The hustings

Journalistic transport
Journalistic transport (don’t ask me the date!)

It’s election time, political aspirations and egos all over the country are being stroked and slapped in equal measure. Rosettes are fluttering from every lapel and poor innocent voters who are really unlucky get spoken at by one of the political Big Names™ parachuted in to press palms in the nation’s marginal constituencies.

Eee, it takes me back to my reporting days. I was fortunate to work in areas which were so marginal, everyone took a sleeping bag to the count. If there weren’t three re-counts, they weren’t really trying. I’ve known it to be down to a spoiled paper and the candidate’s name written on the back of a fag packet. Aye, them were t’days.

I don’t know if it’s still the case, but when I was a lass, reporters led charmed lives at election times. Everyone wanted to get their names in our spiral-bound notebooks and then on to the pages of the newspaper. No digital recorders in those days. No recorders. And digital hadn’t even been invented.

The Big Names™ came, surrounded by advisers, advisers to advisers and, in the case of Margaret Thatcher, massive security. Though that didn’t stop her breaking free at the steps of Dewsbury Town Hall and chiding the old dears waiting to see her. ‘Oh, you SHOULDn’t have WAITED in the COLD just to SEE me,’ she told them. No, they shouldn’t, they really shouldn’t.

I wasn’t introduced to Margaret Thatcher, evening newspapers weren’t television, she didn’t need newsprint. And I hadn’t waited in the cold. The Labour candidate did set up an interview with Neil Kinnock, which was nice, though he’s much smaller in real life. Then there was Michael Heseltine, who’s much bigger in real life, and I seem to remember Michael Howard making an appearance, though there was something of the night about him. Best value, though, was Denis Healey former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was driven through the streets of Cleckheaton on the back of a lorry, playing piano, he could certainly hold a tune.

Maybe it was me, in the thrill of the hustings and the excitement of writing story after story picked up by the nationals and seeing my local patch under the spotlight, but elections then were full of personalities.

Today I’m finding it hard to get excited about the personalities involved, though if one of the party leaders was to take to the streets of Leeds and give me a decent blast on a blues harmonica, they’d get my vote. Roll on May 7 when, in spite of all I’ve said, I’ll be glued to the TV and Peter Snow’s swingometer to see who’s going to form our next government, heaven help them.

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