Martin Samuel, the sports writer, had this to say in the Times Online as the elections took place yesterday …
Today some in my town will cast a vote for the Epping Community Action Group. Sounds reasonable enough. Run from a flat near the station, ECAG wants to rejuvenate the high street and save small shops by relaxing our parking laws, it opposes fortnightly collection of household rubbish and would not build on green belt land. All for that. It has campaigned for the Co-op to smarten itself up (it was an eyesore), for the local adult learning centre to reopen and to stop town centre premises becoming an endless parade of chain coffeehouses and takeaways. My kind of people. And, yes, ECAG is run by a former chairman of the National Front but, hey, you can't have it all ways.
Ian Anderson, a man whose commitment to neighbourhood issues would seem the perfect antidote to disillusionment with party politics, was chairman of the NF from 1990 to 1995. Something more then a juvenile dalliance, it would appear. He says he has had no connection with extreme right-wing politics in ten years, a statement that is open to debate, not least because he stood for an NF splinter group at the Uxbridge by-election in 1997.
Anderson's dubious background is known locally but is increasingly considered not to matter in an area where six British National Party members sit on the local council.
In a part of the world that should be the happiest, clappiest little market town this side of all the other cosy corners of southern England, the mismanagement, incompetence, mediocre thinking and muddled priorities of modern-day life have created a situation in which descendants of the far Right can thrive. I have election literature from all the main parties saying they support the green belt, and a school playing field at the bottom of my garden, half of which has been sold for housing. At the door, every activist said his candidate was opposed to it, yet none, if elected, can do anything about it.
And I am not saying I could ever bring one fibre of my being to consider voting for a former fascist reinvented as a green-belt conservationist; but I'm saying I understand.
Saw my first rat last Sunday. That was a thrill. I remember them from third-year biology, white and clean in a glass case in the science lab. This, however, was mangy and diseased and in something of a free-range situation close to the house. It looked quite startled. We both did. Not as startled as my 70-year-old mother would have been, mind you, had it chosen to take a bow at her surprise birthday party that afternoon. What a bash that would have been. We jump out; then the rat jumps out; then two ambulancemen jump out and cart her off to the nearest cardiac unit. Now that's what you call a surprise.
We don't get rats, you see, even in a relatively rural area, because we have cats. Not our cats, but Ebony next door and Ginger's brother from over the road and the mean cat from a few doors down and assorted others that have kept our property pest-free for more than ten years. We don't even get mice, the gateway rodents forming the advance party for heavy-duty vermin. Then again, until last summer, we had not been cut to fortnightly rubbish collection with the resulting stench and maggot infestations; which could explain why some folk are considering supporting a man who has stood for election on a ticket that advocated a different form of recycling involving humans and known as repatriation.
And I'm not saying I could bring myself to place an X next to that name on a ballot paper, even at gunpoint; but I'm saying I understand.
Then there was the swarm of bees (I know what you're thinking, in which ward does this man vote, Epping Biblical?) that settled in an adjacent tree while the couple were out, at the funeral of Frank, a good old boy from down the road who had died at the age of 92. A decent innings, one might say, except Frank was not delivered to hospital on death's door. He went in to have a pacemaker fitted and died of MRSA. Frank performed volunteer work at the local hospital where he was entrusted to clean the theatre until you could eat your dinner off the operating table. Maybe someone did. In the coroner's report it will probably say he died of irony.
Then, on Sunday, we saw another old friend, Peter, who has not been well lately. He fell from a ladder and badly injured his back and, after contracting MRSA and septicaemia in hospital, is back on his feet after seven operations. The last was to find out why he kept getting MRSA and septicaemia. It is intriguing that so many NHS trusts will not operate on the overweight because, looking at Peter, if you want to shed a stone or five, hospital is the place to be. Not that Peter was large to begin with but you could fit two of him in the suit he was wearing at the weekend. He pulled out a cigarette and said he had started smoking again, and all things considered it was a shame he gave up, because if the hospital had refused to operate on him for having a puff they might not then have had the chance to half-kill him seven times over. He has been advised to sue but says that action would only divert more money from an overstretched NHS. That is the inherent decency of mankind.
So I would love to be one of the people on these pages who thinks our world is wonderful. I would love to be the guy that sneers at the negativity in the Daily Mail, with its scares and its rats and its MRSA. I would love to be wiping a sentimental tear at the memory of ten years of Tony Blair; but the school playing field was sold and I did see the rat and Frank is dead and Peter is lucky to be alive and in my part of the world the far Right is winning.
And I am not saying I would not implore you to set fire to your ballot paper and run screaming from the hall rather than cast a vote for National Front extremism, in any form; but I'm saying I understand.
The GOS says: I imagine very few people who visit this page could ever bring themselves to vote for these people either. The sad thing is that we should be forced to even think about it by the failure of ALL the mainstream parties to even try and address the things that concern most of us.
Mrs.GOS and I spoiled our ballot papers yesterday, simply because we were not offered any realistic alternatives. We only had two candidates. One is the sitting Lib-Dem councillor who we know quite well, a very nice bloke but prey to every wishy-washy, eco-Nazi, bike-riding, anti-hunting, ban the 4x4 obsession of his Lib-Dem colleagues. The other is a Conservative lady who has the reputation in the village of being a rotten neighbour who only wants to be on the council so she can get planning permission to develop the land behind her house.
Not much of a choice, then? And that's exactly what we wrote on our ballot-papers - "Not much of a choice!" We know nobody'll read 'em, but what are you to do? At least spoiled papers get counted.
And what a sad reflection on our once-great country, the news that an enquiry is to investigate the débacle yesterday in Scotland, when thousands of voters had their votes rejected because they hadn't understood the system. One of the oldest democracies in the world, home of the "mother of parliaments", and we can't organise a simple election any more.
Or can we? Which party do we suppose will have gained the most (or lost the least) from the cock-up? No, no. Unthinkable. Couldn't possibly happen. Not in this country ...
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