Integrity and Envy

This weekend has been a blur of public hustings meetings, meet and greet in the town and frantic folding and delivering of leaflets. There were times this weekend when I envied the bigger, wealthier parties. Labour have managed, so far, to deliver me three glossy, expensive-looking leaflets. Meanwhile my wife and I are still some way off our target of delivering one piece of printed matter to all of the homes in our two wards. She now has blisters on both feet. Funding between the three parties has always been severely unbalanced and it shows on the ground at times.The last event of the weekend was a public hustings at All Saints’ Church in the centre of town. Again, the three main candidates were there along with the UKIP candidate. The fifth candidate, Independent David Fitton continues to prove elusive. Seeing and hearing more of the people you are opposing is an interesting experience. The Tory, Paul Goodman actually chatted to us for a few minutes in the town on Saturday. He is in many ways very likeable and clearly prepared to respect views other than his own. He talks of the need for cross-party consensus and co-operation after the election and following the loss of maternity and special care baby services from our local hospital, I couldn’t agree more. No local party in Wycombe was in favour of these closures, but the campaign against them descended into party political point-scoring and mud-slinging.

Questioning at the hustings covers sticky subjects like immigration and the war in Iraq. This means that Julia Wassell, a committed pacifist, is called upon to defend why we should return to power a government which launched the most widely-criticised and deeply unpopular military adventure since Suez. Meanwhile, Catholic convert and former Monk Paul Goodman has to defend a party which wants to put those fleeing from terror and oppression in some bleak offshore processing centre until our quota system will allow them sanctuary in our fortunate country.I no longer envy Paul or Julia. Our candidate, James Oates, is not called upon to defend the indefensible. Whatever happens on May 5th, I will have been able to keep something very precious to me. My integrity.

Shifting Tabloids

Why is it that Fleet Street stands on a soapbox and makes authoritative pronouncements on politics for three and a half years and then falls obediently into line at election time?The Mirror, for example, was a fierce opponent of the war, running a daily ‘WMD-ometer’, accompanied by ‘off-message’ political comment on an almost daily basis. Now it is toadying up to Labour like there’d never been anything wrong…And as for the Sun with it’s ‘red smoke’ stunt; well, they’re always on the winning side because they’re allowed to change sides whenever it suits them.With a press like this – it’s a good job the BBC is at least a bastion of editorial independence (no thanks to Alastair Campbell)

Any old tax-cutting bandwagon then

So the Tories’ big story of the day was (surprise surprise) another opportunist tax cut – this time on stamp duty. Now tell me, what’s more important? University education? Care for the elderly? Or 1% off for housebuyers? And they still haven’t explained how they can afford tax cuts anyway. For those who don’t remember the eighties: crumbling schools, long hospital waiting lists and more unemployement was what happened last time. Oh yes, and a sort of smoke and mirrors trick where you cut income tax, and then increase VAT instead as I recall. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in this life – as any economist will tell you.