‘LA REIGN LA VOTE’
GIVEN the events of the last few months, I thought a little light relief was in order. Picture the UK scene. Some grinning, unwelcome, rosette-wearing nuisance, half-drowned by the heaviest Manchester downpour since the Great Flood, bangs on your front door, just as you have settled down in front of the telly, after a hard day at work, to watch the latest mind-boggling, unbelievable antics of the cast of “EastEnders” (I’m talking pre-Covid here). After deciding it’s too late to hide behind the couch and pretend you’re not in, you pull back the bolts, turn the latch key lock, and peer, with one beady eye, through the narrow gap the door chain (still defiantly in place) allows you.
You are confronted by this dripping wet vision (it might well have been me) crowded under the umbrella with his less than enthusiastic wife, clinging on to him for grim death and awaiting whatever pearly gems of embarrassing wisdom her spouse is about to impart, as your TV supper languishes on its plate, getting colder by the minute.
The uninvited visitor juggles with his windblown brolly, pen and increasingly drenched canvas card (unwelcome, rain-stained ink blots now appearing all over it), and proceeds to advise you that you are facing the most important election since your working men’s club had to elect a new chairman after the previous one had run off with the barmaid.
“Good evening Sir”. “No it’s not,” comes your reply. “You’re right, of course, terrible night,” the candidate responds. “Yes, yes, agreed. Now, what can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if I might rely on your vote next Thursday?” By now, a wave of relative relief washes over you. Be honest, it might have been the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons (only joking, for goodness sake) or even an Encyclopaedia Britannica salesman (remember them?) . Budding politicians are far easier to dismiss. Of course, nowadays you can add the lockdown enforcers to the dreaded list, wanting to know how many people are watching EastEnders with you. It might even be the police, asking the same and knowing nothing about the burglary you reported last month, but ignore all that (the UK police do), let’s get back to the past.
Your relief gets the better of you: “Of course I’ll vote for you mate,” you respond. The candidate’s wife raises a smile at last. “Pity you’re not standing love, you’re better looking than him,” (don’t get upset, I did say this scene was some time ago). The happy couple march off into the rain-swept yonder. “Well, that’s another one in the bag,” says the wife, as she closes the garden gate. “Put him down as doubtful,” says the voice of long-hardened candidate experience (by now the candidate’s wife is trying to remember the name of that divorce lawyer her friend mentioned to her).
Free at last, the constituent returns to his TV to find EastEnders has just finished and he’s no wiser as to whether it was the uncle or the grandfather who was in the middle of his sex change therapy! On top of that, the cat has stripped the batter of his haddock and the wife is wanting to know when he’s doing the washing up or starting decorating the front bedroom before the mother-in-law arrives! Yes, doorstep canvassing guarantees a vote every time (for the other fella).
I’ve had some other gobsmacking responses on the British doorstep: “Make sure you close the bloody gate” being the most printable bit. “Thanks Mr Day, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have this roof over my head” is another. “Oh, yes, pleased to have helped, now can I rely on. . .” “Certainly not, I never vote Conservative.” Door slams (you can’t win them all, now can you?).
Booked to speak at the centenary dinner of a local Conservative club, I wondered how long the club chairman wanted me to talk, as I struggled through the rubber chicken. His answer was definitive: “As long as you like lad, but in 10 minutes we’re starting dancing” (they certainly got their priorities right, didn’t they?).
If you want the truth about how British democracy really works, there you have it above, set out in all its eccentric glory. An exaggeration? Only slightly, take it from me. The truth is the British have always had a healthy disrespect for their politicians. When I was first elected to Parliament, in 1987, an old school chum sent me a congratulatory note that proved the point. It read: “MP’s are like bananas, they arrive green, invariably turn yellow and end up bent. Hope you do better.” (I still treasure it.) I also got one from my old form master, but I’ll keep that to myself. Suffice it to say that by 2001 my electors decided my form master was right. I lost.
Such disrespect is expressed in a variety of endearing fashions. Picture the local restaurant, smack in the middle of the constituency. It’s Friday night. The weekly “surgery” just completed. There sits the local MP, dining with the wife he hasn’t seen all week, their gargantuan struggle with their Steak Diane interrupted by an irate, alcohol-fuelled constituent, complaining that no-one ever sees the MP around! Response? “How nice to see you, point taken” (smile at the wife and ask her to pass the salt).
I don’t know whether our new TRNC President will read this, but if he does, I’ll bet he is thanking his lucky stars he didn’t stand for election in Britain! Here, of course, the hurdles to be overcome are quite different. Elections mainly consist of drinking coffee at every village coffee shop you can find, stuffing yourself with kebabs from Gazimağusa to Güzelyurt and encouraging long queues of slowly moving, horn-honking, flag-waving, motoring cavalcades, reducing traffic flows to almost a standstill and thereby improving the road safety statistics no end.
Whether you are in the UK or the TRNC, to enter politics you have to have one undoubted qualification – occasional bouts of madness. You just pray that it takes years for the electors to realise it. “La reign la vote”, eh?