Article updated 23.06.22 to clarify information on the Yorkshire Party candidate.
I’ve not been out much in this election. Two weeks of Covid-19 plus a week in the Lake District have rendered me an even more marginal presence than usual. However, it’s six days before polling day as I write this, it’s 33 degrees, I’ve skipped breakfast and I’m leafleting in Wakefield Rural.
This is a mistake. Not politically: as revealed last time, this election seems to have been decided elsewhere. Once Tory MPs decided to take promises of bribes (Bob Seely, Isle of Wight), or fall for Johnson’s “I’m a winner” schtick (reminiscent of Bruno Kirby’s character in Good Morning Vietnam who bathetically declared “deep in my heart, I know I’m funny”), then nothing was going to save the seat for the Tories.
If you want clowns…
However, this didn’t stop their candidate Nadeem Ahmed (who was dumped by his own Conservative group on Wakefield council and would look out of his depth in a ball pool), from adding further to his cavalcade of despair by giving a punch-drunk video interview to the Daily Telegraph. Faced with a straight question about perceptions of a lack of trust in Tories generally, he chose to go down the ‘One Bad Apple’ route, but then illustrated his point by mentioning Harold Shipman.
He couldn’t have got more social media ridicule if he’d missed a penalty for England whilst texting Rebekah Vardy about that Cas player that’s going on Love Island with Michael Owen’s daughter. Never mind the Chattering Classes: to that you can add the Pissing Themselves Classes, the WTF Classes and the How-Low-Can-You-Go Classes.
He looked like a neglected goldfish starved of oxygen as he attempted to assemble his argument with all the dexterity of a Koala given Lego. The poor man’s weekend was then made complete by the PM’s sidestep of a promised pre-election visit to go have a selfie with a proper leader in Kyiv.
“How much for a selfie, Vlodster?”
“Let’s call it a thousand surface-to-air missiles by next Wednesday and I’ll throw in a nice tweet. Shame about the Russian name, though.”
The PM then promised more troops trained than the UK’s managed in the last ten years then went off to have his adenoids out or something.
It’s just possible, one of his SPADs had seen the canvassing returns.
Local man may not be local shock!
Then, on Sunday, the Daily Mirror ran what was, in all honesty, a non-story that Ahmed doesn’t actually live in the constituency. Whilst technically true, anyone in Wakefield would know that this owes more to the arbitrary nature of the Boundary Commission, than to any hypocrisy on Ahmed’s part. Mind you, if you base your entire campaign on “I’m Local, he’s not”, then there’s those that’ll say he made a rod for his own back.
The same applies to me. I recently moved a couple of miles down the road and three miles closer to the city centre and I’m no longer in the constituency either. Whatever I think of the candidates, I now can’t vote for any of them.
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that (local) swing
However, as I stagger round the village I called home until February, with dehydration looking more likely than a CON HOLD, the question of locality came up.
Two blokes round the corner from my sister summed it up:
“That Labour fellas’ not local is he?”
“So what? He lived here ten years and only lives in Huddersfield: What difference does it make?”
“He’s supposed to represent us: How can he do that if he’s not from Wakefield?”
“By being intelligent and listening to people? Anyway, what’s the difference between Wakefield and Huddersfield?”
“He’s supposed to represent us? He can’t do that if he’s not from here.”
I asked him what earthly difference it made but, despite agreeing that evidence of a local culture that produced legions of geniuses was scant, he just kept coming back to “He’s not local, is he?” and so the argument circled.
“I mean, the Yorkshire Party candidate lives in Crigg, so we know him.”
“Do you know him?”
“Well, no, but he lives round here, doesn’t he?”
Turns out, the blokes informed me, the Yorkshire Party candidate is a former Corbyn supporter* who quit Labour because he felt the Yorkshire Party might wield more influence without needing to win, “a bit like the Brexit Party”, I was told.
Electors: can you trust them?
Interestingly, my interlocutor then said, “If he comes to talk to me, I might vote for him”. People always say this. I never believe them. The thing they wanted to talk about was the smell from the nearby pig farm. In truth, having lived a few hundred yards away for 22 years, I can honestly say it never bothered me, but this is what politics is actually about. Stuff that smells.
I did ask, though. The previous labour MP, Mary Creagh, used to take people up on it. They still didn’t vote for her.
And what of the other candidates?
In other news, my certainty that Labour will regain the seat was challenged only slightly by what appeared to be a sudden increase in campaigning by the Avon Party, though I couldn’t find their candidate’s name on the list.
Elsewhere, Akef Akbar, a former Tory councillor and local solicitor whose slick, well-funded campaign as an independent had been making waves, seemed to be wobbling. His volunteers (rumoured to be employees), were clearly starting to flag, not bothering to go up people’s drives to the letterbox and leaving leaflets stuck in fences and on garden paths.
The day after, I missed Sir Keir Starmer’s speech to a crowd of activists at regional office when I went weeding my allotment. I had bumped into him a month ago on Westgate station, but that doesn’t really count. Inevitably, on Monday, I got into a spat on Twitter with someone who claimed the pictures were photoshopped.
If you’re interested, while I was doing that, a pigeon ripped out one of my runner bean plants.
It’s a cut-throat business.
* In fact, the Yorkshire Party candidate is a former Conservative councillor, which just goes to show that people will believe what they want to believe and “what my mate told me at the pub” often carries more weight that the truth. For more information about the Yorkshire Party candidate (as well as the Green Party and Lib Dem candidates) see our other published article.