Tuesday 27 April 2010

The issues that will turn the election...

“Will you shut up,” shouted someone from across the school hall last night.

I’ve a feeling there were several other people in the room at last night’s hustings who wanted to say the same to the woman, who’d been ranting about car parking charges.

“Ok, ok – I’ve had my say,” said the woman. Then she started ranting again.

The target of her abuse was the Tory candidate for Gedling Bruce Laughton, who is challenging Schools Minister Vernon Coaker for the seat.

It was a tough deal for Laughton. The Labour support had turned out and he was heckled from early on. But he didn’t help himself.

Gedling needed strong leadership, he said before adding, “like, take for example, myself.”

Wit, targeted aggression and accomplished argument are the way to face down a tough crowd. Laughton substituted all three for bovine stubbornness.

That’s not to say he didn’t raise some potentially good debating weapons, the fact that Coaker was Police Minister and Notts Police are in turmoil.

Or the fact that Coaker is now Schools Minister and some local schools are in trouble.

But he didn’t articulate them like he needed to, and made factual mistakes – including chiding the Labour County Council, when it’s actually Tory controlled.

When the crowd laughed at him after that one I’m pretty sure I heard him think “damn”.

It left it open for Coaker to talk passionately to a friendly crowd and win the night.

Gedling is one of those seats that will decide the election, the Tories need it if they are going to take a majority.

But it won't be economic policy that wins the day.

What was apparent last night is that it will be won on things like council car parking charges, the local school and a planned Tesco supermarket - these are the issues that will decide the fate of the nation.

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