Unusually for a modern Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson seems to enjoy meeting voters. When I joined her on the campaign trail, she had been posing with a giant eagle in Kirkcaldy. Then she jumped on to a Harley Davidson in Stirling. Such props, she says, are a ‘springboard’ to talk about Scottish Conservatism — which, thanks to her, is no longer an oxymoron.
Davidson’s sparkling performances in the various debates stood in welcome contrast to David Cameron’s.
Never before — at least, not in living memory — has there been such a disconnect between north and south Britain. We vote together, but cast our ballots in very different contests. Scotland and England, semi-detached in the past, are more estranged than ever. The mildewed contest between David Cameron and Ed Miliband touches few hearts north of the Tweed; the battle between Labour and the SNP still mystifies many of those sent north to observe the strange happenings in Scotland.
You get bad losers in politics and bad winners, too, but it’s surely a rare business to get a bad winner who didn’t actually win. Yet this, since they lost last September’s referendum, has been the role of the SNP. Dismay, reassessment, introspection, contrition, resignation; all of these have been wholly absent. Instead, they have been triumphalist. Lording it, with cruel and haughty disdain, over their vanquished foes.
‘Are all of these questions about politics love — because I’m really not political?’ Oh dear. I’ve just lost another respondent two minutes into a three-minute survey and the chances of achieving my hourly target, and therefore continuing my employment in pre-election polling, are receding fast.
Perhaps she didn’t hear my scripted preamble: ‘Could you spare a few minutes to take part in a survey on the upcoming general election?’ What sort of questions did she think I’d ask? ‘Do you think SamCam pulled off the midi-skirt?’
At least I can take pleasure in hearing a colleague struggle a few booths down.
In the early hours of 25 July 1943, nearly 800 RAF Halifaxes and Lancasters launched a 50-minute bombing raid on the Third Reich’s second largest city, Hamburg. The pilots used the neo-Gothic spire of St Nikolai’s church in the city’s historic heart as a landmark and killed 1,500 people.
Three nights later, just after midnight, the bombers returned. What was to follow was immeasurably worse. The RAF’s target was the city’s overcrowded working-class districts, Hammerbrook, Hamm and Borgfelde, to which many of those who had lost their homes in the previous bombardment had fled.
I was riveted to read about Ione Wells, an Oxford student, aged 20, who was savagely attacked on a London street. She then wrote about the experience for her university paper and has now hit the national news, prompting other students to write about their experiences too. Ione has kick-started her career as a journalist, and discovered that a woman reporter can often do well by cannibalising her own life, as long as she is a good writer, which Ione seems to be.
This week has been all about the election, the US presidential election that is. It is 18 months away but already the race is sending out sparks and popping like a newly lit fire. On the one hand, there’s Hillary. She takes a trip by van across ‘the real America’ — a near-faultless launch of her campaign, everyone agrees, until she eats a meal in a fast food restaurant and forgets to tip. Then there’s the Republican field, heading for a dozen strong, but perhaps ending up whittled down to just Jeb Bush.
Unusually, I didn’t leave the British Isles until I was 35, when I went to the Maldives for a fortnight. (You bet it was a culture shock, considering that the most exotic place I’d been until then was the Bognor Regis branch of Butlins.) But I’ve globetrotted like a footloose fiend since then, and on my travels I’ve observed that the pricier the watering hole, the less likely vacationers are to look happy.