Thoughts after 12 hours on the doorstep
To declare an interest up front – older readers may remember me as Broxtowe’s Labour MP 1997-2010. I’ve taken the week off from work to help Greg Marshall and spent 12 hours on the doorstep over the weekend; I talked to around 400 people, many of whom I know. Rather than just write propaganda, I’d like to try to write some objective thoughts before a personal conclusion.
First, an awful lots of people are very uneasy about the situation. A great many don’t like any of the national leaders and feel the political temperature is far too fevered. Some intend not to vote at all, and “leave it to everyone else sort out”, as one put it. That seems to me a pity, for the usual reason – people died to give you a vote, and if you decide not to bother, you waive the right to complain about whatever happens next.
Second, it’s quite clearly come down to a two-horse race between Darren Henry and Greg Marshall. I’m not someone who readily talks about wasted votes, since every vote should be respected as a statement, but if you vote for Anna Soubry, or Kat Boettge (Green), or the three other minor candidates, you are signalling a preference but opting out of the decision on who should represent you. None of them are in my opinion going to get more than 5%, and most will get less than 1%.
Third, there is really too little focus on the fact that we’re electing a five-year Parliament. We are so used to repeated votes in recent years that it’s being forgotten. Most people who I talk to are not only concerned about Brexit – everything for the NHS to housing to school to the climate crisis needs urgent attention, and the choice you make on Thursday will decide whether they get it.
So some frankly partisan conclusions. In this election, you are explicitly being asked by Boris Johnson to give him a five-year mandate for a manifesto which is emptier than any that I can remember. If you trust Mr Johnson and a Conservative Party quite systematically purged of all its moderates from Ken Clarke to John Major, and are happy to give them a blank cheque, you’ll be comfortable with that. Specifically, Broxtowe will be represented by a Conservative on the hard anti-European right for the first time in living memory.
Greg Marshall is very much the type of MP I tried to be – idealistic, progressive, locally-rooted and open to reasonable argument. Broxtowe’s decision is unlikely to decide the national outcome, but it will help decide whether Parliament has another voice for moderation and compromise. I think that Britain has quite enough extreme voices in Parliament. I hope you will decide to support Greg.