In the car park behind Morrisons I did detect one woman with the word, "Labour" on her lips but after shuffling a bit closer so as to ear-wig more effectively it turned out she was talking about a neighbour who had been whisked off in the night to the maternity ward. At least I now know that there still is a maternity ward.
After a few days I realised that standing close to people chatting in King Street was perhaps not the best way of tapping into the pulse of parish political thinking. I needed another strategy and came up with the idea of initiating conversations myself so, squeezing into the packed bus shelter adjacent to Poundland I made my first attempt,
Me: That Tory council eh, secretly planned to spend hundreds of thousands of the Town's money on new council offices for three part time workers.... eh .... what.
Bus shelter bloke with an odd look in his eye, dog on lead: They should give some money to folk with dogs as the food bank doesn't have any dog food.
Kindly looking lady standing the other side of the dog: Your dog looks like a pit bull, what's it's name?
Bus shelter bloke with an odd look in his eye, dog on lead: I named it Fang but she prefers to be called Jennifer.
Yet again I was getting nowhere so I decamped to a public bar, hoping that in a more relaxed atmosphere I might be able to join in with a lively analysis of the various party's manifestos. I placed myself, my pint and pork scratchings mid point between two groups of genteel drinkers. I say genteel because on my right were young men all proclaiming love for their mothers via colourful tattoos on their arms; to my left a mixed group of what I took to be weary shoppers staring at near empty glasses. It was quiet for a while as everyone stared blankly at the TV, a news item about the Prime Minister failing to meet his immigration target ........... no ifs ........ no buts. A voice on my right felt motivated to speak:
Young man who loved his mother: Bloody foreigners ....... coming here taking all our jobs.
Weary lady shopper with nearly empty glass: .......... and all our houses too.
Now this was more like it, political discourse ............ so I joined in:
Me: How many foreigners do you think have come here then?
Weary lady shopper now with empty glass: Ooooooh loads. That UKIP chap said in a leaflet that the council was building 10,000 houses around here so they had somewhere to live.
Me: So how many immigrants are coming to Belper?
2nd Young man who loved his mother: Best part of that 10,000 I shouldn't wonder.
Me: Actually, the right wing think tank, Migration Watch, has stated that there are only 50 immigrants per year moving into the Amber Valley Borough Council area. They don't say how many of these are settling in Belper but the majority of the immigrants are from Commonwealth countries with no increase in the numbers coming here from other EU countries.
It went quiet for a while, the weary lady shopper relieved to be sent over a pint from the bar, tattooed young men moving on to discuss the merits of various premiership footballers. I was tempted to point out that most of those were immigrants but it seemed somehow inappropriate.
I finished my beer, dug around in the packet for the very last scratching then went to catch my bus home. Nobody said goodbye but I am not dispirited, I'll be back at it tomorrow, feeling the political pulse of the town, charting the rise in interest that will swell to unbridled excitement come May 7th.