NEIL COUPE: At least Christmas is around the corner

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Wokingham Christmas
Wokingham's Christmas tree in 2019

We had the good fortune to be out of the country for a couple of weeks last month, thus escaping the thoroughly disheartening election campaign. 

There was the occasional reminder of home when locals we had got to know, brought up in their own country at the time of a brutal military dictatorship in the 1970’s and 1980‘s, and now suffering the impact of high inflation and a collapsing currency, would look me in the eye, and say sympathetically ‘what IS going on in your country?’ 

‘Oh, don’t worry, we’re just a bit different from the other European countries’ was the best answer I could think of before moving on to less challenging conversations.

Among the pile of post awaiting us on our return was a total of seven different Lib Dem leaflets, some delivered by hand and some by Royal Mail.

The following week we received Lib Dem correspondence on a seemingly daily basis, compared with a solitary Labour leaflet and nothing whatsoever from the Conservatives. 

Remarkably, for the first time ever, we even had a knock at the door from a canvasser (no need to ask from which party).

In some ways the Lib Dem enthusiasm is to be admired, but for a party supposedly so committed to the environment I shudder to think how much unnecessary paper has been generated in unleashing all its literature on our constituency.  I also have to question some of the messages. No matter how often they are repeated, they do not improve.

Firstly no matter what one’s opinion on the subject is, can a prospective new Government really just ignore the Brexit vote and pretend it never happened, a la Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower?

Surely anybody spending more than 60 seconds sense-checking that proposition would realise how arrogant and undemocratic that sounds? That is before even starting to speculate on the possible unintended consequences.

Secondly who thought it was a good idea to promote a cult of personality – why ‘Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems’ instead of ‘The Lib Dems’? 

In 2017, we had a party known as ‘Theresa May’s Conservatives’,  and look where that got us.  This is even worse, in that Ms Swinson is a relatively unknown quantity, and appears to become less and less appealing the more people see of her. 

In fairness, at least some of the more recently deluge of leaflets do actually show Dr Lee reassuringly posing in his medical attire and there is rather less mention of the leader.

On the opposite extreme we have had absolutely nothing at all from the Conservatives.  There was last week’s article from Sir John ‘Approachable’ Redwood which made out a reasonable and measured case, but it does seem odd that there has literally been nothing from the local party. 

Maybe the seat is so rock-solid blue that no-one really needs to lift a finger and the party can concentrate on other seats, bemused at why the Lib Dems are spending so much energy here.    

In fairness, on the one occasion I dealt with Sir John’s office, my enquiry was dealt with swiftly and professionally, but from a distance it feels like the party of Jacob Rees-Mogg in his notorious photograph, lounging languidly on a comfortable chaise-longue, totally above the fray.  

Maybe what happens locally is less important than we sometimes think.

The conventional wisdom is that at general election time, the most decisive factor is the appeal of the party leaders. 

This is a time, when we have one party leader whose detractors could reasonably regard him as dishonest (and whose party have hidden him from any serious scrutiny) and another whose detractors could reasonably regard him as dangerous.

A perfect example of which one to vote against, not vote for.

At least once it’s over we have Christmas to look forward to.

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