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Oh, no! The Candidate is an Oxymoron.

Oh, no! The Candidate is an Oxymoron.

🕔07.May 2015

Our intrepid Special Agent is back with his lament on the individual importance of the candidate, whilst still issuing a rallying call to get out and vote today. 

So, no sooner have we safely got the candidate properly nominated than I come to a sad, but unavoidable, conclusion. The actual election candidate is what you might term a vital irrelevance.

Not just ours – personable and decent and honourably willing to fly the party standard in an admittedly fairly forlorn cause. Nor, specifically, any of the others in this local campaign. Simple fact is that in almost all general elections, the individual candidate is largely an irrelevance. A vital one – you’ve got to have candidates (obviously) – but irrelevant, because other than their party label, who they are hardly matters a jot. Sad, but true.

Some of the hard evidence for this comes from The Hansard Society which carries out regular surveys to find out how many voters even know who is their MP.  Their most recent poll found that almost 80% of people questioned couldn’t name their MP. Another survey took a slightly different tack, presenting people with a list of names and asking them to identify their MP. This had the slightly more encouraging (for MPs anyway) result with nearly 70% getting a correct answer (though the researchers themselves rather deflated this by pointing out that as it was an online exercise, people could sneak off and salve their conscience by Googling the correct answer anyway).

At the level of a specific constituency, does the candidate really make even a jot of difference ? Will the Conservatives hold on Witney, or Labour’s on Doncaster North be greatly enhanced by their individual candidates there – Messrs Cameron and Miliband, respectively. Probably not.

And of course the issue that we now have is – to all intents and purposes –  a national presidential contest with the rather tedious distraction of 650 individual constituency elections  serving to complicate matters. And it’s a presidential squabble labelled (and I paraphrase – but only very slightly)  ‘out of touch toff’ on the one side and ‘worst brother since Cain (or possibly Liam Gallagher) and a nerd to boot’ on the other.

Not sure when the presidential dimension – as Paul Dale wrote about yesterday – assumed such significance but it wasn’t always thus. There is a delightful – even if apocryphal tale – of Stanley Baldwin, prime minister in the thirties, taking a train journey alone at the height of his powers. Another distinguished gentleman enters the carriage and sits down opposite him. After a respectful pause, the second chap looks over his copy of The Times, coughs politely and says:

It’s Baldwin, isn’t it? We were at Harrow together in ’84.

Baldwin grunts assent.

Another long pause. Second gentleman continues.

What are you up to these days, old chap?

Baldwin’s response is not recorded, but was, maybe, sotto voce: ”Well, I did just sack the King. It was in all the papers.”

Apart from recalling a time when equality of opportunity was so rampant in this country that even old Harrovians could aspire to, and achieve the highest office, the story does suggest that attention devoted to the personalities of our leaders was less somewhat frantic in those far off days.

And even despite the magnifying glass and searchlight scrutiny that party leaders crave and are subject to, the public awareness of politicians further down the food chain is pretty negligible. Which all leaves this earnest agent feeling a tad redundant.

Well – and apologies if the remainder of this piece takes on the earnest flavour of a public information broadcast – but the message is that you should still get out and vote.

If you then want to cast your vote on ‘detest the toff/can’t stand the nerd’ lines then that’s up to you, of course. If you want a slightly more nuanced approach then you might try quiz that looks give you a fuller sense of which party best matches your deep down beliefs.

And then make sure you do actually stir yourself to actually vote in the nearly nine hours remaining.

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