Looking for candidates in Kettering

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The Independent Online
I am enchanted by the amateurish nature of British politics. Last week I wrote about my endeavours to discover in which constituency I lived (Kettering). This week I have had a similar hunt for the candidates.

You can look up "Political Organisations" (not "Parties") in the Yellow Pages. So I did. The Conservative Party had an answer phone giving a number in London. Their candidate is Roger Freeman, who has held the seat since 1983, had a 20 per cent majority in the last election, and is a Cabinet minister. Perhaps these are good reasons why the other parties seem so cheerfully casual.

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats have a constituency office. However the Labour Party in Corby gave me the home number of Phil Sawford, the candidate here, so I rang and his wife answered. They are Independent readers. As soon as I said my name, my cover as disinterested floating voter was blown: they had read last week's article, and had already looked me up on the electoral register and were poised to send me information. Rosemary Sawford was slightly shocked that I had not known my constituency, and slightly apologetic, too. She explained the difficulties in contacting rural voters - bad maps, homes off the public road, electric gates and "large" ferocious dogs all make the canvasser's life tricky. It was even harder, she pointed out, for voters at the other end of the constituency, where several wards were in Daventry for local government elections and Kettering for Parliamentary ones. The Labour Party are circulating a map that shows all the wards (called "communities") in the constituency.

The Liberal Democrat office in neighbouring Northampton did not know who the Kettering candidate was; but they found the names of a couple of borough councillors, one of whom eventually told me that Roger Aron was formally adopted by the party on Friday night (an event so thrilling that it did not make the Saturday edition of the Evening Telegraph - our local daily - although Eddy from The Archers' successful appeal against the termination of his farm tenancy did). I spoke to Aron's agent, Stuart Simons, who did not know his candidate's position on anything much "yet". He told me that "the gossip" was that the Referendum Party, and the National Democrats "or whatever the National Front are called now" - were all going to field candidates, and that lots of Old Labour voters weren't happy with New Labour, so it was hard to guess how well the Liberal Democrats would do - "at least as well as last time", he hoped (15.4 per cent). But he sounded as though he was having enormous fun. The two world-class politicians who obviously enjoy campaigning, Bill Clinton and John Major, do surprisingly well in elections, so perhaps there is hope for Kettering Liberal Democrats.

There are no copies of any manifesto in the local library. I haven't yet seen an election poster. But I got my first political communication delivered on Saturday afternoon - from the Labour Party.

All I need now is to learn as much about their ideas as I've been told about their children's names and ages!