Monday, May 18, 2009

My Political Firsts

Here's my late contribution to the Friday meme from Liberal Democrat Voice. I think it makes me look just a little rebellious and not quite as if I am completely under the control of Dr Pack and Mr Tall and Ms Mortimer et al if I steadfastly refuse to do it on a Friday....

First political memory:

I guess I was kind of aware of Richard Nixon resigning as US President in 1974 - I seem to remember that there was tv on at breakfast time, which was downright revolutionary then.

I have to say, though, for British politics, it was watching General Hospital (the British one, with Mr Parker Brown and Dr Armstrong and Student Nurse Stevens - anyone remember it?) with my Granny and Grandad in their tiny flat in 1976 and seeing it flash up on the screen that James Callaghan was the new Prime Minister.

First time you voted:

1987 General Election, for Bob Maclennan in Caithness and Sutherland.

First party election broadcast you remember watching:

The one that comes to mind for this one, because it absolutely turned my stomach, (no, not Rosie Barnes and the rabbits) was a National Front one - I think it might have been the first one that they ever got. I remember watching it in Wick, so it must have been for either the 1983 election or 1984 Euros and I remember thinking to myself how awful it would be if people like that ever got anywhere near power.

First political poster/advert you remember:

Labour isn't working - the 1979 Tory one. 'Nuff said. They won. We suffered. The end.

First party conference attended:

1986 - Paisley, Scottish SDP where I spoke in the drugs debate and took part in the comedy entertainment in the evening. I think YSD did some sort of sketch that involved poking fun at Charles Kennedy. I went later that year to Harrogate and met Shirley Williams for the first time.

First politician you met:

Bob Maclennan, obviously, but you'd get bored if I wrote about him all the time. The first time I was completely and utterly starstruck by a politician was when Charles Kennedy and Russell Johnston came up with Alan Beith to Caithness during the 1984 General Election campaign. It was quite an inspiration that somebody just 8 years older than me could have been an MP for a year. I was so bowled over that I could barely breathe. I was wheeled out as the token young person to do the vote of thanks at the end of the meeting and got invited for High Tea at Mackay's Hotel in Wick.

If I was startstruck by Charles, I was completely enchanted by Russell, who was very funny and charming and absolutely passionate about Europe.

It also marked the day when I realised that politicians were not all perfect. Now, remember, I was quite a sheltered highland teenager. Not only did Charles smoke that day, but I was actually really shocked to hear him say "Shit" when he dropped some money when making a phone call (no mobile phones then......). So, there you have it, the scoop of the day, Charles Kennedy taught me to swear!

First canvassing experience:

With Helen MacLennan, somewhere near Thurso, in the 1983 election. She was a complete natural at it - so good with people on the doorsteps. It must have been quite a scary time for her. With the idealism of youth, I just didn't see how someone as good as Bob could lose, but he was one of the few MPs who had joined the SDP who did survive. The other thing I remember about that day is that we had these calling cards, "out" leaflets, if you like, and if somebody was out, Helen wrote them a note. I learned then how important these personal touches are.

The first time I remember flying solo on the doorsteps was in 1987 in Kincardine and Deeside when Nicol Stephen was the candidate. I was sent to squeeze the Labour vote out of an estate in Torry, I think it was.

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