We’re used to seeing politician as spads, special advisers without a life away from greasy polls. We’re used to alienation, distrust, the greater snarling Paxo.
Were things kinder and gentler half a century ago? Not exactly: Brown and Hailsham, for two, could dish it out. Jeremy Thorpe was already a sly, smiling rogue.
But on the doorsteps and in the village halls there was a connection beyond curled lips. Byelections mattered to editors. (I wrote 14 dispatches from the Borders.) A whole pack of hacks followed events day by day.
No one set much store by opinion polls. If you wanted – whether as a reporter or a candidate – to find out what was happening, you needed to talk to people, to greet and meet.I am also reminded of Judy Steel's Tale from the Tap End, which I once reviewed for Liberal Democrat News:
Ultimately ... a political biography stands or falls by the quality of its anecdotes. My favourite in Tales from the Tap End concerns an old lady to whom Judy Steel was introduced during the 1965 by-election. "I’m so glad to meet you,” she said. “We’ve always been a great Liberal family. My brother Sandy won the Border Burghs for Mr Gladstone in 1886."