An Election Eve Fantasy

London Newspaper Group — CN/WPN 27-04-1979

An Election-Eve Fantasy

Long Look

By Christopher Long

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When a columnist returns from two weeks' well-deserved holiday, a sad little reflection comes to mind – has anyone noticed his absence?

A paranoid thought, you might say: but far from the hurly-burly and the political hustings, walking the Scottish moors, you can't help feeling that life is passing you by when everybody but everybody has an opinion, a promise or an axe to grind during the run-up to next week's election.

Because it's amazing to think how many millions of words, hundreds of policies, thousands of promises and innumerable retractions, accusations, justifications and recriminations will have poured out at us from the mouths of candidates, party workers, media-men and pundits by the time we all mark our cross and settle back to see the result.

Breathing fresh Scottish air, miles from anywhere, I had a mad fantasy. A quiet, unopiniated, thoughtful man appeared beside me.

"I'm not much of a talker," he said, "but please, do tell me what you think. You see, I'm a parliamentary candidate and since we've spent years telling people what's best for them and getting it wrong, promising things we know we can't fulfil, perhaps you could tell me what you think."

"Well," I said. "To be honest I don't know what the answers are. I don't understand the complexities of economics, the ins and outs of international affairs and the Common Market. I don't really understand any of the real consequences of any political policies and I don't really know what I want my M.P. to do for me because the issues are far, far too complicated."

"I know," he said, looking furtively around him to see if anyone other than the sheep were listening. "I know. I agree. I'm in the same boat."

"Well," I said, "I'll vote for you in that case. All I ask is that you tell me what you think is best and only when you are quite certain. And if you make a mistake you must come clean and admit it.

"And if the opposition are right, you admit that too. And, when you are asked a question, you think about it before you answer. And when you are asked why you are standing as a candidate you admit that it's because it's the best damn job going – and then say you are also interested in improving the lot of mankind."

He stood beside me quite thoughtfully for a moment, staring at a sheep.

"OK," he said, "it's a deal."

"But one last thing," I added, staring out over the moors. "When you get to the Commons will you promise not to behave like an animal in the chamber? And will you promise to follow your conscience and not follow party dogma like one of those sheep here?"

There was a silence. I turned round.

"Ba-ha-ha-ha!" said the sheep beside me.

I was alone – of course.

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