There is still a couple of months to go until the General Election, and more than a month before the campaign even starts. Yet my colleagues are getting restless already.
It was good to see the Green candidate out and about both in Royal Wootton Bassett recently, and in Malmesbury on Saturday before my surgeries. They were handing out green cakes, singing green songs and boldly advocating greenery of all kinds. I gently upbraided the candidate for his letter in the Gazette last week, accusing me of ‘misleading’ Parliament and my constituents over renewable energy targets. We can disagree on the subject - he is very pro-solar and windfarms, I tend towards nuclear as the most sustainable long-term answer. But he must not accuse me of ‘misleading’ people - a crime which would apart from anything else lead to a suspension from the House of Commons.
The Malmesbury Independent was up and down the High Street at the same time – we had an amusing cross-party photograph taken. Some other local people, who he recently accused of being ‘like terrorists’ because of some entries on Facebook were dodging backwards and forwards to avoid him.
The Liberal candidate has been cropping up too - variously posing in a day-glo jacket to highlight his stance on railway bridges, and separately being upbraided by Wiltshire Council for actually having made no representations at all on an issue for which he claimed responsibility- namely a change in Council policy with regard to military housing.
Labour have been doing their bit; the only absence so far being UKIP, who seem to be in the process of changing their candidate. It is all good stuff, and a healthy and welcome part of democracy. Over the next few weeks, doors will be knocked on, leaflets stuffed through letterboxes, hustings meetings pored over, posters erected. It’s all in the long and healthy tradition of political debate in North Wiltshire. And I hope that all of my colleagues and challengers will maintain their current good-humoured focus on issues rather than personalities.
Yet it’s more than a bit of fun. It’s more than stunts and leaflets and process. It’s about who will form the Government, who will run the country and what it will be like. It’s a deadly serious matter. Will it be Ed Miliband and Ed Balls or will it be David Cameron and George Osborne? No other outcome is possible – even if either Party may need the support of others to achieve an overall majority. It’s about the economy and jobs; about long-term care for the elderly, about defence and foreign policy, about health and education. These issues are too important to allow us to ‘have a bit of fun.’ It’s too crucial to waste our votes on ‘sending messages’ or ‘giving them a bit of a cuffing.’ It’s essential that we all vote (especially women who fought so long and hard to get the vote in the first place) and when people around the world today are fighting so desperately to achieve fair democracy in their countries. This election is no laughing matter.