Bearing in mind the etiquette on blogging a UK general election is fluid, that is to say there isn't any,(or at least if there is, none of the big blog boys have sent me a neatly-bound, leatherette copy entitled "Standards of Blog Conduct"), I decided to set myself some rules.
Rule One: Out and about. Tell politicos I'm a blogger. This seems fair.
I set this rule today.
I immediately broke it.
It was the BNP. It doesn't count.
I'd gone up to Berwick to fix a tyre.(Pot holes. I blame Alan Beith. Or a Labour Government. Or the council. Or the weather. Or God.) Out and about with the children, we stumbled upon a BNP stall. You have to go to Berwick to realise how unlikely this is. It is England's most northerly town - it has got encircling Elizabethan walls, historic barracks, and its population is white, white, white. I was so astonished to see the BNP, I felt obliged to ask the candidate how come the party have a prescence when immigration is not an issue in Berwick.
Silly me. The nice man explained it's not just about immigration.
OK I said. But what is the proportion of ethnic minorities in Berwick.
The nice man said he didn't know. (I'm guessing so small as to be statistically insignificant.)
I looked down the Berwick street heaving with shoppers and made the point I could not see a black or Asian face.
A BNP lady informed me that some people might be looking at the national picture, not just the picture in Berwick. (As a matter of interest, she didn't seem to take to me at all for some reason.) The BNP candidate, however, was just glad to talk to someone. Nice chap. Publican. Three pubs. Employs a Muslim and two black people. There's white immigration too he told me.
Really? I said. What was he thinking about there?
Polish people. And the Portuguese.
Portuguese? I had this vision of a Berwick positively overrun with Portuguese immigrants. (I'm sure he said they came over for jobs in salmon farming, but my husband said that wouldn't make sense so I probably misheard him.)
I took some leaflets and newspapers. For some reason, (and the Good Lord Jesus only knows why because as the nice man said, the party isn't racist), his literature had lots of stories about Islam and immigration and the like in it.
* "Tories pledge to flood Britain with African Homosexual 'Asylum Seekers'."
(Just wait and see, it's in the Tory manifesto.)
* "Mohammed second most popular boys name in Britain."
(I thought about calling my own boys Mohammed. It was a toss-up. I ended up going for Mustafa and Osama.)
Then there was:
* "Immigrant baby boom costs over £1b."
(That'll be the Portuguese. They're Catholic. No birth control.)
And, of course:
* "Another Muslim Paedophile Gang Uncovered."
Patently, the BNP have more to offer than immigration. The nice man told me they did. For instance, Northumberland is a rural constituency, and the BNP acknowledges the importance of "farming bloodlines that stretch down through the centuries" and offers to "promote the yeoman family farm".
In any event, "The Northumberland Patriot" leaflet informed me in no uncertain terms:
"The British National Party is not a racist party. We do not hate anyone because of their race. Nor do we advocate abusing or attacking individual immigrants or minority groups."
That's reassuring. I haven't heard Cameron or Brown give that kind of lead.
It is merely that "Mass immigration harms all of us, whether black or white"
Stacked among the leaflets were maps proclaiming "Welcome to Berwick upon Tweed." Handy sort of map to have if you were an immigrant, though they could do with it translating into Portuguese.
The BNP can get a bit anxy with press, but I did think about saying I was blogging the election and there is no doubt the nice man would still have talked to me, and still have let me have the leaflets. Perhaps it would have reassured the BNP lady who cruelly and sotto voce said "You're a timewaster lady, you are" as the candidate and I talked. Mind you, she explained her defensiveness later. Someone once kicked the table of leaflets. Can you believe that? And she was "physically assaulted" another time. I asked if someone decked her. She havered. I asked if someone had hit her. She havered some more. The candidate explained, a man had thrown his sandwich at her. I didn't ask what was in it.