In the four-seasons-in-one-day weather of the Aberdeenshire coast I get into the rhythm of the election campaign. The mechanics of leafleting, avoiding the problems that dogs and tight letter boxes may bring. My mind wanders as the repetition of gate opening, walking to the door with folded leaflet ready, posting and returning builds up. First tens, then twenties, odds, evens, side streets, all build up into a pattern. Then walk one, walk two, walk three; the slight tiredness of being in the open air, the wind, the sun, the occasional spits and spots of rain. Thus leafleting. With canvassing, the organisation of the clipboard, the check of the name, the confident walk to the door- more external than internal- the knock on the door, of the ringing of the bell. "I'm calling on behalf"... "can we rely on your support this time"... "Do you think?" "Thank you for your time". Blue doors, red doors, different men, different women, and the responses: "Dad's not in", "never vote your way" "Always support..."
Thus the campaign unfolds on the ground.
Meanwhile I reflect on last nights leaders debate here in Scotland. It was a shockingly amateurish affair, the way it was broadcast reminded me of the "Good Old Days"- an old time variety show on television in the 1970s. Alex Salmond- now a bloated and jowly figure- continues his slightly sinister bullying tactics. At one point, as the Moderator yet again defers to "The First Minister" I reflect how pointless the SNP is becoming. Salmond himself is not standing for the Westminster Parliament, and although he has taken a duel salary for several years he claims to have donated his Westminster income "to charity". However, since that "charity" seems to focus entirely on Mr. Salmond's Scottish Parliamentary constituency, it looks uncomfortably like bribing the electorate of Gordon with their own money. It is hard for Alex Salmond to grasp that his time may already be past: he seems to spend much of his time trying to boost the Liberal Democrats. It is only when Salmond mentions them that the moderator takes any notice of Alastair Carmichael- serious and highland lilting. Indeed the three national parties have sent actual Westminster candidates and all of them debate the issues. However the Scottish media have a vested interest in promoting the SNP- and sure enough some of Mr. Salmonds more egregious "mis-speakings" are not picked up, still less challenged- even when the other contenders raise the various issues where the SNP is vulnerable.
The SNP has sent Salmond- which they think is a trump card- but increasingly his bluster is not applauded by the audience. He has no answers to the big questions of this campaign. He had forced the BBC to take him and no other SNP representative, even though he is not a candidate in this election. It is a bit like some heckler at a meeting- a lot of noise and attention, but essentially not part of the debate. Indeed, by forcing himself forward into centre stage he exposes the essential vacuity of his arguments.
He thought he would be Prince Charming. He looks more like King Rat.