The secret diary of an MP: Tony Blair, non-doms and going to church –all in a week’s work

Our secret MP is now a mere candidate – but even though he could be out of a job soon, there are some things he just won’t do to get votes

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Indy Politics

It may be the election campaign but I have been taking it easy over the Easter break. A little “love bombing” of babies and perhaps the Easter Sunday service, but apart from that it has been a relatively quiet time.

And why not? Some MPs I know make it a point to attend and worship in a different church in their constituency each Sunday and choose the most popular churches at election time. I have often wondered whether they also worship in mosques and synagogues. I choose to eschew such carryings-on. Like colleagues who choose Lent as a time to lose weight by giving up chocolates – hardly a true sacrifice – visiting a church to promote oneself doesn’t seem quite right.

I’ve been enjoying being out of London – which is literally a breath of fresh air. No more grubby cuffs and collars, just the clean air of my constituency enhanced with the occasional whiff of muck spreading.

But not everyone is having such a nice time. A friend of mine is travelling on one of the party leader’s battle busses. He texts me to say there is only one toilet and it is not being regularly refreshed. I gather that by the end of the day, there is a scramble to find seats away from the loo. The party leader is in a separate area somewhere up near the front. But Air Force One, it is not. More like one of the coaches used in an episode of Footballers’ Wives without the Beckham Parfum.

At the national level, the big debate has been the mixed messages from Labour over the nom-dom taxation, with Ed Miliband saying the tax exemption will be knifed by a Labour Government. But wait. A star is born. Daragh Corcoran is world famous, but only in Leeds, as a long-serving BBC reporter on the local radio station. Then the BBC’s Assistant Political Editor, Norman Smith, discovers an interview Mr Corcoran did back in January with Ed Balls, who said the non-dom tax exemption should be tightened up but not abolished as it could end up with the country losing money. Red faces all round. Cameron will be jubilant. “Arise Sir Daragh”.  But the Conservatives won’t be all pleased. Labour succeeded in drowning out a Tory education story.

Back in my constituency, the fine weather has lifted spirits and many are wishing me well as I do my shopping. My newsagent, Mr Chawdhary, is furious about anti-Ukip demonstrations in Grimsby and demands that I do something to stop the “harassment”.

I try and remonstrate with him and ask what he expects me to do about it, but Mr Chawdhary says “You’re the MP”. I start to explain that actually no-one right now is an MP, but the intricacies of our constitution cut no ice with him. The Ukip poster remains in his window.

Tony Blair’s intervention has interested many in my patch. Is it desperation by Labour or a stunning move to shore up the vote? I suppose the question that follows is: whose vote? As one wag put it to me: “An interesting combination: Tony Blair and non-doms all in one week.”

On Thursday, I visited a local transport company whose managing director tells me he will emigrate if Labour forms a government. The drivers and other workers are worried for their jobs, but are not impressed with the attacks on Ed Miliband regarding a possible deal between him and the SNP – though they well understand this might jeopardise the Trident nuclear deterrent. “Why make it so personal?” asks one. “It’s just nasty.”

They are making it personal because the polls remain neck and neck. Like two huge sumo wrestlers with their guts colliding and bouncing off each other to no effect, the match is becoming frustrating. With four weeks to go, both Labour and the Conservatives are sweating. They had hoped to make a breakthrough by now; but if the polls are to be believed, it ain’t happening.

There are two foreseeable chances to come. The latter is the hope that the electorate, currently glazed over by months of campaigning, will focus in the final week.

Closer to that is the publication of the manifestos early next week. Conservatives and Labour candidates are all hoping that theirs will be full of eye-catching ideas which will stand out, capture the public’s imagination, and drive the polling breakthrough. Will we all be disappointed?

My own manifesto will start to be delivered next week by the Royal Mail, through the door of every home in the constituency to coincide with the delivery of postal votes.  I have concentrated on local issues. Will it be greeted with acclamation?  Or will it be consigned immediately to the kitchen-waste bin alongside the flyer from the local pizza kitchen?


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