Earlier this evening I was waiting at the checkout at Tesco having bought a few bits and pieces for dinner. A late middle-aged couple waiting at the adjoining till were clearly looking in my direction. I had no idea who they were and paid very little notice, until I heard the man say to the woman with him, "there's that Tory bloke..."
I racked my brains trying to remember who they were or when I met them. I like to think I have a good memory, but in this case I drew a complete blank. Given the thousands of doors I have knocked on over the years, that is hardly surprising, but they clearly knew or remembered me.
I sensed it was best not to respond; his tone wasn't aggressive but nor was it friendly, and I suspected an acknowledgement would have probably made matters worse.
As I unloaded my trolley onto the conveyor belt, I heard him say, "f*****g typical Tory - most people round here can hardly afford to eat yet look at his trolley packed with poncy sh*t." For the record, the "poncy sh*t" was a bag of salad leaves, ham, figs, mozzarella, peaches and diet Pepsi (Oh! the glamour.)
I avoided the temptation to challenge him as I was now convinced that he was looking for an argument. At no time did I feel threatened, nor was I particularly upset at being verbally abused; having cut my political teeth in Merseyside in the days of Derek Hatton and Militant Tendency, this was mild!
What really surprised me though was being recognised by complete strangers, who then felt it was acceptable to behave in this way. This provided me with a brief insight into what it must be like being a Member of Parliament, who must face this ten times a day, regardless of whether they are walking through town, doing their weekly shop or socialising with friends. It must be hell, though one of the MPs I work for was honest to admit, "It would be much worse if no-one recognised me.
Perhaps I should shop in Waitrose!