The disaffected voter’s guide to coping with elections

I really, really should not be posting this. What you are about to read is totally utterly irresponsible and, as a one-time party agent and committee room organiser i can only deprecate anyone so much as tempted to treat the following as advice.

Still, if you ARE fed up with the electoral tedium already, below are some hints at how you may decide to exact revenge on the party organisation you least like.

And anyway: what the hell!

On the knocker

Sometimes canvassers arrive. If you are not planning to vote for their party you might:

– send them away
– tell them in no uncertain terms you are not voting for them


1. Invite them in

2. Explain you just want them to discuss some particularly abstract point of policy: site-value rating is a good one. Unless you’re talking to the LibDems.

3. Leave room suddenly with “there’s a document here that explains it all”

4. Rummage for five minutes: fail to find document

5. Apologise profusely: ask if maybe the candidate can come back and explain in person.

6. Add that you are undecided, but a visit from the candidate could swing it for them.

7. Take loads of material, leaflets.

8. Promise to deliver the leaflets locally: bin them!

9. Take posters…later explain you put them up but had to take them down…because threats from neighbours/local BNP/llamas

Never, ever state categorically that you aren’t voting for their party. Unless, that is, you don’t want to see them ever again

On polling day

11. Arrange for a car to take you to the polling station: make sure the car belongs to a party you are NOT going to vote for! Insist you need at least two people to help you in and out

12. For first appointment, be out.

13. Five minutes after car leaves, phone, apologise profusely…request car again.

14. Repeat once/twice according to naivety of local party organisation

15. When car finally links up with you: walk slowly and with a lymnp (its pronounced limp!)

16. Get stuck getting in/out of car.

17. At polling station, feign incontinence, fainting, a n other medical emergency. Insist the party workers stay with you or else!

In extremis,

18. Get into their car and…refuse to get out!

Note of caution

The sooner you tell a canvasser that you hate everything about their party, their dog and their personal hygiene, the sooner they will depart your premises and never darken your door again. Because what canvassers are looking for is certainty: and if they are sure you are NOT going to vote for them, then they will cross you off their list.

Which is why the tactics above waste time: because they know that elections will be won/lost in the ranks of the undecided.

Beware the “engaging canvasser” who actually wants to start a conversation: the one who actually asks you questions about POLICY! Before you know it, you will have expressed an interest in windfarms or tax breaks or immigration, thereby opening the door for more canvassers to return at some later date.

And if canvassers do return, be patient with them.

You may think its a shitty job, and they would be better off spending a bit more time with their family. But, like the selling of PPI compensation, someone has to do it.

Above all, do not emulate the weary voter in the Bermondsey by-election (1983) who, it is told, was so sick of the unending stream of canvassers knocking on his door that he unceremoniously decked the 8th, or possibly 9th individual – one very unlucky member of the Conservative party – to knock inquiring politely after his views on the forthcoming election in a single evening.

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This is not going to be a happy post. Not exactly apocalyptic. But certainly a whiff of end of days about it. Because, if various experts are right, we are well beyond questions of whether climate change is going to impinge seriously on the lives of all of us alive today. No: the question now is not whether, but when.

And there is a growing consensus that when is no longer decades or even many years away, but months and days: as few, in fact, as 662. A shame, perhaps, i did not post this 4 days ago when we’d have had a most satisfying 666 days to go. Continue reading

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Gospel updated: the financial crisis

Popping into church yesterday lunchtime – yes, i know that sounds weird to some folk, but i was at a meeting by Victoria Station and i DO love the lunchtime mass at Westminster Cathedral – i was struck by how relevant the gospel of the day was to current events and how it was to be hoped that a self-proclaimed Christian like Cameron would be taking heed.

The original, for those that care about such things, is lifted from Matthew 18:21-35. Below is my own rather more modern take on the text. Continue reading

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Of speech and space and shouting and platforms

I was truly disturbed this weekend: not so much by the letter about “free speech” as by the response to it and then, in turn, the inevitable response to the response. It set off a train of thoughts and fears, not all entirely connected, not all likely to be entirely popular. Continue reading

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Meet the Greys

I have been writing about 50 Shades – along with almost every other journalist in the UK.

It wasn’t altogether easy. No: not because the film was awful (i wouldn’t quite go that far); but because press passes were in short supply and i ended up watching it, courtesy of Cineworld’s Press Office, at my local cinema.

Mmmm! Eroticism, allegedly, on a damp and overcast Friday at Cineworld Stevenage. I think not.

The results of my viewing can be found over at EyeForFilm, both short version, and my longer more considered take on the film.

Long version short: i did not much like it, but equally, i am unimpressed by the oodles of learned scribbling that this film has given rise to.

It is a slight and inconsequential film which, without the hype afforded it, in many instances by those who hate it, would probably have sunk without trace. Instead, it seems destined to surf to box office success on a tide of infamy.

I don’t like the way the romantic elements are played – but wonder if others who dislike those have actually watched many films lately. Because control, imposition and disrespected boundaries are the very essence of what passes for romance in mainstream film.

I am puzzled by the dislike of portraying a shitty character like Christian Grey on screen: it is very clear from the way in which the narrative plays that his life philosophy is not endorsed – and his amour, Anastasia Steele does not go along with it. In other words, he’s a baddy, who is due either to change or to get his comeuppance.

Yet to read some of the reviews one might imagine the portrayal of baddies is, in itself verboten. So never again are we to see a biopic featuring Hitler or Stalin?

Equally, some reviewers seem to consider that once established, characters are fixed forever more. Are they? Do we really believe that? In which case, perhaps we should all just give up on the politics and go home, because nothing will ever change?

And i am puzzled at the insistence of some reviewers that Grey gets Anastasia to sign a diabolical contract. No, he doesn’t. That is, one way or another, the entire point of the film: sill she, won’t she?

Maybe that saves you having to read the reviews. So i leave you with a small piece of trivia that struck me as odd:

What is it with all these Greys (a squirrel asks):

Mr Grey (Jamie Dornan) is villain of the piece in Fifty Shades. Before him was Edward Grey (James Spader) who took on the dominant role in the last major bdsm film to hit the box office, Secretary. And hands up who remembers psychotic dominant, John Gray (Mickey Rourke) with whom Kim Basinger found herself briefly entangled in the 1986 film of sex and inappropriate eating habits, Nine 1/2 Weeks?

Moral: if you are invited out to lunch by a Mr Grey – however he spells it – tell him you’re already tied up!

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The depths of financial depravity

Were you cross at today’s news that HSBC, the UK’s largest banking group had, for years, assisted UK taxpayers in moving large sums of money offshore into secret Swiss bank accounts?

Or spittingly angry that our tax inspectorate, the HMRC, unlike inspectors in most other western countries, had merely washed its hands of the entire affair, prosecuting just one out of 7,000 individuals in respect of an estimated £135m in avoided tax?

I’ll confess to both. Fleetingly. Continue reading

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ITV wake to a smutty Hangover: but did they mean to?

Did ITV air the wrong version of a film over the New Year weekend leading to almost unprecedented images of an extreme sex act being carried on its terrestrial channels?

At 9.30pm on 3 January, ITV broadcast what it described as a premiere airing for black comedy, The Hangover. According to the Radio Times, this “surprisingly inventive” comedy that “doesn’t rely on cheap, gross-out laughs”, starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, is rated 15.

Viewers who watched all the way through to the end credits may therefore have been surprised to spot a series of images in which a woman performs a very explicit act of oral sex on actor Zach Galifianakis.
Continue reading

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