Leader without a crowd

Election views - Glasgow

At Glasgow's Central Station, a bored taxi driver opens a copy of the Scottish Sun to check up on Celtic's fortunes. Out of town, aside from the odd "Vote Labour" placard strung to a lamp-post, election fever has yet to consume the streets of my local constituency. There are no rosettes, no loudhailers, no babies being ambushed by politicians outside Somerfield. But, in the media, the polls are hotting up. Analysts are having fun with the plummeting fortunes of the Scottish National Party, which began its campaign with an embarrassingly cheesy Braveheart-style ceremony - and promptly sank to fourth place.

Waiting in the wings was something even more misguided and doomed to failure - the arrival of Michael Howard, who is about as popular in Scotland as a gypsy encampment in Virginia Water. He was coming to launch the Conservatives' "Stop Taking Away Our Corner Shops" manifesto at Scotland's imposing national football stadium, Hampden Park. As the stadium is only a mile away from my house, I decided to go down and take a look. Perhaps he should have chosen somewhere slightly smaller, however. Apart from me, a smattering of curious children on bikes, three policemen, some photographers, and a small, wheezing man who looked like Norris from Coronation Street, the place appeared to be deserted. Where was the throng of excited onlookers, waiting to greet their leader-in-waiting? Dressed in a large, padded Tory blue anorak (no doubt designed for protection against box-cutter wielding terrorists), Norris turned to me.

"Are you a member of the Scottish Conservatives?" he asked. "No," I said, firmly. "Well, I'm sure they'd welcome you," he replied, and then asked: "Are you from down south?" with more than a hint of suspicion.

For such a famously welcoming party, this really was a disappointing turnout. But, hang on a minute. Emerging from the Football Museum inside the stadium was an example of the fine, upstanding British nuclear family the Tories are keen to get onside. Maybe they would stay to witness the emergence of the man who will save us from the quagmire of hard-working immigrants and well-adjusted youths fuelled by Jamie's nutritious school dinners.

"What's happening here?" the father asked a security guard.

"The leader of the Tory party is coming. Would you like to stay and watch?" the guard inquired.

"Hahaha!" Dad guffawed, as if this was the best joke he'd heard in years, before packing the 2.4 children into the Volvo estate and driving away. Even funnier was the sight of Howard's Matrix-style security team jumping slickly out of a silver car, realising there was not only no terrorist threat but nobody there at all, and promptly jumping back in. As the gleaming campaign bus made its inauspicious way down the tarmac seconds later, you could almost see the tumbleweed. Here, it would seem that, as usual, nobody, with the possible exception of Norris, is thinking what the Tories are thinking.