Back in the heady days of the 2005 General Election, all the Westmorland and Lonsdale candidates were called Tim.
This made it remarkably easy to remember their names but introduced confusion when it came to identifying which Tim was winning. After intensive research, and two minutes with a crayon and some graph paper, the Tim-o-Meter was created to alleviate Tim-orientated perplexity. It was remarkably effective and Newsnight’s Jeremy Vine was heard to say that he wished he’d thought of it first.
Now the 2010 election is well underway and only one local candidate is still called Tim, the other having changed his name to Gareth. This makes them easier to distinguish but does muck up the Tim-o-Meter. Undaunted, with a few sophisticated modifications this much-loved electioneering visual aid is reborn as the Grin-o-Meter.
Fitted with an upgraded microprocessor and new spark plugs, the Grin-o-Meter gives an instant visual indicator of the state of play in South Lakeland as the election lurches, ash-strewn, into the second week.
As we can see, Tim and Gareth are the only candidates visible so far. Tim (LibDem) is in the lead with 60 garish signs posted in hedgerows and gardens between Windermere and Kendal. Gareth (Conservative), on the other hand, has only managed 11. Initial research placed this number at 12, one of which read FOR SALE. This seemed rather blatant but, upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a Matthews Benjamin estate agent sign which uses the same colour.
There’s not much evidence of the competing candidates: Labour is fielding Jonathan Todd but hasn’t a hope in South Lakeland, where the last working-class person became extinct in 1974. Presumably Labour have chosen someone they either don’t like very much or who needs practice losing. Meanwhile, the Real Liberals - a sort of Jeremy Thorpe tribute act - have promised to stand as soon as they think of a policy.
But when it comes to elections, there really is no substitute for prodding your prospective parliamentary candidate in person. Get along to the local hustings. Ask awkward questions. Cause trouble. An election only happens once every five years and it’s much more entertaining than finding out who’s going to play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.