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Election 2010: a rural voters’ dilemma

Friday 30 April 2010

Our countryside commentator John Sheard, who took two weeks off in South East Asia to escape most of the general election drivel, urges country folk to vote even though he himself distrusts all three main party leaders

LET’S get one thing straight from the very beginning: I don’t trust any of the three main party leaders. I am appalled that this has turned into the first X-factor general election, where TV looks are more important than policies. And I would dearly love to abstain for the first time in my adult life.

But this is the most critical election for 30 years so next Thursday, I shall go to the polling station, mark my X with a heavy heart – and stay up most of the night watching television with dread in my heart. My worst nightmare: a so-called hung Parliament.


City Slickers

First, though, I feel I should explain why I dislike and distrust all three of the major party leaders. It is not difficult because they all share one dubious – I might even venture “disastrous” – quality: they have all been professional politicians virtually since they left university.

In other words, none of them have ever had a proper job in the real world. If there has been any single cause for the disastrous decline in the calibre of British MPs in the past two decades – and their abuse of a system set up when it was deemed right and proper to trust so-called “Honourable members” – it is the rise of the cloned politico who has never earned a proper salary, run a proper business or risked getting the sack by getting things wrong.

They are stamped out in moulds on a university conveyor belt from membership of the Labour/Tory/Liberal club, get a job as a researcher to some MP or party hack, and are then parachuted into a safe seat. Once in Westminster, they do as they are told by the party Whips, daren’t raise any objections to blatantly loony legislation, and believe this is enough for them to rise to ministerial – or even higher – rank.

The only organisation that Gordon Brown had ever run was Edinburgh University Labour Club before he took over – and debauched – the British economy. But for country folk, both as Chancellor and Prime Minister, he has been an absolute disaster diverting funds from the countryside to the inner cities year in, year out (see “Damn lies, April 16).

“Dave” Cameron was a PR man on the fringes of Tory politics with friends in high places – and I have spent my entire career battling with PROs and their spin. Their job is to present the best case for often awful decisions, not to get those decisions right. And although I have nothing against Old Etonianst, in this day and age, the very tag carries a distinct electoral liability.

If the Tories fail to win a working majority next week, I shall always believe that it was because they chose this smooth metropolitan townie over the East Yorkshire MP David Davis, born in a York council house, a grammar school boy who made a fortune in business and even found the time to become a part-time SAS officer in the Territorial Army. That’s what I call a vote-winning CV.

My temptation would be to spoil my ballot paper as a protest

And that brings us to Nick Clegg, who one woman said on TV that she would vote for because he had “a nice smile.” He’s another metropolitan smoothie but he beats the other two at hypocrisy by pretending to be whiter than white when, before he jumped onto the MEP gravy train, worked as a lobbyist for some pretty strange clients including Col. Gaddafi and the man who bankrupted the Royal Bank of Scotland (and almost the entire British banking system).

All three of these men have virtually no interest in or understanding of the British countryside and its inhabitants. And that makes them very different indeed from the outstanding Prime Ministers of the 20th Century.

Lloyd George was a small town country solicitor in Wales, which meant he had an intimate working knowledge of countryside problems. Winston Churchill was, of course, born on a huge country estate and was a solider and journalist before working his fingers to the bone to support the upkeep of his Chartwell country house where, amongst other things, he bred prize pigs!

And Maggie Thatcher as a girl would serve the farmer customers from behind the counter of her father’s grocery store before going off to grammar school in Grantham, where she mixed with the daughters of other farmers and country professionals like vets and auctioneers. She even had a degree in chemistry – a proper qualification!

To repeat myself, none of the three men going before the public next week have ever had what I call a proper job which is why, I believe, that they have no real understanding of the problems and worries of ordinary folk in the street – or, in particular here in the Yorkshire Dales, on the country lane.

My temptation would be to spoil my ballot paper as a protest that such hollow products of the Westminster village, with zero experience of real life, should even presume to lead the world’s oldest democracy. But I daren’t because if we were to get a hung parliament, the international financiers could pull the plug on Gordon Brown’s huge debts and, as in Greece, we might once again have to call in the International Monetary Fund as we did after the last sustained period of Labour government.

So I shall vote and, with some reluctance, put my name against the local Tory candidate, who is at least new to politics and therefore untarnished. Only the Tories have a realistic chance of gaining a working majority and this election is too important to allow personal feelings to blot out the nation’s need. With a bit of luck, there might even be a man or woman in their ranks who knows how rural life works from hands-on experience and not as a weekend cottager!

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