Friday, 30 April 2010

get those garden stakes in!

29 April 2010
By Melanie Newman, Hannah Fearn
With the general election only a week away, Times Higher Education spent a day on the stump with three academics running for national office. Migration, social responsibility and public lavatories were all hot topics - but what about higher education policy? Melanie Newman and Hannah Fearn report from the hustings


Anneliese Dodds is canvassing at two sheltered-housing blocks.

Her phone keeps ringing: a batch of campaign leaflets has been printed with a hotline number that is "all zeros", so everyone is calling her mobile instead.

At the same time, Roger Hayes, an experienced campaigner who is accompanying her on the round, is nagging her about "stakes" - roadside posters - that have not been set up.

"We had some weightlifters helping out; they've put a lot up," says Dr Dodds, a lecturer in social policy at King's College London, who is standing as the Labour candidate for Reading East. Mr Hayes seems unsatisfied.

Many of the two dozen or so sheltered-housing residents who open their doors to Dr Dodds are undecided about how they will vote.

One resident tells her to go away. Another can't talk because she is cooking and "all oniony".

A third says that he is "voting Greenpeace", as they are going to raise his pension. He has clearly confused the environmental action group with the Green Party.

Higher education remains firmly off the agenda, while the closure of public lavatories is a recurring issue.

About a third of the residents are staunch Labour supporters, although not all recognise Dr Dodds.

"You look fatter in your photograph," says one, "and your hair's different."

Most of the candidate's supporters agree on one thing: they cannot stand David Cameron, the Conservative leader.

"He's so cocky," says one. "He'll look after the rich, it's always the same."

A floating voter invites the academic in to make the case for Labour.

"I could never vote Tory because I come from a small mining village," she says. "I've always voted Labour, but I think it's time we gave the Lib Dems a go."

Dr Dodds warns her that Reading East is a "tight marginal" between Labour and the Tories.

"But nobody addresses the important things," the resident says. "I paid tax all my life, now I'm being paid my pension and I'm being taxed again. No other country in the world taxes you twice.

"And I read the paper the other day and somebody was saying they were proud to be on benefits. You can take the 'great' out of Great Britain, and you can blame the politicians for that."

"I agree it's difficult if you've worked hard," Dr Dodds says. "But things would be better under Labour than under a Tory government."

The resident finally agrees: "All right Anneliese, I'll vote for you."

Back at the office, Dr Dodds' campaign coordinator Harry is frantically cleaning up.

"I've just had Special Branch here. We've got a minister visiting at 1pm tomorrow."

"I can't do that; I've got to be at work," Dr Dodds says, disappearing downstairs to write her speech for a hustings that evening.

draw your own conclusions. I know exactly where Anneliese was and some of the same people are probably still there, especially George.

the leaflets with the wrong phone number - take a bow, Mr Howarth.

of the two journalists by-lined in this piece (from the Times Higher Education Supplement) one is known to me, in fact we spent Christmas together, but the other one wrote the piece about Anneliese. Good on you Roger for all the work you do - getting any help from the boys? Thought not.

Immigration is another concern. "We're swamped," says a pensioner. "Sometimes when I go into town, I think I'm the only British-born person here."


Abbey Nationalist said...

This is fascinating. It is less obvious this year than at the last General Election, but it seems to me that Labour stakeboards only go up in rented accommodation, frequently in HMOs. Often, they are on the same stake as the "To Let" signs from the Agents. Is that because a local landlord is a strong supporter of the Labour Party, or are the tenants putting them up?

Anonymous said...

Aticle seems inaccurate to me - it says that people are undecided as to whether to vote for her. Evidence in the piece would say that they had definitley decided not to.

The only person who said they would did so after some hetfy arm twisting.
Nuff said. Over and out.

Anonymous said...

"You can take the 'great' out of Great Britain.."

...and you'll be living in France. Someone should have told her.

Just like someone should have told the daft old bat in Rochdale, Eastern Europeans come, surprisingly or not, from Eastern Europe.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that the 'daft old bat' was just using a figure of speech.
She is strange though - fancy wanting our country to be mainly British and not overrun with foreigners.
If you want to see other people's cultures, and there's nothing wrong with that, then take a flight to Warsaw or Delhi.

Anonymous said...

L9. Is Englishness or Britishness so fragile that the arrival of a few hundred thousand people from other countries elsewhere in Europe could stop it being English or British? If that's so why did it not happen before with the Huguenots, refugees from pogroms in Eastern Europe or from Hitler?

People from elsewhere in Europe have arrived in the UK because as members of the EU there is free movement so they can. Just the same as there are hundreds of thousands of British people living and working elsewhere in Europe, particularly in France and Spain. Does that mean the French and Spanish cultures are threatened? I don't think so.

There is a concern that politicians have for too long not listened to the concerns of the white working class preferring to talk solely to the Mosque and Middle class, like Labour in Reading. Treating them like voting fodder, that's why we're now seeing some members of the white working class community turn to the representatives of nationalism.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean flashingblade, I wish those bloody Tibetans would stop whinging about the Chinese.

Same too with the Palestinians keep moaning about the Israelis building a few settlements in the desert. Not much of a culture if it can't stand a few thousand Jewish folk moving into the neighbourhood.

jane said...

It doesn't take much for the mask to slip, does it Anonymous 2346? There we have it. "Jewish folk". Ah yes. Settlements OK so long as they are not populated by, er, Jewish people? As Bob Dylan once sang, "Obscenity, who really cares", well, I do. That is as far as the racist thread you have started is going to be allowed to go. Next!

Anonymous said...

That was exactly the point I was making but for some reason the innocuous word Jewish seems to bring on the red mist in you. Obviously a trigger word.

But ho-hum, as blog owner that's your prerogative.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough FB, but I think you have dropped a zero or two from your figures.

jane said...

you were trying to say what, Anonymous 1129?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 May 11:29

A Jewish man was stabbed in the centre of my city last Friday lunchtime. Result eh? That's one less of them eh? Happy now?