Opinion: A golden handshake

Jonny Smith, the principal character in Stephen King’s ‘The Dead Zone’, awakes from a coma with the power to see into a person’s future by touching them.

It starts in hospital where he forsees a nurse’s house is on fire with her child in it.

His premonition is correct and the child is saved.

He becomes a national celebrity and is able to help the police solve a serious crime in a rural backwater.

However when he turns his attention to politicians, the fun really starts.

The novel was written in the 1970’s, the era of Nixon, Ford and Carter.

Smith encounters candidate Carter on the campaign trail, shakes his hand and sees that the peanut farmer will become President but encounters no feelings of malevolence.

His next handshake is much more frightening.

Greg Stillson is starting his climb to the top by running for Congress as an outsider with a set of populist policies.

Sound familiar?

Smith shakes Stillson’s hand at a rally and has a terrible vision of a future President Stillson launching a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

Smith then has a dilemma. Should he take action to prevent this happening?

He consults his doctor, a Polish survivor of the Nazi invasion and poses the question, knowing what you know now, would you go back in time and assasinate Hitler?

You will have to pick up a copy of King’s bestselling novel to find out what happens next, but reading it recently for the second time got me thinking how we could do with a Jonny Smith in the current General Election campaign.

I don’t think he would discover a candidate as evil as the fictional Greg Stillson, (at least I hope not), but his special handshake might at least reveal which ones are going to stick to their campaign promises.

Without that clairvoyance, we will have to rely on body language, intuition or our gut feelings.

My gut feeling is that we need a strong group of committed liberal politicians in Parliament after May 7th.

That is why I am campaigning for the Liberal Democrats.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • And what would he have seen had he shook Lib Dem candidates hands in 2010?

  • Bill le Breton 2nd May '15 - 12:28pm

    This is interesting David.

    I would suggest one alteration: “we need a strong group of committed liberal Democrat conference representatives after May 7th.

    Let’s assume the the guesses of the academic forecasters today are reasonably accurate for 7th May (humour me), the Ts + DUP + UKIP + LDs look to be = to Lab + SNP + SDLP + UKIP = 320

    This time some people really are PM makers. Some groupings could cross the fence of that first = sign. In theory the most flexible in their positioning are the Liberal Democrats.

    Clearly there is a good chance, therefore, that the ultimate decision will be made by an LD special conference.

    Red lines are far less important that top priorities. Change the system, avoid ‘office’ and the rest follows in good time.

    Few people in life are given second chances.

  • Bill le Breton 2nd May '15 - 12:34pm

    No doubt the alert would have been that someohow I got the The Greens mixed up with UKIP – strange that!

    The equation should have read: Ts + DUP + UKIP + LDs look to be = to Lab + SNP + SDLP + Grn = 320

  • I always like your articles in LDV, David.

    I remember Nixon and Jimmy Carter at the time as well as Ford, the president who was never elected. Not to forget VP Spiro Agnew. Carter was the only excet one amongst them.

    By way of contrast the Houses of Pariament next week will have a number of decent people leading political groups. One wonders if the real deciding factor ( on Bill Le Breton’s arithmetic) will be who is prepared to offer the DUP the biggest cash grant to Northern Ireland.

  • David Evans 2nd May '15 - 1:40pm

    Bill, I like your comment in general, but the “and the rest follows in good time,” only follows if a lot of people put a lot of work in over many, many years. We have gone back 30 years in the last five. Bearing in mind that losses of MPs and their staff in constituencies will exacerbate our decline still more, if we get back to where we were in 2010 in less than 30 more years we will have done very well indeed. I am aiming to be around long enough to do it, but it might be a close run thing!

  • David Warren 2nd May '15 - 5:24pm

    Thanks for those kind words John.

    I agree Carter always came across as a decent man, a rare thing in US politics.

    The problem with this election for me is whichever of the larger parties emerges as the ‘winner’ I will be worried.

    I am not at all comfortable with even a minority administration led by Cameron or Miliband and I don’t think another coalition is in the best interests of the Lib Dems.

    Confidence and Supply or a vote by vote arrangement would be a much better arrangement.

    Let us hope that as large a group of Lib Dems as possible is returned after May 7th.

  • My concern is not that the British people will vote for candidates who are evil, but that so many of our leading political figures just don’t have very good judgement. Macmillan and Wilson are the only two prime ministers in my political lifetime who I would regard as being politically sure-footed. I worry about Miliband because of his actions during the Syria debate: he defeated the government but didn’t really mean to, and his vacillation about the future parliamentary role of the SNP doesn’t suggest to me that he is much of an operator. The road to hell….

  • David Warren 3rd May '15 - 12:01pm

    Miliband is completely out of his depth and some of the people around him are even more scary.

    This election is a watershed one for liberals, having been in the coalition means that its all about damage limitation.

    Getting as many MPs back as possible is the target, prior to the processing of rebuilding a party that can eventually replace Labour as the main opposition to the Tories.

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