WATCH: Tories are the only party supporting unionist values, candidate says
Fresh from a difficult debate at the Brae High School Tory candidate Jamie Halcro Johnston took to the doorsteps of Brae to drum up support for his party.
Just an hour prior Mr Halcro Johnston had told an audience of young political observers that the constituency was far from a two-horse race. As we dropped flyers through letter boxes in Brae’s Ladies Mire he reiterated his belief that “anything could happen”.
Unfortunately, a dearth of people home at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, made it difficult for The Shetland Times to judge the merits of this claim.
At one of the first houses we spotted an SNP sticker but the candidate, undeterred, chose to knock on the door anyway.
Explaining his decision Mr Halcro Johnston said that he had been hearing from many SNP voters ready to make the switch to voting Conservative. He spoke of a person he flyered in Vidlin who had told him that they voted “yes” in the referendum and SNP for the Holyrood elections but that there was “no way” they would vote SNP again.
He said: “What we’re seeing is SNP voters who aren’t nationalists or were soft nationalists leaving the party in droves.”
At the next house a rather formidable dog greeted us at the gate, shouting to the owner at the porch Mr Halcro Johnston explained why he was there only to be unceremoniously told to “take a running f***.”
“What we would normally do is put him down as a ‘maybe’,” the candidate joked as we carried on to the next house.
Asked whether Tories, with their reputation as the “nasty party”, were often impolitely turfed off doorsteps by disgruntled voters Mr Halcro Johnston said “no, I really don’t”.
He said: “I’ve campaigned in rough parts of Glasgow and even there where they have real social issues people were polite. They didn’t always agree with you but regardless of what party you’re with they listen to what you have to say. It’s courteous.”
Since 2014, however, politics in Scotland has become more “confrontational”, he feels.
“The SNP have made politics in Scotland binary”, he says, “you’re either a unionist or a nationalist.”
Finally, after some 20 minutes of trying, we found a house occupied by someone willing to talk politics. Unfortunately for Mr Halcro Johnston, the house was a holiday home and the man inside, Robert Lugtenburg, votes in Aberdeen.
But at least he has gained a vote for a colleague on the mainland Mr Halcro Johnston reflects, after Mr Lugtenburg assured him he will be voting Conservative.
Accosting Shaun Manson as he exited his car following a gym session we learned that he intends to vote in his first general election on Thursday and so far he hasn’t made up his mind. Identifying himself as a leave voter Mr Manson said that the SNP were “sticking out for [him] at the moment.”
But overall he felt he needed to weigh up his options – did he favour an independent Scotland in the EU or Scotland in UK but out of the EU? The candidate, upon handing over his flyer, felt we could chalk that one up as a maybe.
As we attempted, unsuccessfully, to find more voters to speak to Mr Halcro Johnston spoke about the Conservative Party’s surge in the most recent Holyrood election and the reasons behind that increased support.
He said that Labour’s inconsistent position on another referendum, with an apparent disagreement between party leaders north and south of the border, was the main reason for the gained votes.
The candidate pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn would entertain discussions on another referendum and asked “how can Labour supporting unionists vote for that?”
“Does anybody know if Labour support or are against another referendum. You certainly can’t trust them. The Conservatives are the only party standing up to Nicola Sturgeon.”
The Liberal Democrats too were frustrating voters tired of referendums in their pursuit of a second EU plebiscite he said and were at risk of becoming a non-entity as the fourth largest party in both Holyrood and Westminster.
This meant, Mr Halcro Johnston said, that both “leading candidates” for Shetland and Orkney want more referendums. The only way to avoid that? A vote for the Tories of course. Finally, with the BBC Radio Shetland hustings approaching, we greeted one final voter outside his home.
“Hello, I’m the Conservative candidate” Mr Halcro Johnston tells him. “You can keep walking,” came the response.