You might have noticed that I haven’t been here much; in large part that is because I’ve been out of the doorsteps and pavements of NW1 and WC1 in London, talking to voters and potential voters.
One of the stunning things about democracy is the wide range of views people bring to the political process, and the ways in which they make political decisions.
Here’s a small range (obviously I’m quoting from memory here; I wasn’t recording the conversations!):
Outside the farmers’ market in the Brunswick centre in Bloomsbury yesterday:
* “I saw Joanna Lumley’s backing the Green Party, so I’m now voting Green.”
* “I thought Caroline Lucas was excellent on Question Time; she was so poised. I’ve never thought about voting Green before, but I will now.
* “I’m going to vote Green or UKIP.” (This was a fascinating discussion: the young woman was hugely Eurosceptic and convinced each country should just be allowed to do what it wanted, even when I brought up Poland and coal-fired power stations; yet her views on every other subject we ranged over entirely matched the Green Party’s, and she was very keen to see women elected. But I still don’t know how she’ll vote.)
* “I used to be a member of the SWP (rueful shrug). I think you’re probably the best of the people likely to be elected.” (Man in his later 30s.)
On the doorstep in council housing in Somers Town, one of the most socially and economically deprived wards in London (and traditionally a Labour stronghold).
* “I’ve always voted Labour, but I’ve watched your election broadcasts and I agree with all of your policies, so I’m voting for you, and I’m happy to put up your election poster.” (A middle-aged man with a local accent: The poster was up by the time I walked back past it. This was the closest I’ve come across to the “perfect” model of how democracy is supposed to work.)
* “I haven’t seen anyone come around for many years. I’ll probably vote for you because you’ve done that.” (Older woman who has probably lived in the flat for many years.)
* “I vote for you because of your animal rights policy.” (Twenty-something woman.) I also had someone outside the Brunswick who probably wouldn’t vote for us solely on that basis – so you might call that one a draw.
There have been quite a few, but not perhaps so many as I expected, “I won’t vote for anyone; you’re all crooks”, but there’s perhaps a surprising interest in continuing that conversation among around 50% of people – and some are apparently won around by the conversation.
Others, however, are clearly not going to be swayed, including the woman who I heard clearly through an open window continuing an interrupted phone conversation after she’d almost, but not quite, slammed the door in my face. “It was a politician!” (said in tones of shocked horror). Well, that’s not quite the way I think of myself….but little point in arguing.
So, is this an electorate that is going to abstain in even huger numbers than usual, or is it going to march out to express its anger? I don’t know; there are a huge number of “undecideds” out there, and one of the things they haven’t decided is whether or not they are going to vote.