The Sandringham Pub is a no-nonsense pub located on Sandy Park Road, Brislington, Bristol. Amongst the struggling shoots of cafe life its stands definitely, tired, but proud. The clientele in the downstairs bar sit, chat, exchange stories from the day while upstairs political candidates prepare themselves for a ‘husting’ where would-be candidates set out their case for election or re-election.
Having arrived early into a near-empty room with an abandoned father Christmas costume, a well-worn skittle alley to one side, a Banksy print ominously hanging in the background and the intermitting flushing of the toilets conveniently located so audience members need to navigate themselves over the skittle lane and behind the speakers.
The fun of watching the organiser’s deliberations on the location of the top table, various angles are tried, varying sizes of gaps between the tables attempted, each attempt 6 glasses of water are moved from one table to the other enabling tables to be moved, then move back, and then moved again. Until reluctant resignation is accepted that no amount of reconfiguration is going to deny the spacial reality that either the person chairing the meeting or indeed one of the speakers will need to be seated on the skittle alley.
The evening had all the hallmarks of an Armando Iannucci script in the writing while reflecting all the ingredients of what makes British politics, so quintessentially British at this grassroots level. A mixture of pantomime, personalities, amateur dramatics, serious concerns, barrackers, political tribes with a fixed position and the occasionally bemused observer, who has mistakenly taken the wrong turn on route to the bingo.
In the world of spin, social media isolation and soundbites there is something rudimentary and honest about these types of meetings. One which cajoles people from different positions and opinions into a room, to meet people, listen and confront the stark reality that this much more that unites us in common concern than divides us in frustrated anger. The issue, in many cases, is the journey rather than the destination.
Yes, Brexit dominates, like a stroke victim jerking and increasingly struggling with their words any other subject no matter how big and small are drawn back to the B-word. It is depressing but equally fascinating, but like the audience, the eyes of each speaker tells the same story. We are all in a collective ditch, we have set symbolic dates and deadlines for “getting Brexit done,” but nobody has a clue about healing the self-inflicted wounds we have perpetrated upon ourselves, within families, neighbourhoods and communities. Some politicians seem to be pushing for that knock out blow, to be the victor, but a victor over who? In life total victory does not exist, nor is it practical or desirable. The art of compromise may be wanting at the moment, but she will be knocking shortly I just hope we have the commonsense to answer the door.