The ‘I’m Voting For Chuka’ posters in my rich neighbours’ front windows pushed me over the edge. There is nothing so likely to galvanise one’s inner Tory than the sight of the biggest, poshest houses in the neighbourhood displaying left-wing conceitedness.
‘Of course they’re voting Labour, they’re the only ones who can afford to,’ said the builder (boy)friend, who had popped round to my house for supper. I know, I know. It’s confusing. But we are always going to be on-off, so everyone is going to just have to deal with it. And he is a beacon of common sense at election time, I can tell you. Just the sort of instinctive working-class right-winger you want around when the privileged lefties are marauding in the streets waving banners protesting about democracy when it delivers a result they don’t like.
Before the vote, he was wonderfully reassuring. I had been conflicted about this election, you may remember, because of HS2. By backing Cameron when he’s putting a high speed rail link past my parents’ back garden, wiping the value off their home and, so far, denying them a penny in compensation, I am effectively making myself the proverbial turkey voting for Christmas.
If and when my family used their stubby pencils to put an x in that particular box it was going to cost us the better part of half a million quid. I’m not sure what my parents did in the end. I haven’t dared ask. They were extremely upset about the whole sorry dilemma.
But it was the Chuka posters that clinched it for me. There they were, bright yellow and red Vote Labour signs displayed in the windows of some of the swankiest houses in south London.
I used to walk past and stare into the windows, hoping to get some clue as to the sorts of people who were living in such a strange state of psychotic denial. Most of the houses looked to me like they were pushing towards the £2 million mark, thus qualifying them for Miliband’s mansion tax. As I stared into the hallway of one particular ‘mansion’, clocking a rack of posh coats and a long, elegant umbrella, I turned to the spaniel and said, ‘What are these people on? Is there something in the water round here?’
It occurred to me that I may only still be sane because I never drink from the tap, being addicted to Highland Spring. Then again, am I sane if I vote for my family to lose half a million quid? Although, Labour would build HS2 anyway. And ruin the economy. And strengthen the ban on hunting. And make my gundog illegal, in all likelihood.
It was all most befuddling. But, on balance, I had become more depressed about the attitude of my lefty neighbours wanting to wreck the economy on principle, than by the prospect of HS2 ruining my life and my parents’ lives. I call that selfless, but I don’t want to blow my own trumpet.
In fact, the builder and I were so depressed that the London luvvies were indicative of the thinking nationwide that we made advanced plans to emigrate to the South of France if the vote went that way.
We were pretty on edge. There were a few close calls, like when a Labour canvasser came up my path one night as the builder was standing in the porch taking his shoes off. ‘Can I just give you one of these?’ she said, holding out a Chuka leaflet.
‘No, you can’t!’ snapped the builder. ‘You can take it away. I’m working-class trash who needs a job. Now sod off.’
I fantasised about doctoring a Chuka poster with a black marker pen, in order to display it in my window, thus: ‘I’m voting to Chuka My Money Away!’
Finally, the builder walked me to the polling station with the spaniel straining at the leash. ‘You see, Cydney knows. You think Labour are going to allow working corkers? She’ll be out of a job and on benefits.’
‘Gosh,’ said a lady standing outside the polling station looking at the list, ‘aren’t there a lot of candidates?’
Halfway down, there was a man standing for the Cannabis Is Less Harmful Than Alcohol party.
‘That’s it!’ said the builder. ‘That’s what all the rich lefties are on round here!’
Since then, of course, they have been very subdued. The morning after, I passed two ladies in jogging gear walking their pooches on the Common and heard one say, in a cut-glass accent, ‘Oh, weren’t you depressed, daaarling, when you woke up this morning and heard the awful news?’
‘Oh, yah!’ said the other. Then their conversation blessedly faded away as they power-whinged into the distance, their little designer lap dogs yapping round their ankles.