Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 23 July 2023

‘And did those feet...’

Things have been rather quiet here partly because I’ve been doing a lot of walking in various scenic locations, much of it in the company of venerable but intrepid members of Clan Macheath.

Thus it was that I recently tackled a section of the Cornwall Coastal Path in the role of guide, Sherpa and helper-over-stiles to an assortment of female relatives in their eighth and ninth decades. They are a jolly and talkative bunch and, as we progressed merrily along, they were keen to explain how much of their enjoyment of the walk stemmed from their shared appreciation of a television series on the area - and, indirectly, of its presenter, Michael Portillo.

“Just think,” exclaimed one of them in awed tones, “he probably walked along this very stretch of path!”  “Ooh yes!” cooed the others, stopping for a moment’s reverential contemplation of the vista once enjoyed by the politician-turned-broadcaster. The ladies in question are relatively apolitical - although one did go rather pink as she recounted how a canvassing Nigel Farage once shook her by the hand (rather literally, I gather; she’s not very big and he was rather enthusiastic) - but Michael Portillo clearly had the collective seal of approval.

What was particularly interesting, though, was the revelation, in the discussion which followed, that none of these ladies wants to vote Conservative. They concede that they might be obliged to do so in the case of potentially disastrous local candidates for the other parties, but they are unanimous that they have had enough; enough of Party infighting and backbiting, enough of pointless targets and ill-informed virtue-signalling policies, enough of the myriad shortcomings of the NHS and, above all, enough of being, as one of them put it, ‘farmed’ by the state for fees and taxes while their interests are largely ignored.

Quite rightly, they point out that they survived bombing and wartime disruption as children (one was actually born under the kitchen table during an air raid) and then endured years of rationing for the common good. They and their friends have worked hard, many of them in public service, and raised families and have, as they see it, a major stake in the society they helped to create in the post-war decades, but now they feel utterly abandoned by a government which expects them to do everything online and stands idly by while they are vilified for their age, presumed opinions and supposed ‘privilege’.

Since election strategy, like so many other things these days, is in the hands of statistical computer types - not to mention people of an age to dismiss the elderly as irrelevant - I wonder whether the Conservative party may be under the mistaken and patronising impression that these older voters will stick to their previous voting patterns. Truly we live in interesting times!

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