The Sketch: On the street, it's the lamppost vote that counts

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The Independent Online

God, we're a respectable people, we British. Not so much "fair" or "generous" or "tolerant" as focus groups tell politicians to tell us. We are an intensely garden-conscious, hedge-minded, fence-mending people who are too polite to tell strangers about our secret practices (like the way we'll vote).

God, we're a respectable people, we British. Not so much "fair" or "generous" or "tolerant" as focus groups tell politicians to tell us. We are an intensely garden-conscious, hedge-minded, fence-mending people who are too polite to tell strangers about our secret practices (like the way we'll vote).

I'm out with Chris Huhne, watching him canvass in Eastleigh, down there in the Liberal south-west. He's very brave, it seems to me. These are all old people in their bungalows. The disapproval of old people I find very daunting. But he knocks on doors and hails them cheerfully and puts his hand across the hearth.

They don't seem to like it at first, especially as he asks personal questions such as: "Can we rely on your support?" But he's a smoothie, and has a very nice voice so they warm up and even the very respectable ones are too polite not to answer when he keeps on digging: "Are you a Labour man? No? Have you traditionally voted Conservative? How are you going to vote on May 5th?"

They indicate in the end, even if they don't exactly say. Chris will be able to sell a hell of a lot of double glazing in his life, if he'd ever decides to do something useful again.

These streets are prowled by many sorts of predators, judging by the signs in windows, all saying in their various ways: NO! "Callers beware! Warning! We do not buy goods or services from the door." And: "No callers from political parties." And: "Identification we can check is required from unknown callers."

There's not much Iraq on these doorsteps, or anything else, really. It's parking, mainly. And a lamppost blocks one lady's wheelchair. "Can I rely on your support," you might say, "to reform the delivery of public services by bringing in the private sector on public service terms?" And your interlocutor will say: "Parking." Or, "Lamppost."

At one door, someone who is not a canvasser has a bag open: "Dusters? You all right for dusters?" he's saying to an old gentleman with a bosky white beard. "I tell you what, how about a little camera, or a first-aid kit? I was thinking of you this morning, I put this in specially for you: garden shears. Nine ninety nine."

Pensions? I got a very nice package on pensions? How about council tax? Do you fancy voting tactically? No? Parking, then. Quite right. May I put this point to you? Lamppost."

But what about those of us in this à la carte election who are pro-parking but anti-lamppost? We could go either way. Without any ideological contest, the election result is almost capricious.

So, whatever's going on behind these closed doors they're not telling canvassers or pollsters.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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