Spectator: Don’t tell me what to do

Don’t get bossy with Lucy Baring.

I’ve just Googled ‘Who is my MP’? I genuinely don’t know this because I’m new to the area, there are no posters up anywhere and I’ve only had one leaflet through the door. This was from a man who would like to be elected but who wrote he’d like to ‘here’ [sic] from us all the time on all matters. I don’t think I can vote for someone who can’t spell or at least use spellcheck.

The first result to come up is www.parliament.uk, where there is a box into which you could put your postcode and thus find out who currently represents you, except that the site says the service is unavailable until after the General Election, because, of course, there aren’t any MPs right now.

Next on the list, www.theyworkforyou.com gives me a name and a fascinating group of statistics, including the fact that our MP (I mean candidate) has used three-word alliterative phrasing 375 times in debates.

I finally abandon parliamentary research because the sun is shining and we’ve decided to go to the beach. On arrival, Fletcher leaps out of the car and immediately relieves himself in every way, just where the cars enter and leave the car park, causing something of a tailback.

I’m frantically searching for a plastic bag in my pocket, laughing at the fact that the dachshund couldn’t have chosen a worse place to do this, when a woman comes past in her car, winds down her window and says in a very bossy and not remotely nice way: ‘I hope you are going to pick that up.’

‘Yes,’ I retort as she sails past. ‘I am going to pick that up, although now that you’ve driven over the offending item, it’s not going to be so easy.’ I’m furious. I’m furious at her tone, at her assumption that I might not pick it up and at being nagged by a superior-sounding stranger.

The very, very childish part of me now wants to leave the offending article in the hope that she’ll spot it later or hang it on her wing mirror, but then I’d be like the people who pick up after their dogs and leave the plastic bag on a nearby tree, which is unforgiveable. This habit leads me to admit that sometimes dog owners only have themselves to blame.

But I don’t do that and I always pick up after Fletcher (where necessary) and I’m still smarting from the car-park encounter when I later read that laws permitting on-the-spot fines for dog owners who ‘let’ their dogs foul a path (you can’t actually stop Fletcher) are coming into force. Although I may be feeling personally a little heated about the issue, I really don’t think its one that requires legislation.

Broadly, I am enjoying the election because I like an argument. I’m also easily swayed by whoever is most convincing on the airwaves: I listen to one spokesperson and think ‘Well, that sounds sensible’. I listen to the next and think the same. If, the following day, I don’t agree with any of them, when they’re probably repeating the same thing, it’s usually because the tone has turned hectoring.

In order to stop the oscillation and to be mature informed voters, Zam and I have agreed to a manifesto supper with friends. We will debate the policies and will be able to defend our voting decision because we understand what is being said about housing, the NHS, education, defence, tax and so on.

Or we will drink red wine and slump confused by the beautiful promises for a better land and we will vote because we live in a democracy and we all know that therefore we must.

We will be reassured by the certainty and confidence of the potential politicians instead of feeling lectured. We will not find their manner bossy. Unlike that of snooty women in beach car parks.