Along the short walk home from Church a couple of hours ago I happened upon Jim, a member of our congregation who for whatever reason had been elsewhere this morning. We spoke about the weather, Jim's new suit...and the recent local election.
Jim is an affable, seventy-something West African chap who resides on Isleworth's Ivybridge estate. He was concerned about the fact that the ICG had lost its seats and that Labour councillors had been returned to office. "I voted for you all," he promised me. "I always do".
I see no reason to disbelieve Jim. What struck me was his eagerness to reassure me. It is something that I've encountered from many, many people during the last fortnight, this almost indecent haste on the part of local people to reassert their faith and support in the community movement.
For whatever reason I found myself pondering the words of the late Alan Clark, when describing the moment in late 1990 when power within the Conservative Party was first perceived to have shifted from Margaret Thatcher to John Major: "All too soon, though, Sir Tim Bell noticed that the crowd around her thinned, as people left her side and gravitated to Major. Truly recognition of the transfer of power is, at the epicentre of its vortex, instantaneous."
I confess that, whilst it would not have been quite instantaneous, I have been expecting for the last two weeks to witness the manifestation of at least some degree of fair-weather friendship. Of people who had professed their loyalty through perceived personal interest taking advantage of the changed situation to raise two fingers and tell us, or at least me, "I never liked you anyway".
That, surely, is the nature of things?
Not only has this not happened, but it is as though the mood amongst local people is to disassociate themselves, as swiftly and as unambiguously as possible, from the actions of The Invisible Ones, that mysterious but substantial group of people who don't involve themselves in community activities, shop at Tesco, drink in pubs, stand at bus stops nor even answer their doors to canvassers but who nevertheless emerge from the undergrowth and brave the daylight once every four or five years to cast their votes for Labour at general elections.
It is very reassuring to know that, amongst "real" people, the feeling is very much one of business as usual.