They say, with penetrating accuracy, that once you become a parent you are only as happy as your least happy child. And, sad to say, since we got the Alliance for Unity going last year it has been like having an extra child. The party’s triumphs and disasters have produced the same reaction in me as my children’s and I find myself worrying like a parent about our progress.
The anxiety to start with was not finding enough people of sufficient calibre to join us; then it was that the Electoral Commission would find excuses to keep turning down our application to be a political party until beyond polling day; then it was that we would simply be ignored by everyone; then it was that we would never feature in any polls. So the Sunday Times poll putting A4U on 4%, one percent behind the Liberal Democrats, is a bit like seeing one of the children winning their first egg and spoon race: It is heartening and frustrating at the same time.
Heartening that, after weeks of being lumped under ‘other’ in the question and therefore, being shown under ‘other’ in the poll result, we finally exist on Planet Psephology. Frustration that had George or I been included in the BBC Leaders’ Debate we would surely have polled much higher. There are still voters who have never heard of us thanks to the media’s attempts to ignore us. But I have a feeling that won’t last much longer and we can go much higher.
Our Sunday Times poll debut appears to have triggered a nervous breakdown in the Tory Party. I had resolved to spend the Easter weekend having some family time but end up fighting a defensive battle against Tory trolling on Twitter.
I find this a bit odd as I have been a member of the Tory party much longer than Douglas Ross (who traded up from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and was born the year I first voted Tory) and I suspect my views are more in line with orthodox one-nation Toryism than his.
Tory party HQ seem to have lined up Jackson Carlaw and some MSP called Maurice Golden to mount personal attacks on George. It looks as if they are also using the journalists Stephen Daisley and Henry Hill to stir up animosity towards A4U. And I detect plotting with the supposedly non-partisan Unionist lobby group Scotland in Union, who are busily telling anyone who still listens to them not to vote for ‘fringe or new parties’.
Dear old Tories, they are completely blind to the irony that in running total no-hoper candidates in what should be safe Labour or Liberal seats they are doing far more to ‘split the vote’ than we ever will. And George is not exactly a Tory icon coming to steal their votes. The crux of their argument seems to be that we are not proper Scottish Unionists because of George’s support for a united Ireland. The low point comes when, egged on by Carlaw et al, someone calls me a coward:
Listen sunshine, I did two tours in Northern Ireland, Gulf War One and served on the staff of operations in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. By the look of your photo you were still in nappies at the time.
We arrive at the studio in Glasgow for the manifesto launch. George, being the old media pro that he is, immediately starts to ‘have his face put on’ by Gayatri. I tell him it looks as if he is being embalmed. He agrees that may not be too far wide of the mark.
I have opted to wear a tweed coat and my regimental tie. I only ever wear a suit for funerals these days and I have made a mental note that if I am ever seen in a dark suit, white shirt, blue tie, Bob the Builder hat and High-vis jacket, everyone has permission to shoot me.
Nevertheless I feel rather a country bumpkin in the middle of Glasgow. I have decided to go against my normal modus operandi and prepare a speech to read off the autocue. When we get there the autocue is nowhere to be seen so someone holds it on a laptop next to the camera, which makes me look as if I have a bad squint. The press conference seems to go ok, although the BBC only seem interested in gotcha journalism, trying to trip George up over his appearances on Russia Today.
It makes me wonder why we bothered to write a manifesto. It’s an enjoyable experience though and Ricky and his team in the reflexblue studio have really pulled out all the stops and even provided mugs for our coffee with the A4U roundel symbol on.
The manifesto launch finally gets us an invitation to be interviewed on the BBC, by Martin Geissler on ‘The Nine’. Geissler appears to have been set up by the producer to do a demolition job on George, bizarrely accusing him of standing alongside “Old Etonians, former Army Majors..” (that’ll be me then). It fails and I suspect from now on Geissler will have his nightmares peppered with the words “You’re not Jeremy Paxman, trust me on that.”
The next day a supporter tweets praising George’s ‘testicular fortitude’. You can’t ask for more than that when you are nearing your eighth decade.
To be continued…
Jamie Blackett is leader of All for Unity (the Alliance for Unity). Follow him on Twitter @Jamie_Blackett.