Talking point: Taking a seat
My Grandpa was a staunch Tory right up until 1997, when he suddenly and unexpectedly voted for the SNP.
Three things sparked the switch. Firstly, like many voters at the time, he was a bit done in with the sleaze-ridden government of John Major.
Secondly, he had written to Alex Salmond, his local MP, for some assistance with a minor problem, and though the SNP politician hadn’t been able to help, he had tried. The effort was appreciated.
But what really did for him, what really pushed him over the edge, more than Neil Hamilton and the cash for questions or anything like that, was when he’d turned up at the Peterhead Rotary Club one Monday lunchtime to find the Tory candidate for Banff and Buchan sitting in his seat.
My grandpa was livid.
For the first time in 40-odd years he was forced to sit at a different table. It took him days to calm down.
I think he may even have written a letter to the chair of the local association.
In the end, there was a 12-point swing to the SNP and Salmond won with a majority of 12,000.
My grandpa’s lost vote wouldn’t have made a jot of difference.
Still, I’ve always felt a bit sorry for that poor Tory PPC. I think of him when an election campaign kicks off.
I’m very glad there are people who want to be politicians, but being a candidate is some slog.
You’re paid nothing, you work like a dog while in most cases holding down a job, and your day is full of pelters.
Obviously, the pandemic means there’ll be no Rotary Club lunches this time round. There’ll be no drinks in the trades social club, no bingo nights, no school gates, or any other campaign meet and greets.
And we’ve not had a coffee morning for well over a year now.
Those chances to lose and win votes in an up close and personal way are severely lacking in this campaign.
I thought that might be a relief, but for this issue I spoke to a number of candidates about the weeks ahead and the restrictions in place.
I asked if they thought knocking on doors, speaking to voters in real life made much of a difference to their vote.
None of them seemed too sure that it did, but they all, every single one of them, could not wait to get back out there.
Speaking to your prospective constituents, even the difficult ones or the ones who aren’t voting for you, is it seems a worthwhile endeavour.
Maybe that was surprising to me because the last few weeks in Scottish politics have – for obvious reasons – been incredibly bad tempered.
There’s never really been a golden age of Scottish politics when everyone was nice to each other – there were fierce, nasty battles over the repeal of Section 28 and the smoking ban, for example.
Nevertheless, the fifth session has ended on an ugly note. And as the election kicks off proper, I’m not sure things are going to get much better. There is little love lost between our party leaders and the campaign is likely going to be very personal, very bitter, and very angry. The candidates will be on the frontline.
If you find one sitting in your lunchtime seat this election campaign, give them a break.