‘Will you be supporting the Liberal Democrat Candidate?’ I asked.
‘Any particular reason?’ I continued, hoping to get a clue as to his particular allegiance.
‘You sold out. I despise the Conservatives.’
‘What choice did we have? We had to have a Government.’
‘Why?’ he retorted. ‘Belgium doesn’t and they do all right.’
Belgium? Is this the best Labour can come up with?
I could have given him a tedious lecture about a country which has no fewer than seven parliaments (not including the European Parliament) and the nuances between the parliament of Wallonia and the parliament dealing with the francophone linguistic community. But I was in danger of boring myself.
(Bluntly, Belgium has shedloads of governments. The lack of a Federal government in Belgium is therefore manageable. England does not have a parliament or a government unless the UK provides it with one. So we had to go with the Tories – most of whom I too despise – because no other arithmetic worked. You know the rest.)
The only other pro-Labour argument I have heard on the doorstep is that the cuts may well be necessary (but not those affecting me) but should be done more slowly. This isn’t quantified but the estimate is that Labour were planning £14bn and the Coalition has delivered £16bn, although Labour have been a little quiet on this point. ‘It’s going to be bloody awful’ Vince Cable said at the Birmingham Special Conference. Alistair Darling may have said much the same (whatever happened to him, I wonder?).
And that’s it. But the oddity is that in the south (and I am for arcane reasons campaigning in two council areas over a hundred miles apart, one rural, one urban) there is no sign of a Labour revival. Good councillors are getting support. The Liberal Democrats are not a toxic brand although some of the rather unfair mud slung at Nick Clegg by the Labour Party is currently sticking.
Some people are quite rude but turn out to be largely Antis somehow able (despite Labour’s economic incompetence now being clear for all to see) to out themselves as Labour supporters.
And, as one colleague reminded me, it is actually a better experience on the doorstep than when we were all being blamed for the excesses of MPs’ expenses. No-one this year has said: ‘You’re all the same.’
People seem generally supportive of AV, although one Labour supporter assured me recently that ‘an AV referendum would never happen’ – the oddest comment so far this year.
With the Lib Dems being more obviously assertive on key issues like NHS reforms and banking – even if they are below the radar on the doorstep – 5 May could well turn out to be quite a worrying night for Labour.
And the Tories, for that matter.