Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Trinity Hospital, Castle Rising

John Pardoe once said that the first rule of politics was to be polite to postmen and shopkeepers. I can add something to that: always be nice to the wardens of sheltered accommodation.

During my district council by-election of 1986 we heard that the Tory candidate and agent had gone into a sheltered housing block in the town without asking and been thrown out by the warden. A few days later I knocked on the warden's door and asked if she would mind if I canvassed the residents.

The result was that she took me round and introduced me to each resident in person. A lot of good political discussion ensued and the warden proved to be somewhat to the left of me. I suggested that she should be standing for the council instead.

It happened that the accommodation was across the road from the polling station. On polling day, whenever we drew up having given a lift to a voter, there were people waving at us from the windows.

A year later all three seats were up for grabs and we were short of tellers. I had the idea of asking some of the old ladies from the sheltered accommodation to do it. They readily agreed and were brilliant at it.

If anyone had declined to give his number, they were still able to tell us who he was, where he lived, who his parents had been and any scandal attaching to the family going back decades.

I was admiring the almshouses - or Trinity Hospital - in Castle Rising last week when the warden came and asked if I would like to look round. I said yes and gave the small donation that was suggested.

The building was remarkable, with lots of original Jacobean woodwork and a merchant's chest that had been built into a cupboard so it could never be carried off.

Being polite to wardens doesn't just help you get votes: it means you see buildings you would not otherwise be allowed to look around.


DavidHW said...

100% agree. It always paid off for me in my days as a councillor in Leyton. I made a point of calling on the day the postal ballots arrived.

Anonymous said...

you make canvassing sound so easy!

But don't forget that most tories have difficulty being polite to their friends and families.

the common or garden tory is an opportunistic back-stabber. courtesy, as with cleanliness, just doesn't come naturally to him. whether that's down to nature or nurture, is arguable. but it is surely something that psychiatrists of the future will be keen to unravel.

Anonymous said...

What twaddle! No wonder he remains anonymous. I once went into a coffee shop in Brighton. Ordered coffee & biscuits, which were duly carried to my table. I then heard: "We've got a righ' toff 'ere. 'S prob'ly Raffles. Watch the cru(i)ts". Left a generous tip under the serviette ... just for their confounded impudence.