Monday, 1 June 2009

What Really Goes On On The Campaign Trail

As previous readers will know, I've never been involved in politics before. I shout at the radio, I rant online, I bore the wife senseless, but I've never got up off my backside and done anything. I haven't even voted for years and had to quickly register to vote for this. I took the view that it doesn't matter who you vote for, some lying, conniving politician gets in. I've never had the option of voting for an Independent or even a candidate with character. I remember one election in Fife when the "choices" were - Labour, Scottish Labour, Independent Labour, Socialist, Revolutionary Socialist and Communist (or something like that). I spoiled my ballot and walked out in disgust.

So it was quite a big thing for me to do this. It's one thing writing on Message Boards as SWL, (or Smartarse or Occam), quite another to be myself, to be Alan Wallace. I've had to move from being a caricature to opening up my real views, my real beliefs - not the one-dimensional pseudonym who likes to wind up the self-righteous.

So I went into this process not knowing what to expect. The initial application to Jury Team was little different from joining a new Message Board, but then the voting began in the open primaries. Now it became a bit of a game, trying to beat the other guys. But you quickly run out of friends and relatives to vote for you and you have to do a bit more. I printed up some leaflets and started knocking on doors, canvassing. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. Yes, there were a few who were basically intensely irritated at some idiot disturbing their evening to talk politics. But they were outnumbered easily ten to one by people who were interested. Some were just being polite, but many were really, really angry about the state of politics, (remember this was before the Telegraph broke the big stories). It turns out I'm not the only one who shouts at the telly. Every night I'd get in from work, grab a coffee, then hit the streets until about 9pm. I know I knocked on over 1500 doors, cos that's how many leaflets I printed and I spoke to hundreds of people. I lost count of the people who congratulated me for standing up. Older people were the most supportive, perhaps because they've had longer to be disillusioned by politicians.

Anyway, I won the Primary and it all became very real. I now had 4 weeks to plan a campaign, find & organise volunteers, print leaflets, design posters and raise money. Raising money was the hardest part. The parties have rigged the system in their favour to squeeze everyone else out and it's incredibly difficult. To date I've raised over £10,000 and every penny was warmly welcomed.

Trying to campaign for the European Elections is a real challenge. For Westminster or Holyrood you have a fairly small constituency that you could easily walk across in a day, so it's not too hard to really focus your efforts. But for prospective MEPs, your constituency is the whole of Scotland - a huge area to cover. Again, for the big parties this isn't a problem as they have members, societies and groups all over, but for one guy in Falkirk, it's difficult. Over the last few weeks I've been to Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William, Skye, Harris & Lewis, Arran, Dumfries, Lochgelly and Hawick as well as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth & Dundee. I've done radio interviews with Radio Orkney, Radio Shetland, BBC Scotland, Radio Forth and I've got one with Sunny Govan Radio on Wednesday. I've been printed in the Times, the Guardian, the Scotsman and the Stornoway Gazette. I've done three filmed interviews for the BBC too. In between all this, I've tried to blog regularly here, keep up on message boards, run a Facebook page and tweat on Twitter. I've sent dozens of Press Releases to hundreds of media outlets. I've had teams of people putting out 150,000 leaflets and I'm in the process of putting 2000 lamppost posters up.

And the most common phrase I hear is "Jury Team? Never heard of them"

I've been to a few hustings and "Meet the Candidate" events too and they're an eye-opener. The difference between the main parties and the others is stark. The main parties don't give a damn. They rarely send anyone from anywhere near the top of the lists. The main SNP candidates, Mr & Mrs Hudgton and Alyn Smith are conspicuous by their absence. In fact, the SNP tend to send local councillors if they send anyone at all. But all the main parties act the same at the event - long-winded speeches saying nothing. Close your eyes and you wouldn't be able to tell who's speaking. UKIP rant on with their tin-foil hats firmly in place with the most ridiculous scare stories. The Socialists are the funniest though. If the audience asks for £1, they compete amongst themselves to offer £2, £3, £4, £500 back. Anything you want and the Socialists will promise it. Farm subsidies? Double them. Working Time Directive of 48hrs? They'll give you a working week of 30hrs. Pension rise with inflation? They'll give you £24,000 a year. Maternity leave? Two years for both mother and father on full pay. The Greens? I never heard them say one single word about the environment. They were too busy in the bidding war with the Socialists.

There's a complacency in the big parties and a desperation in the smaller ones. The big parties know that they'll get in no matter what so they're not trying. PR guarantees them at least one if not two seats. The wee parties know that this, of all times, is their big chance and they're almost frantic in their efforts to promise the world to get a vote.

So where does that leave me? I've got three days of campaigning left. My money's gone, my savings are gone, the pile of leaflets and posters are going down. My supporters are putting in unbelievable efforts that amaze me every day. I'm getting e-mails and letters of support in large numbers and my right hand is two sizes smaller than my left, having been vigorously shaken by so many people saying "Good for you". I get phone calls from bus drivers in Fife and Knights in Edinburgh all wishing me well.

I get the abusive stuff as well of course. Amongst other things I'm a "race traitor" and a "class enemy". I'm a "stooge of the Lib/Lab/Con axis", in the pay of "the EU-Nazis" and a "lackey of the WTO". Then there's all the stuff that's not fit to type.

There's three days left and I'm going to give it all I've got. Jury Team have got it spot on with their analysis of all that's wrong in British politics. Putting Independents into every Parliament will totally transform politics. I'm not saying it's the end of the parties - they have an important role and they'll always have support, but if we can open up the closed cess-pit with a fresh breeze and force the parties to abandon the anti-democratic practices they've slipped into - especially in the last thirty years, I really believe we can get what we all want: a better and fairer society where everyone can have a real say.


  1. Well, I`m hoping that you do get elected. Can you take Mel Gibson`s claymore into the the EU "parliament" and cut down some labour and tory MEPs with it?

  2. I'd definitely vote for you. And I'm definitely hoping there's a similar candidate in my area to vote for.

    The Penguin


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