecting our environment. Well, it’s true that some houses virtually float away every time there’s flooding, but what he doesn’t mention is that the local council, usually Conservative, could be a little less enthusiastic about letting developers build on flood plains. As for getting us moving, it’s hard to see what can be done without knocking down some of the most expensive properties in the country to build bypasses. And the environment? He would say that, wouldn’t he?

In any event, these are matters over which he will have zero control and little influence as a new MP. After all, if Spreadsheet Phil, the nation’s Mr Moneybags for many years, couldn’t drift a few quid our way, it’s hard to see Dr Ben managing to mitigate the gridlock that starts at around 3pm in my town.

The rest of his missive is taken up with the rather insipid messages churned out by Conservative Central Office. 40 new hospitals, as yet unfunded. 20,000 new police officers, to replace the ones that went away during the last ten years under the Conservatives. Billions on this, zillions on that, and bugger austerity. And the key messages from Project Fear Version 2: vote Lib Dem, get Jeremy Corbyn; five years of arguing over Brexit; propped up by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP; another referendum to break up Britain.

All of which is a little rich, and makes big assumptions about the consequences of a hung parliament, the biggest of which is that Brexit will still happen, and the second biggest is that there would be another Scottish referendum, which would negate any moral justification for not holding a second referendum on Brexit.

Dr Nicholas, the UKIP man, is a little more full-frontal. Among other things, he wants to deliver a clean-break Brexit, end mass immigration, “Sack liar politicians”, scrap the BBC licence fee and defend British Values and Free Speech. He also wants to ban non-stun slaughter – of animals presumably – which is a well-aimed jab at Muslims and Jews. Oh, and he wants to replace railway crossings with bridges.

To be fair, he does say a few things with which I agree, such as free tuition for STEM and medical degrees. But the rest is pretty standard Little England UKIP fare.

I’ve had nothing from Labour or the Lib Dems, despite the fact that the latter have a decent representation on the local council. As for posters, or the lack of them, I imagine that the main parties (or at least the Conservatives) have taken the view that their money is better spent running mendacious ads on Facebook, which will be all the more easily viewed when they deliver on their extravagant promises on national broadband provision.

I have no idea why their profiling algorithms saw fit to bless us with their literature. In any case the algorithms were dead wrong. I’ve never voted for either of them and I never will. But still, with or without my support, it’s a racing certainty that Dr Ben will be heading for Westminster, though I do expect the Lib Dems to come a respectable second – this is remainer territory after all. I wish him luck. I hope for his sake that his new career doesn’t turn him into a gibbering idiot.

I searched around to see if there were any hustings in my area – the only one happened three weeks ago, but in the process I accidentally found some profiles of the other candidates. The Lib Dem guy, who’s not a doctor, it seems (though perhaps he’s hiding it), is what he describes as a recovering archaeologist. On his Facebook profile he wears a jaunty hat perfect for excavations in the Shetlands. Definitely my kind of guy.

There’s also someone who used to be a Brexit Party candidate and is now standing as an independent. She apparently is “sick of party politics”. As well she might be, having been dumped by Nigel Farage along with all her colleagues standing against Conservatives.

The other independent lands two telling blows on Dr Ben, our front-runner. First, the good doctor lives in Bromley, all of 30 miles away – a carpetbagger if ever there was one – and second, he voted Remain in 2016. Not that he won’t get elected, but I fear even more for his sanity when thrust into the embrace of swivel-eyed fanatics like Mark Francois in the new Parliament. I hope he takes note of the recent resignation of the delightfully-named Alexandra Hall Hall, the British diplomat in Washington who recently resigned because she’s fed up of having to dole out the bullshit on Brexit that her job requires.

As for me, a sullen dissenter in a safe Conservative constituency, I have to leave it to other voters to deny Johnson his majority, as I fervently hope they do.

Should things go the PM’s way, I comfort myself in the knowledge that the readers of Surrey Live, which features the candidate profiles I found, will be able to console themselves with what the website clearly believes is an allied activity likely to be of interest to followers of politics. Directly under the profiles was rather a steamy picture of a man and a woman in a car, which linked to a feature called Surrey’s 21 most popular dogging hot spots.

Unfortunately we no longer have a dog, so I shall have to continue to entertain myself by stomping around the golf course trying to be polite to the seventysomething Brexiteers who helped get us into the current mess.

Whatever the outcome on December 12, no doubt Surrey will continue to throb, though I doubt if the weather is particularly conducive for skipping off to the polling booths let alone any other form of outdoor pursuit.

From → Politics, UK

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