sitting ducks

It is not my habit to make casual comparisons between the Green Party and Soviet Russia  , but one came to mind a few weeks ago, when I was asked if I’d mind standing as a Green councillor, in the reassuring certainty that there was no chance of my being elected.

Old comrades among you may remember that in Stalin’s day there were real villages, and then there were  Potemkin villages – identical to all appearances, except there was nothing behind the magnificent façade. A bit like a remodel in a conservation area. Or Katie Price.

Anyhow, it seems just as the Soviet Union was occasionally short of the odd model village, so the Party now finds itself short of candidates, but quite reasonably wanting to make a show in the election by fronting people wherever there are seats to be fought, has identified a few places where a name on a ballot paper is really all they need.

I don’t really have time right now, but I started taking it a bit more seriously when they mentioned that you get paid. Quite well paid, too – £10k a year or so. Of course, you have to put in lots of unpaid work to get to that point: ranting against injustice, telling people off for their wicked ways, and generally flaunting your capacities for moral outrage. Hearing this job description, the family agreed that I was practically genetically engineered for it.

So, to get a feel for what it might be like, with a secondary purpose of getting out the vote, I’ve been doing some canvassing. Mr Fixit won’t let me put up a poster in our front window, partly for aesthetic reasons and partly because, as he jesuitically points out, he would then be obliged to put one up for the Lib Dems, and then Magnus and Dolly would have the right to start blazoning their allegiance to the Up All Night Street Dance Party, at which point our collective credibility would be totally shot.

So I had the cunning idea of putting one in the back window of my little (green) car, calculating, correctly, that not even Mr Fixit’s competitive instincts would persuade him to sully his own car windows with a poster. This also had the advantage that the car could, on the rare occasions it goes anywhere, become a mobile propaganda weapon, daringly invading enemy territory before returning to the safety of home.

Leaving it to work its magic on the passing trade, I biked up for my first morning’s canvassing. The best bit about this is that you get to see  – albeit fleetingly – inside other people’s houses, and find out how they live. By the time I had made and downed breakfast, frogmarched Magnus to guitar and back, done the week’s shop and collected the leaflets, most of them were just yawning and stretching over their Saturday fry-ups Lucky dogs. They don’t get woken by Mr Fixit at 6 am, blowing his bugle to welcome yet another perfect day.

The first address was a stack of flats above a café on a busy road. Public humiliation comes in many forms, but I’m not sure there is anything to compare with standing in direct view of a dozen strangers, with nothing to do while they wait for their toast but observe you yelling the merits of the Green party into an entryphone, while their dogs try to fornicate with your leg.

Luckily, most of the residents were out, and I was able to move on to the less exposed doorsteps of the local council estate, and the vast mansions surrounding it.  A couple of hours later I had five new friends, several fleas in my ear, and the memory of a powder blue 1935 drophead Bentley, sitting serenely in the middle of a thirty foot country kitchen, with its own private view of Hampstead Heath (I also had a Crème Egg in my bag, a generous, if not very transferable donation, which I left at Earth Foods to avoid friction at home.)

As the family tucked into their nourishing lunch of The Usual, with a side of Whatever There Is Salad, Dolly foolishly enquired what I’d been up to. ‘Telling people about the Green Party’s policies’, I replied, leaving out the bit about being told those policies were a load of cobblers, and look at all the immigrants in Peterborough. ‘So’, I seized the moment, ‘if you were inventing policies for your own party, what would they be?’

‘Giving money to people who need money!’

‘And where would that money come from?’

‘From the banks, of course. They could just make as much as people need, and nobody would be poor any more.’

‘Congratulations! You’ve just invented Quantitative Easing   . Would you like to be the next Chancellor?’

‘And no sweets! People who eat sweets, and fly – they’re just not being green. Say you adopt a polar bear, and then you drive your car. These people…’

Something in her tone – bossy, triumphalist, slightly confused over detail, a tad sanctimonious – is familiar. What does it remind me of? Oh, I know – me! My daughter has discovered that being Green means you can lecture other people all the time, and never be wrong about anything. There’s hope for her yet.

Meanwhile Magnus has realised this has the makings of a new parlour game. ‘I’ve got one! I’ve got one!’, he yells, scattering beetroot from his fork. ‘The government should make everybody over the age of…’ he screws up his face, trying to summon up an unimaginably distant and responsible age ‘…like, twenty two, put aside, say, five pounds a week, and then when they need it, or there’s a recession or something, the government can have it to get out of debt.’

I don’t like to tell him that this equally creative proposal is, in fact, his future, because that would have involved also revealing that the combination of a student loan and income tax is likely to add up to quite a bit more than a fiver a week.

Mr Fixit has said nothing so far, as his priorities incline more to removing beetroot from porous surfaces  before they are permanently stained, than solving the world’s problems over lunch. Having cleaned the floor and wrung out the cloth, he returns from the kitchen with a proposal that imaginatively combines his two primary interests: typographic inconsistency in signage, and cars.

‘I’d just remove all the road signs. From everywhere.’

‘What, the one way street signs, or the how to get to places signs?’

‘All of them.’

‘And how about street names?’

‘Those too – there are so few anyhow, it’s hardly fair to lead people on with false hopes on one block, and then not label the road at all for the next four miles.’

He has a point. After all, nobody seems to bother with house numbers either these days, we should all just get  GPS implants and solve the whole thing in one.

‘But’ … Magnus can’t quite decide whether this is anarchism or fascism at work, but he can tell it’s dangerous. ‘…Then how would anybody find their way anywhere?’

‘They wouldn’t. So nobody would get in their cars. That’s what you Greens want, isn’t it?’

‘But the buses would still know. And the tubes.’

‘Precisely, Dolly. So everybody would have to use public transport.’

I’m still trying to find the big hole into the inevitable heffalump trap here.

‘But what about people who cycle? They’d still need to get to places.’

‘But at least they wouldn’t get mown down on the way.’

‘So is that what your party believes, Dad? What party do you vote for? Is it the Greens too?’

Both children are still desperate for us to agree on everything. Something. Anything. Poor things.

‘The one with the best uniforms, of course.’

It’s out at last. They may have made a few unpopular moves, but they had Hugo Boss to do their tailoring. Suddenly, I’m quite relieved that canvassing isn’t his line.