There is one election issue that is neglected by all the parties, but which I'm sure would win votes. It's a simple new law that could make a huge difference to so many lives. It would regulate the behaviour of businesses and can best be illustrated using the examples below.
When a voter (aka a customer) walks into Upper Crust of a morning and politely asks for a small latte, the law would state that a small latte and only a small latte is exactly what should be provided. The customer is a grown-up and knows what she wants (the law would explain). She does not secretly want a medium latte but is too shy to ask, even if it is "only 40p more". She would not like to choose from the range of tasty sandwiches – and look, that's her train coming in 57 seconds so it's the coffee or nothing, and quick. No no no, Mrs Doyle, she will not be tempted into plumping for a muffin, no matter how many times she has one helpfully and slooooowly described to her. Can she just have the coffee, please? No? Then that's an automatic fine. Three strikes and the management will be immersed in blueberries until they are sick.
The same citizens' charter could apply to banking, which screws up our daily lives as much by the little things it does as by the big things, like causing a global meltdown, for example. If a customer wants a loan or a credit card or a lovely little chat with an adviser (Lloyds TSB would be told), she will know where to come. If she didn't want a loan when they sent her that junk mail about it two days ago, chances are that she still won't want it if they send exactly the same junk mail today. So that will be banned. Under the new system, it will also be illegal for our banks to phone us needily on our mobiles when we're busy at work or out with friends or in bed, because they want to talk.
Picture this brave new world: we will have the right to phone them. When we're ready. The law would force them to give us their direct line, so that we can contact them, at a time of our choosing, and not have to push a single button or ever sob into the phone, "Adviser. ADVISER! Pleeeeeease!" How hard can it be to oblige a bank to provide banking services, rather than a stalker?
Once everybody starts to feel the benefit of these laws, they can be rolled out across the retail sector. A rule will ban staff in Jigsaw from maundering beside the entrance, asking everyone if they're "OK there", and then following them around demanding to "help". It ain't rocket science, ladies; it's just shopping – we can manage it all by ourselves. The new law – it's so simple! - will put all those spare staff on the till so that we can actually find someone to take our money when we do want them.
Similarly, a Karen Millen clause will enshrine it in our constitution that we do not need assistance to carry our selections from the shop floor to the fitting room. All we want is to buy stuff. All we expect them to do is to sell it to us.
Will anyone take this on and offer it as a policy? Or do I have to do it myself? Your vote is up to you, of course, but if you want me, I'll be the Leaving People Be Party. And I won't be putting any leaflets through your door.
In the bunker: Elin neither stands by her man nor ditches her Tiger
Amid all of the gossip about Elin (wife of Tiger) Woods – the did-she-or-didn't-she rumours, the should-she-or-shouldn't-she debate, the have-the-environmentalists- seen-how-many-times-she-puts-gas-in-that-huge-SUV debacle – it's reassuring to hear the voice of the Swedish lobby, who stand by their woman with admirable good sense.
"Our Swedish hearts are brimming with pride," wrote Britta Svensson in the Swedish tabloid Expressen, back in December, when it was still received wisdom that Elin had put a golf club through Tiger's windscreen. But commentators on last week's Daily Beast website (which refers to the Tigress as "the Swedish cipher") have been much more rational.
An article had bemoaned Mrs Woods's "revolutionary [approach] for a jilted high-profile spouse: neither stand by your man nor ditch him". But, to Swedish readers, it seemed obvious. "Her behaviour is anything BUT abnormal for a person born and raised in Sweden," wrote one.
Another pointed out: "Maybe she is just acting the way any sane person would that may not make the decision to either fix or end a marriage in the blink of an eye just so the stupid media can have an ending to their soap opera."
Since everyone in the world is officially in the market for giving Mrs Woods their advice, then, may I add my two kronor? The people (mostly men) who say that she is "playing a blinder" and that she should stay married to him, for now, for money – they're wrong.
Elin Woods must feel pretty humiliated already. Imagine how she'd feel if she allowed herself to become some sort of concubine.
And the Swedes would never forgive her.
Another heated debate
Interesting that Channel 4 is choosing to show a Members of Parliament Come Dine With Me special on election night.
True aficionados caught on to the show's voyeuristic Schadenfreude and the genius of Dave Lamb's waspish voice-overs before it came over all famous with celebrity specials such as the one with the Lesley Joseph, Abi Titmuss and leg of lamb incident. But those of us who have stuck with it since the More 4 days are aware of the roles each week's dinner party hosts tend to fill.
Generally, there's a posh one nobody likes, an organic vegan who means well but who's got no chance, an underdog who may surprise, and one whose wife secretly does all the hard work and nobody votes for as a result. Not much like the political wannabe hosts on the other channels at all, then.
Listening to patients is a virtue
I am reluctant to write about GPs. The last time I did, dozens of them sent me the most abusive, personal and upsetting post bag I have ever received, including one call for my imminent and painful death. But the shocking story of David Gray, who died because of his locum doctor's poor standard of English, raises important points.
MPs, to their credit, are acting swiftly to address doctors' language skills – but that is not enough. The last GP I visited spent seven minutes tutting at me for wasting her time, interrupting me and refusing to let me speak. Only when I finally shoved my last prescription under her nose did she see that I had been given the wrong medication all along, and that the drug she had just prescribed would have been a dangerous combination.
She did speak English; but she didn't listen. Or didn't have time to. What are MPs doing about that?
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