Campaigning in a crofting area

Political parties try to reduce elections to simply identifying voters who support you, then dragging them out kicking and screaming on polling day. In urban areas, maybe you can reduce campaigning to production line techniques like that. But in the countryside people expect to get to know you, and expect you to get to know them.

Along the way they’ll decide whether to back you, and may never tell you. Years ago I was a Councillor in England, and it was only during my third re-election campaign that people started saying “oh, I’ve always voted for you” instead of “I’ll think about it”.

Yesterday was our 3rd day campaigning in Rogart, up in the hills again among the crofts. Some strong images stick in the mind.

I chose to wear storm-proof trousers as the radio promised bursts of torrential rain between sunny periods. Here, what you actually get is usually the opposite to the weather forecast, but it turned out to be a wise move, especially with that many hilltops to climb. The landscape in the picture of me in the yellow jacket may seem devoid of habitation, but there are crofts hidden all around.

“We do like your house.” “Would you like to come in for a look?” “Yes please!” (We’re hoping to downsize onto the plot next door)

“Come in for coffee. I’ve got some cake” said the lady who organises the community baking. The temptation nearly got us. You really need to try her cheese scones to understand.

Where we stopped for our picnic lunch, we suddenly realised there were Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot pigs on the land next to us. Judging by the reddish colour, though, there was a healthy dose of Tamworth in the Old Spots. Friendly they were, too.

Outside the village school there was an Easter lamb waiting with it’s mum for playgroup to start. A little early, but they didn’t seem to mind. There was plenty to eat on the roadside verge.

In the kennels up by an old side-school, we came across a litter of puppies, one of which followed me back to the car. I led it back and it followed me again. Walking to heel at six weeks old? I felt chosen, but the Westies would have objected.

In the middle of a doorstep conversation, the subject turned to whether that lamb lying motionless over there was dead or not. Happily not!

There was another discussion about hunter trials and carriage driving, the latter being too much work and money to be enjoyable; which suddenly turned to what happens when farmed boars escape into the wild. We have experience of that from Kent.

These are some of the insights into other people’s real lives that make elections enjoyable and meaningful.

Five years ago I didn’t know anybody. It’s a pleasant surprise to realise how many people I now know so well, and how much genuine warmth there is.

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