Chris Bryant: The naked and the dead – just a couple of the things you meet while canvassing

A Political Life

Share

Canvassing is one of the strangest things in the world. We knock on strangers' doors, or ring them on the phone and ask them whether and how they vote. We note it down, put it into the computer and on polling day we go round and remind our "promises" to vote.

Some voters are phenomenally rude. Ruder than you can possibly imagine. Ruder than they would ever expect anyone else to be to them. Ruder even than the Twittersphere, which often feels like listening to someone's innards as they digest a particularly aggressive prawn jalfrezi. Many cheekily whisper in your ear that they will be voting Labour as if they're engaging in a major insurrection. You get some laughs. For some reason, I regularly get men answering the door stark naked. Indeed, once in High Wycombe, the well-toned young man even invited me in. I didn't know where to look. And I had two people tell me this week point blank that they could not vote Labour because we were running the country so badly. Could I persuade them that David Cameron is a Tory, not a Labour prime minister? Not a bit of it. If anything, they seemed all the more convinced that politicians just lie. Meanwhile, my mind goes back to the Kincardine and Deeside by-election in November 1991, when I was on permanent telephone canvassing duty as it was raining in horizontally from the North Sea. I had adopted a sort of Dr Finlay's Casebook Scottish lilt. "Hello, is Mrs McLeod there?" I asked. "Aye." "Might I speak with her?" "No." "Is there a reason I might not speak with her?" "I'm the undertaker and I'm laying her out."

Toxic Tories look after their own

You might have missed it, but on Thursday night Labour's Rob Evans took a seat off the Tories in Chipping Norton, that bastion of Cameroon Murdocracy. He was not alone. Duncan Enright, one of the nicest men in Labour politics, won Labour's first ever seat in Witney, slap bang in the middle of David Cameron's backyard (if such a man as he has anything so infra dig as a yard). Few things are inevitable in politics, but one thing is certain: the day after crushing local election defeats, political leaders do their level best to pooh-pooh them. And so it came to pass with a gaggle of Tory cabinet members suggesting this is just normal or finding some specious reason why we should have done even better. Now I admit that one sparkling set of election results does not a crate of vintage champagne make, but losing council seats hurts local parties. It undermines morale. And it makes it that little bit harder to build a general election victory.

So is there anything we can really read from all this? I suspect that Gerald Howarth and his ilk are way off beam with their charge that the Tory collapse is all to do with "gay marriage" (his term, not mine) and Lords reform. Undoubtedly, the weeks of government pratfalls on top of the real economic pain many people are feeling are largely to blame.

But I think Cameron should look to a deeper malaise. For in the Jeremy Hunt kerfuffle of the past fortnight, the Prime Minister made one particularly strange comment that nobody else seems to have commented on. In describing his own attempt to cosy up to the Murdochs, he said that "unlike the Labour Party, we were not trying to convince a centre-right proprietor of a set of newspapers with solidly centre-right views to change the position of a lifetime". Fair point, in one sense. Murdoch never felt like a natural Labour bedfellow, and even when The Sun was supposedly supporting Labour, it always felt as if he was still kicking us hard under the covers. But clearly Cameron thinks that he and Rupert, George and James, Jeremy and Rebekah are all peas in a Chipping Norton pod, which is why Tory MPs on the Culture Committee were happy to vote en masse to defend Rupert Murdoch. If he were "unfit" to run a major international company, then maybe people would surmise that Cameron was also "unfit" to run the country.

In one sense, this matters not a whit. Nobody voted on Thursday on the question of Murdoch. But the sense of a government looking after its own chums, whether they be trustafarians, or 50p raters, or City bonus grifters or old-school-tie compadres, has retoxified the Tory brand so fast that even the horses of Chipping Norton have reared up.

Lost in the talk of dark matter

Thanks to my gorgeous scientifically literate friend Kath, I attended the Science Museum's Director's Dinner on Wednesday. I hadn't quite realised that this was really an event for scientists – and my suggestion that theology was the queen of sciences did not pass muster – so I felt like an interloper as I listened to the director general of Cern, the German particle physicist Rolf Heuer, talk about the Large Hadron Collider, the magnet quench incident and the predominance of dark matter. Apparently, he has made a bet with Stephen Hawking, who was there, about whether the Higgs boson exists – but neither of them can remember which of them bet which way.

Put firmly in my scientific place

It is not the first time I have felt scientifically challenged. Fifteen years ago, I was asked to preach at a Cambridge college and had prepared a sermon on the nature of time, arguing that far from being circular it was linear as we were not bound to act out some imaginary preordained script but free agents. I confess it was a rather overcomplicated message, so you can see why I never really made the grade as a vicar, but I was creased with embarrassment as I took my seat in the chapel stall to see Professor Hawking, the magisterial author of A Brief History of Time opposite me. So ashamed was I of my paltry offering that I didn't dare meet him afterwards and scuttled away.

Twitter: @ChrisBryantMP

Huge Labour gains leave Coalition with identity crisis
Boris Johnson passes the winning post – but it was no easy ride to victory
'Red Ken' finally reaches the end of the line
Clegg punished with his party's worst-ever results
MPs turn fire on Cameron after dismal showing
Labour takes power across the country – and Miliband tightens grip on his party
Leading article: A good result, but Labour must beware a false dawn
Steve Richards: Labour (and Ed Miliband) are no longer doomed
Andrew Grice: Bruised and battered, Clegg will struggle to sell Coalition relaunch
Professor John Curtice: Labour's making progress, but it's still some way from No 10
Chris Bryant: The naked and the dead – just a couple of the things you meet while canvassing
Galloway's Respect wins in Bradford again
'Chipping Norton set' desert the Tories
Cities reject Cameron's dream of mayors for all
Salmond setback as Scots nationalists fail in Glasgow

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker