SECONDS OUT…ROUND EIGHT by Ian Hernon

Former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt abandoned election door-knocking in Portsmouth North in favour of local boozers. She invited her constituents to join her in the pub to get her views, saying that people didn’t like candidates knocking on the door in the evening.  

The Royal Navy reservist had better not buy a round as that is illegal under election laws introduced to stop rich candidates in “rotten boroughs” bribing their way into Parliament.

In Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens described a beer-sodden contest in the constituency of Eatanswill, with one agent saying: “Spirited contest, my dear sir, very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place. It has left our opponent nothing but the beer-shops — masterly policy, my dear sir, eh?’

That aside, what a cracking idea. But you might wonder what the chosen pubs of the main party leaders would be.

Boris Johnson might look out for any inn with Churchill in its title but given his propensity for gaffes he could end up, so to speak, in The Duke of York.

Jeremy Corbyn is hardly a regular pub-goer – as a union organiser amongst the low-paid in London he would do anything to avoid drinking with Cockney bin men – but he might be tempted by his passion for allotments to enter The Slug and Lettuce.

Of the others, Lib Dem Jo Swinson might frequent The Flying Handbag (part of the Bossyboots pubco); Brexiteer Nigel Farage The Bulldog and Jackboot; and Nicola Sturgeon The Braveheart Arms, or any free house. (Most of the pub names quoted above are real places)

Why stop at canvassing? Pundits are predicting low turn-outs amongst voters who can’t stand any of the above. So why not have polling stations in pubs? Just a thought.

Incidentally, the all-party Parliamentary beer group has long been the largest industry group at Westminster. Before this election over 300 MPS and peers of all parties were members – along with around 60 UK MEPs as honorary members – supported by 50 individual brewing and licensed retailing companies.

The group has been quietly successful over the last few decades, particularly regarding beer tax and the abolition of the hated beer duty escalator, curbs on the biggest pub chains and the growth in small independent breweries.

But come December 13, many might be crying into their beer.

Meanwhile, election analysts are pondering an intriguing question: what would happen if the Tories win the election, but Boris loses his Uxbridge seat where his 5,034 majority is the lowest of any sitting prime minister since 1924?

It would be a fitting conclusion to this bizarre contest in which all sides – and the voters – appear to have torn up the rule book.

ROUND SCORE: Tories 7/10

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