Friday, April 09, 2010

election time in Frome

Frome's version of Banksy has been out and about among the billboards at the end of the road:

I've never voted Tory before, but they'll protect theMSELVES.

I've never voted Tory before, but they'll sort out MPs' MOATS.

The campaigns are boiling up nicely. Frome is the UK's eleventh most winnable seat for the Conservatives, so we get daily literature through the door.

Pseudo-Banksy is playing the class card, but it's understandable. Our Conservative candidate is Annunziata Rees-Mogg, "financial journalist" and daughter of the former Times Editor; her brother Jacob ("investment banker") is standing in the neighbouring constituency of North Somerset, which A. considers rather sweet and interesting.

They drove a few miles north on the Buckland road, then tethered the jeep by Terry Hill, above Hemington, and trudged up, Jacob leading the way. A sweet smell of new grass came up off the footpath. The sunset, pale yellow, lay Bristolwards, and a light, chilly breeze touched the still-leafless trees.

"Well, here it is, Nance." The land of the muffled coalfields spread out northwards, Peasedown St John winking its orange lights. "Everything you can see, that way, is my country."

She laughed. "All right, Jake." She turned him round to look south, to the low undulations of subsiding Mendip, and the Selwood basin bounded by the high greensand ridge of Longleat, Gare and King Alfred's Tower. "And where we're standing, and every way south and south-west, is me."

"Gotcha. This means a heck of a lot to Dad, you know."

"It's getting late. Let's go back to the car." Companionably, arm in arm, they descended
...etc

This fairy-tale, or patrician pincer-movement, makes a less attractive impression on some (David Cameron wasn't too thrilled about it either, it's said; Dave's new look party is inconveniently Etonian already). Well, we know that toffs exist. They lead a weirdly stereotyped and atavistic kind of life, not like ours, and frankly I'd rather they were representing themselves in the Lords than representing me in the Commons. The Rees-Moggs are eminently local candidates - the family home is in Mells, when they aren't hanging out in London - , but there's a kind of localism which feels a little too much like proprietorship. (It has even been noticed that a William Rees-Mogg purchased a Somerset coal-mine in 1835.) I don't know if this is unfair. They are right-wingers and "Change", if they have their way (I am thinking of father William and brother Jacob, but I've no reason to suppose that A. thinks differently), looks only like reactionary change.

The incumbent MP, David Heath, is effectively fighting his campaign as an independent, since no-one has heard of Nick Clegg anyway*, and Heath's demotion following his defiance of the party line over Lisbon is presented to us as a distinct positive, mark of a man with great personal integrity. His campaign literature speaks much of his former life as a humble local optician, less of his former leadership of Somerset CC. I suspect the latter says more about his political-animalship; he'll need all of it if he's going to be re-elected.

Nothing in this ton of literature from Labour, unsurprisingly. The last thing they want is for anyone to vote Labour here. It's a straight fight between Lib-Dem and Conservative.

*nb written before Clegg's strong performance in round 1 of the televized debate between the party leaders.

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