The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Monday Canvassing at the more rural end of the constituency, not far from where the pyres of Dark Moo burned during the worst of foot-and-mouth. Anyway, just round the corner from a Barratts executive development, Harriet and I come to a large cottage, wooden gate, long brick path, wisteria round the door - paradise. We wend our way between the forget-me-nots and the hostas, and knock on the door.

Until five years ago, I'd have said Tory for sure, but civilised Tory. A retired senior civil servant, perhaps, or a judge. Now it could be a dotcom refugee voting for us, or a former gangster supporting the UK Independence Party ("Say no to extradition") or just about anybody. In fact, it is Fred Delancey, the radio personality and occasional star of Call My Bluff who opens the door and stands there in cardigan and slippers, the sunlight playing on his huge head and its magnificent coiffure of silvering hair. I begin to introduce myself.

Delancey holds up one hand and booms so loudly that a cat sleeping on the lawn wakes up and runs off in one instinctive movement.

And what Delancey booms, in his deep bass Irish accent, is this: "I am afraid, sir, that you will most certainly not be getting my vote on 7 June. And I will tell you why, so that you may take the message back to Mr Blair and Mr Brown and the other nabobs and maharajahs of your terrible government."

Harriet gives me a "let's bugger off out of this sharpish" look. She can tell, as can I, that we are in for one of those monologues that Delancey is famous for. But I am reluctant to depart the battlefield and allow him to tell a thousand unenthralled dinner parties the tale of how I scarpered in the face of his heroic assault. I stay put.

He continues. "I am, as you can see, a countryman." In fact, he's an outer suburban, but he does own a lot of garden. "I voted for you at the last election," he almost holds his hand to his brow. "I campaigned for you, donated money to you. I even put up one of your posters by that very hedge," he points theatrically to the edge of his garden.

"Yet what have I seen? Farmers who have tilled the local soil for centuries . . ." - he also presents a poetry programme - ". . . forced to give up the homesteads of their ancestors. Tiny village shops, the lifeblood of the rural economy, forced to close down. The animals destroyed! The dark plumes of smoke! The blight across the land! And who has caused this?" He pauses, but not for an answer. "You have caused it. And I can never, ever forgive you."

I've caused it? How? Did I stop shopping in the village store, or was it the pathetic goods on sale at high prices that sent all the farmers in their four-wheel drives off to Tesco's? Did I come and paint lesions in the pigs' mouths? Absurd bloody man. I bet he voted Tory in 1992 to escape higher tax.

As if he hears me, he adds: ". . . so this year I shall be voting for a party with principle. I shall be voting Socialist Alliance."

Serve him bloody well right if they got in, I think. Bourgeois bastard. I might be the first up against the wall, but he wouldn't be far behind. God preserve us from radio presenters and their bloody opinions.

We head back towards the small council estate 200 yards away. I feel dispirited.

Tuesday "Did you know," asks Harriet, as we wait in vain at yet another Entryphone for a reply, "that the Prescott Express is coming to the area next week?"

Wednesday Cheryl comes home late, hot and exultant after a public meeting attended by 25 people, most of them, I should imagine, sectionable. "I gather Prescott's coming," she says. "We've decided to picket him."

Is it worth it? I mean, is it?

Sometimes I don't think it is.

This article first appeared in the 28 May 2001 issue of the New Statesman, And men shall speak unto men