Jayne Dowle: Election seems to be happening elsewhere

DAYS away from a General Election which will decide not just the fate of our country, but its place in the world, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing was happening at all in my small corner of Yorkshire.

Some people feel there is little sign in Barnsley that an election is taking place. (Scott Merrylees).

I live in Worsbrough, in the constituency of Barnsley East. It’s considered “safe” Labour, but you wouldn’t know it. In fact, you wouldn’t know we were having a General Election at all. Not a single flag in a front garden, not a single poster in a window, for any party.

If I’ve missed your local display of red, blue, orange or whatever, please do let me know. However, I have to say that for an event which has the power to turn the fortunes of Great Britain in the world, it’s ever so quiet out there. Even in the town centre, where Dan Jarvis is the prominent Labour MP, there is paltry evidence that we’re going to the polls.

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I’ve spotted just two front-garden flags supporting the man spoken of as a potential Labour leader. And they seem almost apologetic. “Re-elect Dan Jarvis” is the message. You wouldn’t know that for months now a local civil war has been raging between his moderate supporters and the hard left who back Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Frankly, I’m disappointed. I expected it to be far more exciting than this. Given that Barnsley has been a Labour stronghold for generations, but we voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union last year, I thought that Ukip would, at least, put up a good fight.

The candidate for Barnsley East, James Dalton, seems to be confining his campaigning to YouTube. His imploring video keeps popping up on my Facebook page, but how can I argue with a screen?

Across the country, this General Election has never been a foregone conclusion, despite what Mrs May and her supporters might have thought. Here was a chance for voters to look beyond the leader and choose a local MP who best represents their interests.

How are we supposed to do this if the candidates themselves are as shadowy and mysterious as Poldark?

The only candidate for Barnsley East who has made themselves known to our household is Stephanie Peacock, for Labour. We’ve had a letter and a leaflet, but my doorstep has yet to be breached.

The rest are so far anonymous. So anonymous in fact that in the interests of research for this column, I had to check their details online. In the case of the Conservative candidate, Andrew Lloyd, this exercise spoke for itself. The page on the official party website under his name and constituency was blank. No biographical details. No outline of what he would do for the people of Barnsley East.

And then we wonder why this General Election seems to be happening somewhere else. It comes to something when even the candidates themselves can’t be bothered. Some commentators put this generalised apathy down to “election fatigue”, because we’ve had the 2015 General Election, followed by the EU Referendum and now this. Or as Brenda, that lady in Bristol, put it to the BBC reporter when the news broke: “You’re joking – not another one?!”

She spoke for many. It is possible for people to become so bored of politics that they simply lose their enthusiasm. Really, we’re only supposed to have General Elections every five years. If this 2017 campaign proves one thing, it’s that we all need time to work up plenty of momentum so it feels like we’re engaging in a proper fight.

In the blue corner, Theresa May clearly thought she would capitalise on the moment. However, she had been in the job less than a year and is hardly forthcoming at the best of times. She simply hasn’t captured the public’s imagination. Ducking out of the TV debate didn’t exactly help.

In the red corner, Jeremy Corbyn might be having a last-minute flurry of support, but don’t let it fool you. There are millions of natural Labour supporters who are keeping quiet because they don’t know what to say while he is in charge of the party.

And, I think the EU Referendum knocked the self-confidence of a lot of voters. Even if you did vote Leave, the protracted and painful process to put the result into practice reminds us that nothing in politics is guaranteed.

There are people. And then there are politicians. If they can’t be bothered to make an effort, why should we? Long after the votes have been counted, this will matter more than any result.