Jockeying for poll position

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There can be no mistaking that something big is happening. The soundbites on the telly and radio. The analysis by so-called experts. And those seemingly-endless opinion polls.

Yes, Borderers are about to appoint Cornets, Callants, Standard Bearers, Braw Lads and Lasses, a couple of Baris, and even a Tub and a Flake.

OK, that’s not quite it. Yes, it’s time once again to go to the polls.

The general election, like summer, is just around the corner.

In the Borders’ two Westminster seats we already know the main players, but hopefuls and not-so-hopefuls have until 4pm next Thursday to lodge candidacy papers at Newtown St Boswells and Dumfries (that’s where Tweeddale now fits into the jigsaw).

There’s no doubt that this election will be mighty close – in all probability closer than the one in 2010 that led to the unlikely Tory-Lib Dem coalition that has achieved so much, or so little, depending on who you listen too.

Remember all those shenanigans and toing and froing before Messrs Cameron and Clegg put on brave faces and made silly jokes in the back garden of No. 10? I fear it will happen again – but who will be the butt of whose joke?

Grey Matter is reserving judgement until nearer judgement day.

I hope for an honest, clean and open debate between the various parties, but I hae ma doubts.

I hanker for the days of those great public meetings and hustings that were so much part of any major election. Candidates had to face the feisty voters, sometimes three times a night, as they toured packed town, village and kirk halls.

Parties wheeled in the big guns, seeing parts of the country they probably never knew existed. And they faced the public in those same halls – not for them the pre-organised stroll along the street appropriately lined by their own faithful.

It didn’t always work. Margaret Thatcher was pelted by an egg in Hawick. I’d like to say I saw it, but I didn’t. None of the press corps that day did – we were scoffing coffee and bacon rolls in the Green Cafe when the PM decided to depart early for her next engagement.

Of course, by the time the general election polling stations open, great decisions will have been taken across this Borderland of ours. Our chosen principals will have been chosen as young ambassadors of their communities.

But in only two will there be polling stations. Democracy still reigns in the Muckle Toon o’ the Langholm and at Copshaw (that’s for the Tub and Flake).