Former MPs standing for re-election are a rare sight in central London during a general election campaign. They are even rarer this time around, as the campaign happened to fall both during half term and when there was a parliamentary recess already planned, so many MPs had to change their email account signature to “[Party] Candidate” and cancel any family holidays abroad to hit the campaign trail in their constituencies.

Not that all MPs did cancel their holidays abroad. I know of at least one Tory sitting MP with a huge majority who decided that the fact that Ukip weren’t standing a candidate against him was reason enough not to cancel a holiday in Greece. I only hope a member of his family didn’t inadvertently post an Instagram image of him poolside with a glass of rosé while colleagues were knocking on doors from dawn to dusk in Labour-held marginal seats.

Campaign vehicles haven’t changed much since the 1970s. They usually languish for four years in garage hibernation between elections. They are then taken out and new stickers and battle decorations added.

I was impressed that my local Conservative candidate, Philip Dunne, drives his own white van with a sliding door that reveals a small library of Conservative leaflets, large board signs, tools, loud-speakers and mallets. As he has a 19,000 majority and no Ukip candidate standing against him (despite being a minister who voted Remain), I asked why he felt the need to campaign with the same zeal as if he were fighting a knife-edge marginal.

“It’s the only way I know to fight an election,” he said. “When I first stood I was only elected by 2,000 votes, so I don’t take any votes for granted.”

The other truth, of course, is that when it comes to increasing their majority most MPs are like fiercely competitive schoolboys.

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