In point of fact, I seem to be doing it all the time. It's the election campaign that does it. If it's not the television, and it is the television every morning and nearly every evening, then it's the canvassers. I've often sworn at rightwing canvassers, for want of the desire to engage them in an argument neither of us would want to have - or, just as likely, for want of having ever learned to grow up. When I was seventeen, during my disastrous stint working for a Labour victory in 1983, I can even recall winning a small victory over a Conservative canvasser by menacing him with a soda siphon after he knocked on our front door and made the improper suggestion that I might like to vote for his party. (I was six days too young even to vote against them.) They won a rather larger victory shortly afterwards.
Twenty-two years later, Barons Court Underground station has been swarming with them. Swarming by the standards of this particular election, which is to say that two or three times, in the last two or three weeks, there have been three or four of them at the entrance. Handing out material supporting Greg Hands, a particularly nasty Tory even by their own particularly nasty standards.
The station is on the edge of one of the more exclusive areas of Earl's Court, an area of panama hats and blazers, and one in which I saw, yesterday morning, a young girl going to school in a straw boater. But in the morning, very many of the passengers who disembark there work, as I do, at Charing Cross Hospital. Whether that particular multiracial and largely ill-paid crowd thought well of wealthy Tories handing out leaflets attacking immigration from Africa, I can't say. (They didn't say, since only I was impolite enough to express an opinion. Possibly the Africans among them were too busy getting to work to do the hospital cleaning that the Tories think is so straightforward.)
Come to that, nobody but me seemed to say a word when UKIP were handing out more anti-immigration leaflets at Forest Hill station the other morning. "Would you like a leaflet?" I was asked. "No, I would like you to fuck off", I said. I would, too. I would like them very much to fuck off. I'd like the Tories to fuck off, as well. And occasionally, over the last twenty-odd years, especially during election campaigns, I've told them so.
It's the right of the curse that belongs to the defeated. The convicted witch curses her persecutors on her way to the stake. The prisoner abuses the jailer, if he can. The employees abuse the boss. When you have no power but the power of speech, then what you use is words. But if all you have is words, those words can never hurt them. A well-dressed lady offered me one of Mr Hands' foul leaflets. "Oh, fuck off", I said. The lady looked at me, less appalled than amused. "Well", she said, in a formidable English upper-middle class manner, with an unmissable undertone of not-remotely-being-bothered, "have a nice day!"
One-nil to her, I suppose. Or, as Queen's Club was clearly visible down the end of the road, game set and match.