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Graeme Archer's Diary: Bohemian, Like Us

I’ve written before about the dehumanising machines that Labour creates as it seeks to transform the country irreparably: the Tax Credit Machine, The Human Rights Machine and so on; devices that grip humans in their pincers and squeeze all hope and courage out of them. But perhaps my imagery was misplaced. For today I woke up to hear that Gordon Brown’s got a new agenda, helped by his best friends at the Daily Mail: he’s declaring war on plastic bags. There are to be targets for the numbers of plastic bags in circulation, and perhaps an element of compulsion. No doubt a quango will be established to monitor plastic bag usage, with special attention given to the needs of various minority groups. Perhaps a new role for Lee Jasper? I’m tempted to write that since Brown couldn’t poke his way out of a wet paper bag without getting in a mess, perhaps he’s bitten off more than he can chew here. But I’m sorry - it defies parody. The party of Keir Hardie, reduced to fretting about plastic bags. It was a new dawn, was it not?

“I mean, look around you,” said Councillor X. “We’re about the least ideological Conservative association in the country”.

He was right, I think. It was a post-leafleting session in some N16 wine bar and Hackney Conservatives’ crack squad of activists [is “crack squad” a good name for you? – Ed] were chewing the political cud. I’m explaining this so you know that I didn’t just happen to find myself in N16 by chance. I always feel a little uncomfortable in Stoke Newington. It’s full of people like me, only more so. Bars filled with visions of yourself, playing at maximum volume, is not a relaxing experience.

I hate leafleting, anyway. You’re either wandering a mile up some driveway, in terror of canine attack (Release the dogs!) or running up and down flights of stairs in council blocks (at least they’ll probably vote Tory). You spend ten minutes at each block trying to find the Tory voter on the intercom to let you in. You shred your fingers pushing the literature through letterboxes, helpfully placed one inch off the ground, designed to shield the interior from a thermonuclear explosion, let alone anything as mild as a “Vote Boris” leaflet. And all the time your bladder is telling you that you need to pee. Never mind. It seems to work.

Anyway, what Matthew was saying – sorry, Councillor X, must protect my sources – was that in all the years we’ve leafleted and canvassed our way around the borough, no-one in our association has ever got hissy about political theory. Perhaps the, erm, uphill nature of our struggle against the monolithic Hackney Labour machine keeps us focused on what really matters? I dunno; maybe we just like hanging around in bars too much. But how unlike the comment pages of our own dear ConservativeHome!

The warm glow of ideological fudge we inhabit in Hackney came back to me when I read of Norman Tebbit’s attack on Michael Gove. How helpful it was, to diss one of the most intellectual, thoughtful and politically effective members of the shadow cabinet. If only Michael Gove spent more time telling people to get on their bike, rather than writing books about the dangers of extremism, presumably he’d get Lord Tebbit’s seal of approval. In my humble opinion, a little ideology goes an awful long way. But what do I know? I just deliver the leaflets to help these political giants get elected.

More news from the Boris campaign frontline. Oh, OK – it’s just a relay of a conversation I had with a friend (yes, in a Hackney pub, an east end one though, none of that north London malarkey) this week. This bloke is a Labour party member, despite being, politically, five hundred light years to the right of me (I know, I know, that’s not hard, that cushion over there is more rightwing than I am, ha ha). His view, which surprised me, is that Boris will win on the first round on 1 May. His office is full of people who’ve never voted in a Mayoral before, but who want Boris to beat Livingstone. I don’t think I’ve seen this differential turnout built into any of the polling predictions so far, not that I’ve been looking: but I wonder what will happen if turnout is higher? Do we think that would benefit Livingstone, or be a sign that the previously disinterested are turning out in force to get rid of that odious man, and replace him with the splendid Boris? We’re off to Walthamstow Dogs with Boris soon – I’ll report back on his reception there. I’m predicting: warm.

There’s a fascinating – and encouraging – analysis of second preference intentions at the ever-brilliant Political Betting website. Not that it matters, since our first preference will be the one that gets counted, but I can’t resist using my second preference vote anyway in these elections. Who you gonna give your second choice to? Can you guess where mine will go? It’s not hard: a Hackney vegetarian, who loves recycling, refuses to own a car, checks that the eggs in his organic mayonnaise come from free-range chickens, hates all airports and any plans for their expansion, is deeply concerned about the number of plastic bags in circulation and loves the thought of micro-generators on every street. That’s right … my second vote will go to … UKIP. Only joking!

Things Not To Do, Part 10: don’t become Facebook Friends with people who share your name. I did it, and have spent the last year learning that the other Graeme Archer is better-looking than I am, socialises more with thousands of friends, travels more widely than the editor of Baedeker, and is more successful with women (not a high hurdle, that one). To cap it all, in this week of Mr Keith’s and my first anniversary as a respectable civilly-partnered couple (a year ago tomorrow), the other Graeme wrote to me to blame last week’s earthquake on us – it’s all the fault of gay people, according to an Israeli MP. And to think I said that legalising gay marriage wouldn’t make the sky fall down! It would, however, appear to have made the earth move.


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