“Ugh, I think my feet are wet.”
Politics is all glamour and suits and expenses scandals, isn’t it? Walking and talking, power-brokers in dapper tailoring divvying up the world as they laugh and drink bottles of expensive brown liquor. Heady, exhilirating, the cut and thrust of debate and little sleep and the thrilling sensation of everything poised at your fingertips. Inevitably, lots of tortured sex masking Machiavellian power games.
And for all I know, that might have all been going on in the rival party stall set up about 50 metres from us. That said, it was probably a bit cold for bondage. I’d imagine whips tend to sting a lot more in the driving rain.
Elections to the Scottish Parliament are on the 5th of May, and like the naive, idealistic fool that I am, I wanted to act for what I believe in and make a difference. So I joined the Scottish Green Party.
Yeah, that might sound like a contradiction in terms, given that there are as many pandas in Scotland as there were Green members of the Scottish Parliament in its last term. But whatever. Tax reform!
So, anticipating the well-oiled machinations of a relentless electoral machine thundering towards the voting date in six weeks, I wandered down to my local town centre to witness the unstoppable momentum in action, chewing up doubters and spitting them out as true believers in the cause. A campaigning stall was to be set up on a Saturday morning with the Green candidate for the region in attendance, making himself known to voters, kissing babies, and winning votes (since “The Candidate” sounds like a bad airport novel, his name’s Ross Greer).
I would spend my morning explaining Green policies to people from my area, people whose concerns I knew and could relate to, people I could win over to our side. Oh, and just to be clear, this mammoth campaigning machine would be entirely fuelled by solar power.
Sighting a green, well populated pavilion with tables and clipboards, I made my way over only to notice the fluttering banners of the SNP. For context, the SNP won 56 of 59 seats in Scotland in the UK-wide general election in 2015, made up a majority government in the Scottish Parliament in its last term, and are generally speaking the dominant force in Scottish politics.
I found the Green stall a short walk away. A plywood table borrowed from a local community centre was getting dripped on by a tree.
A few people were huddled around the table chatting to one another and getting ignored by the sparse passers-by. I edged over and introduced myself, was greeted with warm handshakes and introductions, and we fell into talking about the Scottish leaders debate that had been televised a couple of nights before. Then the EU referendum and the Green stance on that (In, albeit advocating reforms to create a more social, decmocratic, people oriented Europe), and the general Green party policy on what are termed in this election “External Affairs” (stuff like immigration, defence, foreign policy, diplomacy and so forth).
A pile of newletters and leaflets were getting slightly damp. Despite the top ones sheltering others, and so preserving valuable information about rail nationalisation or anti-fracking campaigns, it was decided that some actual campaigning might be in order.
Not that there was really anyone there to campaign to, but the effort was considered important by the campaign manager in attendance. Did I mention already that it was freezing and wet? Because if not, it was freezing and wet and Easter Saturday. The number of people going shopping could have been counted on the paws of a single mutant cat.
Nonetheless, we stood and hassled people. There wasn’t much foot traffic, but there was some, enough passing the chokepoint we’d camped at to count as something. I passed out a few leaflets and eyed the rival pavilion suspiciously, certain that at one point they were preparing for some sort of Jets vs Sharks style clicking dance-off. Not that I support political violence, but the world’d be a lot better if hard-line right wingers figured out a way to perform racist pirouettes instead of being all thuggy.
Anyway, a few people took leaflets and stuffed them in their pockets. Some are undoubtedly going to be forgotten about, then binned the next time the raincoat has to be dug out of the cupboard. Or indeed thrown away immediately in the public bin ten metres away. (At least they’re not littering) But others might linger or be read, and someone might even decide to vote Green on their second ballot.
(Don’t even ask me to explain the Scottish electoral system. You’ve got two ballots, is all you need to know.)
And with that thought, an hour and a half of standing about in the rain actually felt worth it. If one person votes differently, or even ends up a little more informed about the election and the issues because of my efforts, then it was time well spent.
I’ll be honest, though, getting home and peeling my sodden socks off my feet felt far more satisfying.