There’s a house on the High Street, in a little terrace squeezed in between a pub and some offices, and it sports big Liberal Democrat posters in both lower and upper windows. And that is the only sign of political allegiance I have seen locally since the election was called.
At the last election this area was a sea of Labour posters, voluntarily displayed in windows of houses grand and tiny alike. The Tory candidate had paid-for billboards, making much of his title, “Dr”, but minimising his branding. I don’t remember much Lib Dem activity, but then this is a Labour/Tory marginal. Or it was.
For it’s hard to have a handle on anything in this strange, unwanted, election built upon a personality cult around a woman with all the charm and human warmth of a vacuum cleaner. There is little excitement about the election, and at the same time the country feels to be divided down the middle in mutual incomprehension and barely suppressed anger.
The ‘divided down the middle’ thing is key. On one side is the Cult of May, aka Brexit, a Trumpean, Le Penesque, Five Star swamp of vague resentments, petty jealousies, fear and loathing. At the centre of this movement, and very much in control, is the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party is not the oldest, most successful party of government without reason. Their genius is to adapt and change, in order to remain the same. The thing they seek most assiduously to conserve is the right of the Conservative Party to rule Britain. So we have seen their ingesting of the UKIP vote, and the deployment of UKIP rhetoric, the mirroring of UKIP ugliness, whilst the likes of Dominic Grieve, and Nicky Morgan rediscover iron self-discipline and return to the fold, dutifully uttering strong and stable slogans in the expectation of resuming their internal fight after securing a landslide for their party.
The Liberal wing of the Tory Party must surely view the UKIPpy masses as a bit infra dig? May, herself, in her £10 million home, and £1,000 leather trews, fears the public so much she is running a campaign in which she is literally helicoptered about in splendid isolation, meeting only hand-picked party hacks. She must wish that, like the Queen, she could wear white gloves to keep a physical barrier between Leader and voter. There is an in-plain-sight dishonesty about the Tory campaign. And it doesn’t matter.
Arguments about Brexit – what it means, what is wanted, how to play it – are strictly behind closed Tory doors. The rest of us are kept out, told firmly that its none of our business. Which at one level is fair enough. This whole bloody mess only came about because of the rumbling Tory civil war.
Except that it isn’t fair. They have made it a national question, and they are putting it to an election. An election in which it is forbidden to discuss the reasons why it was called. There is, indeed, a white rabbit in a waistcoat with a fob watch at my elbow as I write this.
On the other side in this election is an un-alliance of flailing not-Tories. Jeremy’s happy army. Tim’s ecstatic brigade. Plucky little Greens. Bemused business leaders, anxious trades unionists, mutinous head teachers, end-of-teather medics, the people who do, and make, and run things are shut out of it all. We look at the script and find we have no lines.
This election does not feel as though it has any connection to that precious thing called democracy. It is a spectacle, an ugly circus, serving no greater purpose than the reinforcement of the party that has dominated British politics since the early 19th Century (with roots that go back much further than that). And it will work. May will get what she wants.
And then what?
It’s one thing to have a British election in which no one talks about why it is happening. But after the red, white and blue Brexit bunting has been taken down, there will be the process which is outside the control of May and the Tories – negotiations with our neighbours. There is only so much disaster that can be dressed up by the Tory press as May-ite triumph.
And it leaves the unresolved matter of the low level civil war still rumbling along in our sad little country.