Find the piano

I often think about pianos. Not because I’m musically gifted (I’m absolutely not), or even because I’m a big music fan (ditto), but because part of my job is running political polling.

piano graph

My grandma voted Labour all of her life. She died shortly after Tony Blair won his first term, but I’ve no doubt she voted for him, just as she’d have voted for Kinnock and Foot before him. She’d have voted for him in all three elections that he won, and then voted for Brown, Miliband and Corbyn. She always voted Labour, because of a piano.

In the 1930s her father lost his job, and his family had to throw themselves onto the mercy of the Public Assistance Committee (PAC) to get his dole. Such payments were heavily means tested, and the recipients had to sell assets before they were entitled to state payments. For her family one of these assets was their beloved family piano, and it was the Tory government that took the blame for this casual cruelty, levied against a family down on their luck.

My grandma wasn’t a political woman. I doubt she’d have appreciated any difference between the ideologies of, say, Blair and Foot, they were simply the people who stood against the people who’d taken her family’s piano. For more than 60 years she was a single-issue voter, and it was an issue that was never captured in any ballot or opinion poll. It was never headline news. No questions were asked in The House.

Her six decades of absolute party loyalty were unrelated to her views on the economy, defence, immigration or health – all the things that the polls I work on ask about. When I work on them I think about that and wonder if we should have a question that just says, “Tell us about your piano”. Because, make no mistake, pianos still go missing.

Not literal pianos, perhaps, but whenever a political party betrays people on a personal level the ivories tinkle. Someone, somewhere, builds a resentment that will forever separate them from that party.

The official Guinness world record for piano smashing (the criteria being that all of the pieces must be able to pass through an opening the size of a letterbox) is 1 minute and 34 seconds, but with austerity, and Brexit, and the truly, deeply, terrible people leading both major parties, I suspect that those pianos are being churned out faster than anybody could smash them. There’s a sea of them out there, all playing slightly discordant notes, waiting for a conductor to find them.

If you can find the pianos then you can rule this country.

Meanwhile, I look at the data flowing into yet another political poll.

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