Though my view of hustings meetings is similar to John Howell MP's in Henley, I thought it was important to try to put forward different views to the three main parties (plus Greens) who roughly are in same area of agreement on many subjects.
During one such meeting I touched on a theme highlighted by Christopher Booker, in answer to a question from the floor.
My view was that there were a number of elephants in the room about which candid discussion was being avoided by the main parties, mainly: immigration, the EU, and the economy in regard to the scale of cuts required. All three of course are inextricably linked.
For me the experience of this election on the doorstep was largely a single issue one. Immigration. Before I began campaigning in earnest I had anticipated and prepared for a number of issues that would likely be raised; notably MP's expenses and the economy. But no. Despite the constituency being a largely rural one, the main issue that was raised above all others was immigration. It was utterly relentless, day after day. Anger over the effect of immigration on housing and schools just kept on coming.
The economy is another crucial area of concern. The scale of the public deficit is, as we all know, unprecedented. We want direct answers as to where the cuts will be. The other candidates talked in single billions, not the tens of billions required. My summary, that if the next budget isn't one of the most unpopular in history then the government won't being doing their job properly, was very well received. The voters aren't stupid. They want frankness. They weren't getting it from the LibLabCon.
And of course there's the EU. "We'll save Post Offices, we'll cap immigration and we'll help local businesses" they argued. With no word about the EU where most of the regulation and power lies about these issues. I often wonder if the largest number of new MPs for a generation know how impotent they really are. I always liked this from Matthew Parris in his Great Parliamentary Scandals book:
You are [as an MP] a little prince in your own constituency. In the House you may be a smaller fish, but still feel you belong to a most important - the most important - club. Your head swells. But your heart troubles you because you know it's not true. You know you are only there because your party association chose you. Few ever voted for you as an individual or ever will. You know too, that your power at Westminster is zero - the whips humiliate you privately - and your influence in the constituency consist mainly in using your headed notepaper to help a pushy handful jump queues in which more patient constituents quietly wait. You know you are a fraud and your position is a fraud.Parris is right, and though he didn't refer to the EU, he might as well have done.
Well now that the election is over, and us 'little people' have had their say for possibly five years, the last couple of days have been an outpouring of honesty (almost).
Consult widely? Funny how they didn't do that before May 6th when we had the real power of choice via a ballot box. Richard North is right, we're being treated as morons.
The British way of life will have to change, David Cameron will warn today as he readies the country for the biggest cuts in government spending since the Second World War.
Using some of his strongest language yet, the Prime Minister will give warning that the cuts will affect every person in the country and the effects will last for decades to come.
The coalition Government plans to consult widely before making an announcement, likely in November. Public meetings will be held and people will be invited to go online and tell ministers about their priorities.
The wages of British workers were forced down because the Labour government failed to restrict immigration from eastern Europe, Ed Balls claims today. In a provocative article in the Observer, the Labour leadership hopeful says the party will rebuild trust only if it admits "what we got wrong".Provocative article? It would have been more provocative if it had been written before the election. But no. No word though how Balls proposes to do this while we remain members of the EU.
And the EU:
This policy of "we don't want a bust up with Europe" is not going well, is it?
David Cameron will face an early test of the Government’s relationship with Europe today when he clashes with the EU President over whether Brussels should be allowed to see George Osborne’s Budget before it is presented to Parliament.
The Prime Minister is likely to turn down the request when he meets Herman Van Rompuy as part of a round of key meetings this week.
Britain has already clashed with EU chiefs in the first few weeks of the new Government, notably over plans for a sharp increase in the EU budget. The proposed 5.8 per cent increase has been described by Mr Osborne as unacceptable when European nations are struggling to cut costs.And possibly clashing again:
Much as the Tories want the EU to go away it won't. We cannot continue much longer with a 'half in and half out' policy. It's either one or the other; a decision made by a referendum. There are so many more issues about to erupt during this parliament that the 'ostrich-non-bust-up-with-Europe' strategy simply won't work. Either they grasp the nettle or it will be done for them.
David Cameron is ready for his first confrontation with the European Union if he attempts to stop the international ban on whaling being lifted.
The Coalition faces a multi-million-pound fine for voting to maintain the moratorium if, as expected, the rest of the EU refuses to oppose moves to legalise the slaughter of whales.