I WRITE this week’s column sure of one thing; the Conservative Party remains a callous organism, unreliable as Charles Ponzi at the My Little Pony Friendship Club AGM.
No apologies, this is not the Beeb. The chance of impartiality here equals the chance of Tories sticking to their manifesto [Darren, you’re only getting away with lack of impartiality this close to an election because this a comment column! Editor].
So the right-wing scrap, Daily Mail complained the Beeb’s debate last week was “bias to the left;” hold on a nanosecond, if it swayed to the left could it have been because the Prime Minister was too chicken to turn up? She’d rather chant unbelievable soundbites from a protective podium, and spend her time praising London’s homophobic Jesus House Church.
They’d cry Thatcherism was too soft on the poor; they said the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games was “leftie”, because Danny Boyle depicted the NHS for what it truly is; the envy of the world.
For crying out loud, when will this barbaric folly cease? Surely even Conservatives will now acknowledge she’s made diabolical chaos of their campaign for the flash election she pushed, despite promising she wouldn’t? And with that in mind, how on Earth or any other celestial body can you possibly trust her to obtain us the “best deal for Britain” at the EU? I wouldn’t trust her with my fidget spinner on a bouncy castle.
It’s getting to the “fed-up” stage where I long to see social media return to Candy Crush requests and cat videos. Nauseating is the notion we’re wedged in the mucus of Tory central for our desire to reside somewhere aesthetically pleasing. Think alternative, and get it into your nostalgic cranium; this is not Thatcherism.
So here we go one last time; come on Rodders, you know it makes sense. Labour, is the alternative gathering pace elsewhere in the country like Lewis Hamilton at the driving school in Legoland; are we to shame ourselves again like a soiled baby and cry for convention?
If I slip a whoopie cushion on our safe seat it’d only be pushed aside, so let’s hear from our fresh and mighty brave young man, Imtiyaz Shaikh who is surprisingly optimistic in his attempt to gain against the bigger kids in this game of musical chairs.
Has he been given a doomed constituency, is it best just to hold onto the few Labour supporters and cross his fingers, and toes?
“The Labour Party in Devizes is better organised that you might think,” he tells me, “and is growing fast.
“There are lots of unlikely Labour supporters out there who are beginning to get active across age groups.
“Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who one would expect to vote Labour – ‘the more likely’ – who are quite frankly alienated from the whole process of democracy.
“This is partly our fault and we are trying to change it,” says Imtiyaz.
“Claire Perry acts as if she has a God-given right to be our MP, and her wrath is frequently directed at those that oppose her, but no, we are not crossing our fingers and toes, we are too busy campaigning.”
Asking the wealthiest to pay a bit more affects this constituency, they reside here. I asked Imtiyaz how Labour could change the ethos of that majority.
“Yes many people in the constituency are very well off,” he notes, “but there are pockets of rural poverty in this area which is unseen, or worse ignored.
“Even in Marlborough the food bank delivers to families who are not just struggling, they are sinking. In some of the villages it is worse because of lack of transport links and rural isolation.
“I think the majority carry on believing that everything is good because it is good for them. Austerity measures introduced by this government hasn’t touched them, nearly all the cuts have been on the incomes of the poorest. It will change because it has to.
“The charity of the churches and the voluntary sector can only go so far in plugging the gaps in welfare; the present level of inequality is just not sustainable.”
Corbyn seems adamant a coalition won’t happen; does Imtiyaz feel a coalition might be fundamental in our constituency?
“A coalition is not the answer in this constituency,” he says.
“Although we have more in common with both the Greens and the Liberals than the Conservatives, a coalition of the progressive parties in this constituency would not be enough to topple the huge Conservative majority.
“For the last few years in this constituency Labour and the Greens have been working together on issues they agree on; Europe, the environment and anti-poverty strategies.
“I haven’t been involved in this but I believe that at local level collaboration and co-operation is essential. At national level what is needed is a change in the voting system, so people can genuinely vote for the party of their choice.
“I am a democrat and the first past the post system is not, in my opinion, the best way of running a representative democracy. If elected I would campaign for a change in the voting system and although this is not yet Labour policy I think people in the Labour Party agree with me.”
One hurdle is the insular population of Devizes, quick to point out Imtiyaz is based in Swindon; I’d wager they ponder how this reflects on his knowledge and dedication to Devizes.
“Swindon is not a million miles away, Devizes is a huge constituency,” he tells me,
“The problems faced by people in Devizes town are not so different from the problems faced by people in Swindon.
“The difference is the rural areas in this constituency have no transport links and are isolated communities. Pensioners on low incomes and young people without transport in some of the villages are significantly worse off than those in the towns.
“I don’t pretend to know this area as well as the area I live in but if elected I would be a full-time politician in this constituency, fighting in the interests of all the people in all parts of this constituency.”
Remember when I started this column last year; we kicked it off with an opinion poll of what past facilities we would welcome back? The hospital was only one under a train station. Think of the relevance of this now; does he think the NHS care centre is sufficient for our needs, or is the lack of health services here an unpleasant sign of Tory’s tenet to privatise it?
“The population of Devizes has gone up,” Imtiyaz says.
“The NHS Care centre in Devizes is too small to meet present demand. Across the county health services have been depleted. Labour would ensure services meet local demand by investing in them.
“One of the problems in our area is recruitment of staff. There are not enough doctors and nurses to fill current vacancies. The Tory policy of getting rid of nurse bursaries at a time when there is a huge recruitment problem is simply crazy.
“Capping pay rises for nurses and other health professionals at 1% for six years is equally crazy. More and more nurses are leaving the profession because they simply can’t afford to feed their kids.”
You could say the only good thing to have come from this Tory administration is that the young have realised there’s better things to be voting on than Britain’s Got Talent but, right now, the NHS is surely the kingpin to persuading lifetime blue supporters to change.
“It takes three years to train a nurse and seven years to train a doctor,” Imtiyaz continues.
“If more EU citizens leave our NHS will completely collapse. What better way to achieve a private health care system, than under-investing in the NHS and making private health care the only option?
“With another Conservative Government people won’t just be having their houses confiscated when they die to pay off social care costs, any assets they have will be used to pay-off their health care costs too. This already happens in America, although, to be fair, in America this happens before you die.”
I admit I have nightmares where Dr Nick of the Simpsons comes to my bedside, but giving out Labour leaflets the other week I was faced with an averagely well off elderly chap who threw it back at me.
He stated, “I in’t never voted fer ‘em be-fur, why should I start nare?”
What would Imtiyaz say to people like that?
“If every one really did vote in their self-interest we would have a Labour government!” he points out.
“I too have met people like him. No party is perfect but I believe that Labour has the best policies for a UNITED kingdom.
“The choice in this election is about what direction you want this country to go in; further erosion of our public services and a country where only the wealthy have access to decent health care, education and housing, or a country where everyone benefits from a Labour Party which will invest in these essential services for the benefit of everyone. For the many not the few is more than a political slogan, it encapsulates everything I believe in.”
So the conclusion is nearing and the ref is checking his watch.
I’ve been mightily impressed by Imtityaz’s response to my questions. I thank him and wish him all the best; next week we can return to a shorter column, whinging once again about favourite chip shops and so on. For now though, please don’t accept the media assault against Corbyn; it’s false.
I mean, can we be sure there’s only one Jeremy Corbyn? Seems like we have the real McCoy and another the media seems to report on.
Imtiyaz’s view? “We are just beginning to see Jeremy Corbyn uncut. In an election campaign coverage is more balanced and he can speak directly to audiences rather than having his message filtered and distorted by the media.
“What you see is what you get; a tough man with integrity, someone who genuinely believes what he says and someone who, against the odds WILL deliver.”
“Jeremy Corbyn is not a man who backs down at the slightest hint of attack. He will be attacked, he has been many times before, but he won’t run away from a fight with vested interests.
“He will stand up and fight for what he believes in; a fairer more equal society.”
The other candidates standing in Devizes for election on June 8 are: Chris Coleman, Lib Dems; Emma Dawnay, Green Party; Jim Gunter: Wessex Regionists; Tim Page, UKIP; Claire Perry, Conservative Party.