A letter arrives from David Cameron, asking me to vote by post in the European elections. Presumably he means vote by post for the Tory party.
The letter has a postal ballot application form all filled out with my name and address. I just have to sign and return it in the envelope provided. ‘Apply for a postal vote today and help us secure an EU referendum… If I am Prime Minister after the next general election, there will be an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. This is my personal pledge to you…Yours sincerely, David Cameron.’
I stare for a long time at this letter feeling strange, conflicting emotions. The main thing that hits me is this: things are obviously much worse for the Conservatives than I had thought.
The Prime Minister must be desperate if he’s writing to ask me to vote for him. Doesn’t he read the newspapers? The day the letter arrives I have intimated in an opinion piece that he makes up policy as he goes along — riding a husky sled one minute, talking about ‘green crap’ the next.
I feel awful now. Poor Dave. Maybe I should vote for him by way of apology. Or maybe I should vote for him in the way that one gives money to those poor souls on the streets. You suspect that they are only going to use it to buy drink or drugs, but you give them a fiver anyway.
I tend to think that if a person asks you for help and you give it, what they do with your goodwill is their business. Whenever you get hit on by someone who claims they ‘just need a few quid to get into a shelter for the night, mate!’ I say give them what they ask, and don’t worry about their motives. Yes, the shelters are free. They can’t really need money to pay the Sally Army. So what? If they waste your money, that’s on them. You’ve done the right thing.
In the same way, I wonder if I should vote Tory. I’m sure Cameron wouldn’t have asked me to vote Tory if he hadn’t been absolutely desperate. ‘Spare a vote, mate? I just need a few votes to get out of the European Union…’
Maybe it isn’t my business to worry about what he intends to do with my vote once he’s got it. Maybe I should just take him at his word that he is going to use it to offer me an ‘in-out referendum’.
If, for whatever reason, it turns out that he simply used my vote to get back into power — spent it all on drink, metaphorically — then that’s not my fault, is it?
The problem is, as much as I would like to offer him something, to salve my conscience, I just don’t think I can.
Dave says in his letter that I should register for an early postal vote for ‘the peace of mind that you’ll still have your say even if you are away, ill or busy on election day’. But I suspect what he really means is ‘if you are angry, disaffected or tending towards Ukip on election day’.
That is how my parents have been since the coalition told them they are putting a high-speed rail link past their back garden with no compensation. And I ought to stand by them.
It’s terribly shocking to realise that one belongs to a family of Ukip-voting nimbys.After all, you don’t wake up one morning and say ‘I know what I’ll do today, I’ll become a nimby and vote Ukip!’ any more than you wake up and decide to live life on the streets.
No, it happens because of a terrible confluence of circumstances. You wake up one morning and a government under pressure to look like it’s got a transport policy when it has just vetoed a third runway at Heathrow decides to put a £50 billion railway that the country can’t afford through your back garden and because it’s over budget by billions you don’t get a penny of compensation for your home becoming worthless and your only friend is Nigel Farage.
My father is pretty distraught about it. And I am on the edge of my seat most of the time hoping that the fruitcakes and loons don’t do anything too fruitcakey or loony because it will be the final straw for my poor dad.
He won’t support Ukip if it does anything too, well, Ukippy. One false move from Farage and my father will end up an independent, possibly even standing himself as the local Stop HS2/Nukipimby (no Ukip in my back yard) candidate. He could always form an alliance with Kevin Philips Bong of the Slightly Silly Party. This is what we have been driven to.
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