Hastings Battleaxe grasps the political nettle…

It’s high time Battleaxe wrote something about the General Election. Yes, I know it is boring but it has to be done. Have been earnestly apolitical for the last few posts but obviously can’t keep it up for long. So, here are some general thoughts, and a bit about what Battleaxe has been up to as a local Labour activist… Have been leafleting, and also door-to-door canvassing. Here’s our candidate for Hastings and Rye, Helena Dollimore. She’s bright, sharp and ready to zap our useless Tory into oblivion. Our constituency counts as a key marginal…

 

I used to do a lot for Labour in Birmingham but haven’t in Hastings up until now. I’ve never even been to a Labour party meeting down here.
But this election is different. It has to bring results. Has to bring change. Look, those Tories have totally run out of steam. No talent left, no trust, no credibility, Fundamentally, folks, they Do Not Care for anything but making as much money for themselves as possible. Hell, Battleaxe was raised as a high Tory, but in those days, they were closer to Victorian philanthropism. Now, it’s pure naked greed.
As well as lining their own pockets and wrecking the country and its public services, the Tories have done some massively dangerous things during the past 14 years.
They have totally destroyed trust in politicians. Their careless lies have spread this distrust across the political system and it now threatens the whole basis of our democracy.
Aided by the right-wing press, they have demonised the concept of raising taxation to bring about improvements. All parties are now crippled by this nonsense – and oh, also by the idea that ‘growth’ is the only viable trajectory for an economy.
– Brexit has become a sacred fetish, the love that dare not speak its name. It was rubbish from the start, promoted by money-grubbing charlatans, and now apparently neither of the two main parties are willing to tackle the issue, despite the fact that it is crippling our economy.
– They have fostered the development of right-wing populism, now embodied by Farage and his Reform neo-Nazis, by permitting, nay applauding, the jingoistic ravings of vile creatures like Suella Braverman. The door to fascism is now open.
– They have preserved, promoted and deified other dangerous and out-dated myths: ‘Great’ Britain, the ‘special’ relationship with the US, monarchy, rank and privilege etc etc.
The polls show Labour on course for a massive victory. Obviously I totally want Labour to win, that’s what I do and what I am, but I fear the race will be closer than currently forecasted.
Why? First and biggest reason is Secret Tories. I was out canvassing the other night and a woman (Labour) says ‘time was, you wouldn’t dare put up a Labour poster round here. Now, people are ashamed to admit they’re Tories, but I know they’re still the same underneath’.  I fear she may be right.
Second: ‘They’re all the same, all liars, all useless, so I can’t decide. I probably won’t vote at all.’ Hmm. See above. I know Labour think it’s right to be cautious etc etc., and to be sure, if they went bold they’d be crucified by the right-wing press, but maybe they could risk a bit more to win hearts and minds? Committed to not rejoining the single market? No wealth tax? The manifesto is very cautious. We have a first past the post election system, so unless people do decide and use their vote thoughtfully and tactically, the Tories might well  get back in.
Third: ‘I’ve always been Labour but I can’t forgive what they did to Jeremy Corbyn/their stance on Gaza/climate/whatever, so I’m voting Green/Lib Dem/Independent’ …Sigh…Groan… For God’s sake, people, get real, it’s all very well for the local elections, but right now, in June 2024, votes for the others will let the Tories back in. In some constituencies the Lib Dems may win, and occasionally, the odd Green, and that’s all fine, but it’ll make no real difference to the big national picture. Do these ideological purists want another Tory government?
There are other reasons as well, too boring to list eg ‘I just don’t like Starmer…’  This is another dangerous fetish btw – the elevation of the Prime Minister to US-style presidential super-star. Starmer seems a decent bloke who will be a decent Prime Minister. What more do we need? Who do you want? Clark Gable? Barack Obama? Lionel Messi? Or Superman? Of course! Here he is! (From X).
What about women who say ‘I’ve never voted’. Oh Lordy. Women died and were tortured to get us lot the vote… it is your civic duty. (Civic duty? Something else that has been nullified by the Tories.)
What about Reform? Well, what about them. Tragically, much of Europe as well as the US seems to be vulnerable to right-wing lunatic populism. Battleaxe hopes and prays the UK might buck the trend, but it doesn’t look good. Sadly, the same witless mass who thought Boris Johnson was the bees knees might think the same about Farage. Clearly though, they won’t win many seats – maybe just Clacton, enabling the vile Farage to pollute Parliament, but they might win yet more influence…
I believe every single vote has to be fought for. Nothing taken for granted.
First, Battleaxe and Philosopher have done some leafleting.
That’s often pretty tough in hilly Hastings. You climb dunno how many steps or fight your way through a shrubbery, then the letter box is at the bottom of the front door. Crouch down… a flap, then a brushy thing, then another savage metal flap behind that… then a barking, snapping dog snatches the leaflet and rushes off with it.  Jaysus, how does the poor postman manage? I sort of think, people who put up such obstacle courses must be Tories, they obviously have no thought for anyone apart from themselves.
So, onto the doorsteps.
In Brum, Battleaxe was used to knocking on every door on the street, full of hopeful charm, hoping to win whoeveritwas over a bit. Readers, I used to be very good at it.
Modern Labour canvassing isn’t at all like that. On an app, accessed by one person in the group, there is a list of target homes in each street. Dunno how they are selected…?? You are supposed to give each a rating out of 10 as to how likely they are to vote Labour, and report back to get it recorded on the app. Sure, it’s vital to know voter intentions, but whoever the person is, I want them also to feel empathised with, that they matter.. better after talking to me than they did before…
Last night, my session was sufficiently comfortable to enable me to do a bit of schmoozing. I shifted two households from O – I won’t vote, to 6/7 – yes, I expect  I’ll vote Labour. Mind you, I was out with the admirable James Bacon, in his own ward. He is a truly excellent local councillor, an embodiment of that now rare thing, civic duty.
Here we are (selfie taken by James).:
But, sadly, all is far from sweetness and light. Battleaxe can quickly switch from charm and empathetic friendliness to…
My temperament has deteriorated since those long-ago days in Brum. I’m older, and fiercer. I have never suffered fools gladly, and now I don’t suffer them at all.
At my canvassing briefing I was told, quite rightly, that the last thing we should be doing is arguing with people on their doorsteps. Rationally, of course, I know that arguing never convinced anyone, but sometimes I just can’t contain myself…
Man on doorstep (shouts): ‘I hate communists, socialists and left-wingers!’
Me: ‘So, I’ll guess you’re not voting Labour!’.
Him: ‘Obviously not, I’m Conservative.’
Me: ‘What about your wife and two daughters?’
Him: ‘They do what I tell them. They’ll vote Conservative as well.’
Me: ‘Good thing we have a secret ballot then.’
Him (sneers):  ‘You think you’re very clever, don’t you!’
Me (angry now): ‘Yes I do, and yes I am. It’s everyone’s right to vote in accordance with their own conscience!’
Him (incandescent, shouts): ‘Rights? What do you do know about rights!’
Me: (equally incandescent): ‘Well, substantially more than….’ (Out of corner of eye sees Labour colleagues approaching) ‘…Nice to talk to you! Bye now!’
Young woman: ‘I’ll never vote Labour. That Keir Starmer is a wicked fascist!’
Me: ‘Goodness! Why do you think that?’
Her: ‘It’s obvious – the way he’s treated Jeremy Corbyn!’
Me: ‘Whatever you think about that, does it really make Starmer a fascist?’
Her: ‘Of course it does!’
Me (angry now): ‘I don’t think you actually know what a fascist is!’
Her: ‘Sod off, I’m voting Green!’ Slams door.
And so on, via ‘I just love Farage – he’s the only one that tells it as it is!’… Oh purleeze, spare us.
For goodness sake, let’s just have a change of government. A Labour majority big enough to get things done, but not so huge that the remnants of the Tory party panics and joins up with Reform.
Fortunately for my blood pressure and sanity, we are off on holiday shortly…

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