(original artwork by Matthew Harding)
Follow Gary Raymond as he casts an alternative (and unabashed) eye on the build-up to the the 2015 General Election.
Probably best to set the tone of this Diary out from the start. I’ll let Hunter S. Thompson, here writing about Richard Nixon, do it on my behalf…
Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.
Day 1 of 40 to go: The Non-Debate Debate
If you consider the 2015 election not to have been going on since the day the coalition was formed, then really it was kicked off with the Paxman/Burley opening ceremony on Channel 4 (in partnership with SKY). Channel 4’s exact role in the partnership, however, was unclear. I assume it was their studio. And they broadcast it. But the ‘famously left leaning’ and award-winning news team of that company were not within spitting distance of the place on the night. Perhaps SKY TV’s Dark Overlord, cuddly Uncle Rupert, was up to his micromanagement tricks again. Anyway, old Tory ‘Jellyroll’ Paxman* and Murdochbot Burley were in entertaining form. In the pantomimic sense of the word. Jon Snow was most certainly absent.
Paxman got stuck right in to the Prime Minister; firing question after question aimed at Cameron’s failed policies and broken promises. In fact, there was very little else to ask him about. A Prime Minister runs on his record, and Cameron’s is not good – a premiership of abject amateurism, home and away; an entire cabinet that smacks of a bygone age of rule by pipe smoke, whiskers and bloodshot cheeks. After: the barrage of questions, the strain of which was visible on Cameron, so used, as he is, to people around him simply dusting off chairs with handkerchiefs rather than questioning his pillar-to-post policy decisions.
Next was the audience questions, softballs though they were. The star of this segment of the show, however, was Murdochbot Burley, who treated Cameron rather like he was a member of One Direction, or maybe like he was Johnny Depp pulling his barge up to woo her French chocolatier. It would, of course, have been embarrassing had the Murdochbot Burley been programmed to feel shame, but that would have kicked in decades ago, one presumes. There were visible moments when Cameron’s face said, ‘Seriously, Kay, rein it in, my wife is watching this.’
The contrast with the treatment of ol’ talkin’ Ed Miliband was pretty obvious to most. Paxman seemed to be goading him rather than grilling him, asking a series of personal questions and fixating on his leadership victory over his brother in 2010. But of course Paxman is a Tory, and the Tories are a little obsessed with what Labour were doing years ago.
Miliband rode the early – and expected – volley pretty well, although it went on to such a degree that there became a tangible air in the studio (from the audience) that had Miliband stared glassily at Paxman and said, ‘Go Fuck yourself, Paxo,’ he would have won not only a standing ovation, but the election there and then.
And Murdochbot Burley certainly changed her tune. From swooning Jane Austen character she switched to something more resembling Piper Laurie when that guy comes to the front door to pick Carrie up for the prom (she will be forever protecting her cuddly Uncle Rupert’s ‘dirty pillows’). She scowled and interrupted and glared at everything Miliband said with utter suspicion and contempt. Cuddly Uncle Rupert was no doubt whispering into her earpiece from his volcano lair hideout, “keeeeell hiiiiim!”
With the credits rolling, Murdochbot Burley about to unpin her grin and Paxman readying himself for a return that lonely existence he has inevitably fashioned for himself, it seemed Ed had done good. Most of the clichés seemed to hold true: there were low expectations for him, and he surpassed them.
Cameron, on the other hand, managed to confirm some suspicions. Namely, that he is a coward who would probably get mangled to a pulp in a face-to-face with Miliband. Even when Cameron does step out into the open, with the façade of ‘debate’, he is very much playing at home, in the embrace of cuddly Uncle Rupert, Murdochbot Burley and ‘Jellyroll’ Paxman.
The reactions – which is what really matters – were very interesting indeed, if not barely believable. Twitter gave it to Miliband. This seemed a reasonable response. A YouGov poll gave it to Cameron. This seemed a reasonable response had YouGov only polled the lounge at the Pall Mall Club. But this did lay some things out bare: Miliband has a hell of a battle on his hands to convince the media to give him a fair ride, and Cameron will probably get away with his cowardice.
*an ironic title, referring to the line from the old blues song which refers to the ‘Jellyroll, jellyroll, sittin’ on the fence’, something which Paxman would be unable to do if his life depended on it.
March 27th to March 29th
Day 2-4 of 40: the Non-Returnables
The weekend following that televisual extravaganza was calm. Well, it wasn’t actually, but the nation waited with wet-lipped anticipation for the dissolution of parliament on the coming Monday. Well, that’s hardly true either. But aside from the fallout from the televisual extravaganza (there really wasn’t all that much) there were some relatively touching moments of coverage of long-standing MPs emptying their offices before going to the ‘debating chamber in the country’ where all MPs go when they retire. Particularly poignant was BBC Wales filming Peter Hain unpick his ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ poster from the wall of his constituency office in Neath. Think what you like about the man as a government minister (I was never his biggest fan, to say the least), but as an anti-Apartheid activist and campaigner, and a campaigner for human rights in general, his work has been significant and brave. He has, you could say, been on the side of history in such things, even if the chapter of his life at Tony Blair’s side may not reflect all so well. But he knows that.
Day 5/40: Official Dissolution of Parliament
Cameron sets off (with Nick Clegg, for some reason, tagging along like a tourist) to ask the Queen if she would be so kind as to dissolve parliament so that the inhabitants can get stuck into the election proper.
It’s impossible to escape the impression that Cameron would prefer there to be no election at all, and not because he’s a crazed despot, but rather because it seems like such a lot of effort. He was born to rule, and he’s done that now. This impression is compounded by the flabbergasting admission in an interview with BBC’s James Landale (hardly a pit bull, it must be said) that Cameron will not seek a third term. Fair enough, perhaps a little presumptuous, and it certainly was a ‘straight answer to a straight question’, but what it really was was an amateur’s answer to an inane question. Cameron comes across in this interview, chopping carrots in his kitchen, not as relaxed, an everyman, real, but as bored with the whole thing. He comes across as switched off, unengaged with the business of campaigning.
Later on Michael Gove goes on Newsnight to try and help out with the narrative and serves only to help in sculpting an uneasy-looking coalition of Evan Davis and Alistair Campbell, unified in their admiration of Gove’s massive balls. Cameron was telling the truth, Gove said; ‘Welcome to the new age of politicians telling the truth,’ in a display of brass-faced bullshittery so impressive that when Henry Kissinger turned up later to discuss the death of Lew Kuan Yew, the old warmonger had physically deflated, his shamelessness thunder literally stolen.
Fans of The West Wing will remember how President Jed Bartlett refused to make campaign calls from the Oval Office, taking his call list to the residence. This is a tradition in America, one of dignity and respect for the basic tenets of democracy. And many of those West Wing fans will have thought of this when Cameron used a press conference on doorstep of Number 10 to slag off his main opponent. Cameron is constantly referred to as ‘prime ministerial’, and yet there seems very little evidence of it, unless prime ministerial now means not farting in front of the Queen, which he may well have already done for all we know.
At the same time Cameron used an official declaration of parliament to throw spit balls at his rival, Miliband was pleading with what must rate the most po-faced audience anyone in public office ever has to face. No, not the WI; in central London Miliband and Balls unveiled their business manifesto to leaders of the business community in an attempt to unbuckle the majority of them from the I’m All Right Jack school of trickle-down bullshitonomics.
I am, of course, being quite unfair on business leaders. As a union of economic drivers, their concerns are obviously very important to address. The thing is, the media need to find people who are more amiable than the people they usually find to represent the interests of businesses when they are discussing these issues. On a recent Channel 4 News hustings, the founder and CEO of The Range, in a performance of such awful, gob-smacking repulsiveness that the keyboard of my laptop now automatically writes the word OBNOXIOUS in block capitals, told a nurse that if she wanted to earn more money perhaps she should ‘do a course’ and find another line of employment.
Just a thought, but maybe the business leaders should find themselves a spokesman who is not a spiv parading corporation tax cuts as investments in the social good. They are out there. I even know some.
6/40 – The Complexities of Complexity
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood seems to be confusing the media by saying that she may be tempted to support a Labour government who committed to more powers for Wales even if they went ahead with the renewal of Trident, one of Plaid’s target issues. But, how? the media ask. But… Trident… Labour… how? they splutter. Here is a perfect example of the media being unable to deal with the landscape they have been complicit in forming over the last forty years; one of dumb simplicity. Wood understands supporting a Labour government would be complicated, would run against many of Plaid’s principles, but would be beneficial too. Certainly more beneficial than turning your nose up at the proposition. The interviewer is confused. At least confused in how to relate this down the screen. Default setting: smugness. It is only Plaid after all. That word – ‘complex’ – having been jettisoned by much of the media in recent decades, keeps rearing its head.
This is not to confuse Wood’s suggestion of co-operation with what the Liberal Democrats signed up for. That was very simple. Not complex at all.
In other news, I also notice The Guardian has started its own Fact Check blog, which is bad news for most politicians, but I’d imagine Ian Duncan Smith is having 3 Shredded Wheat this morning.
7/40 – The Scarlet Letter
News organisations seem to have spent an awful lot of time working on April Fool’s stories today. Twitter is awash with them. A fistfight in the background on Grandstand is one thing, but within an hour of being out of bed it’s obvious that the whole business of news-gathering will be an uphill struggle of groans and articles read only just beyond the headline. As if it’s not enough of a chore filtering out the internet’s pantomime dickheads every day, there is now a second filter needed to fling out stories about Cameron admitting he likes a Pot Noodle sandwich after a night out, and Jeremy Clarkson and George Monbiot’s impending Civil Partnership.
But after the kids have had their giggles, there is some news in there. The most significant seems to be this letter from 103 business leaders supporting the Tory’s economic plan. Paul Mason almost immediately comes out with a report from the IFS saying that the Government’s austerity policy has been a measurable disaster for Britain. The IFS is not the final word in this, but they know more about it than business leaders.
Cameron and Osborne spend the rest of the day indulging in farcical attempts to pretend this wasn’t organised at Conservative HQ, but was rather a spontaneous ‘union of business leaders’ (I snigger as I write that phrase, for its irony), all of them ‘coming together for the greater good of the country’ (another snigger). George Monbiot in The Guardian, strangely using the exact same word I used in this diary yesterday, calls them ‘spivs’. Duncan Banatyne, such a towering colossus in the business world that he is actually skint, has signed the letter. Now, is there anything more repulsive than a man who grew up in abject poverty in Clydebank backing the Tories? Well, there’s Stuart Rose, of course, who is able to give anyone a run for their dollar in the repulsive market; all over the TV screens, lauded as former Chairman of Marks and Spencer’s – although few people ever mention he oversaw the decline of M&S, and he left them in 2011, arguably when they started to get back on their feet again.
News networks make the point time and time again that many in the public don’t trust business leaders anyway. Osborne looks glassily at the questioner, sitting with his usual rigidity in what looks like the shark-feeding viewing lounge of his Supervillan Bus of Evil, his mouth bobbing open a few times like a goldfish, and then points at the letter he has in his hand once more as if he’s just stumbled down Mount Sinai with it: ‘But they’re business leaders…’ he stammers; ‘b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s leaders.’
8/40 – The D Day of Days Debate Day
And so the country came rolling up to the most hotly anticipated seven-way debate since the dwarves tried to decide whether to carry Snow White back to their digs or not. Many serious commentators called it as it would eventually come to pass; there was little room for anybody to really make a mark. This is exactly what Cameron wanted; rather like his premiership as a whole, he just wants to be able to tell people he did it. Miliband, again, did pretty well, seeming confident and intelligent. The media called one winner, and that was women. Politics and political commentary, it seems, still has a bit of trouble really getting over the fact women are involved in this at all. Didn’t the women do well? was the addendum to most comments. Difficult to imagine the comments being ‘The winners tonight, David, were most certainly the Jews,’ had Plaid, the SNP and the Greens been led by a trio of rabbis.
Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP was in the enviable position of Kingmaker – but wasn’t this where Clegg (he was there too apparently) found himself five years ago and now he is having about as much influence on this election as Benjamin Disraeli (actually, probably less influence than Disraeli).
But here was the first real sign of the sinking of the good ship UKIP. Nigel Farage saw fit to steal a BNP tagline, resurrecting a myth about health tourism weighing down the NHS. He was roundly booed as Plaid’s Leanne Wood took the lead in calling him an idiot and saying he should be ashamed of himself. Farage seemed to have forgotten for a moment he was not being interviewed by the fawning BBC who seem to think the fact he’s good copy outweighs his poison. He was not on home turf, it’s fair to say. Will we look back on that moment, when in one sentence he managed to try and rouse votes by hating Africans and people with AIDS, and see it as the start of his slump into anonymity? If Farage loses his strike for the seat of South Thanet UKIP is done for. To flirt with UKIP you are a bigot, whether you know it or not, but many will surely be shocked back to the safe house of Toryism after this. Stranger things have happened.
On Question Time afterwards, Michael Gove wheeled his massive balls into a Salford studio and told the audience that Labour left the country in the same state as Greece. Audience members were having none of it, mainly because it is a lie. The coalition tried trotting this nonsense out a little while ago, until it was debunked; but they seem to think everyone might have forgotten about that and are trying it on again. But the truth is, by this point, if you’re considering voting Tory you know the reasons and you’re probably used to keeping them to yourself unless you’re at the Pall Mall Club or playing golf or hanging out anywhere else only rich white men go.
9/40 – Telegraph to the Rescue
In what seemed an uncharacteristically swift response to Nicola Sturgeon’s successful debate performance the previous night, The Daily Telegraph – brought to you by HSBC – published the details of a leaked memo that suggested the SNP leader had displayed a preference for Cameron to stay as PM after May as it would give her party something more palpably evil to push back against. She is also quoted as saying that Ed isn’t ‘up to the job’ of Prime Minister. This was a delicious story for the media, and it was as readily gobbled up as it was unverified. The memo is written by a civil servant and is a third hand account of something the civil servant explicitly says in the memo is very unlikely to have happened and was probably ‘lost in translation’. The journos who wrote it up (for they did little else by the looks of things) disappeared from sneering on Twitter in a puff of smoke; Sturgeon, then the French consulate, then the French Ambassador all categorically stated that this conversation never took place. But this, apparently, is just one side of the story, and not the story. The BBC, SKY and ITV all led with it that day, all detailing the thrust of The Telegraph story a few times before mentioning the rebuttal.
The previous night, on BBC’s Question Time, I had witnessed a similar Twilight Zone twisting of time and space, when David Dimbleby on two separate occasions pressed Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham to answer a question he had quite clearly already given a No answer to. ‘Will you give me a straight answer, yes or no, to whether Labour will enter a formal agreement with the SNP?’ To which Burnham, audibly, with his mouth, said, ‘No, we will categorically NOT – watch my mouth move and listen to the sounds coming out of it – NOT enter into a formal agreement with the SNP after the election.’ ‘Viewers at home can come to their own interpretation of that,’ Dimbleby winked. Barely a week has passed since Cameron’s ‘straight answer to a straight question’ in his kitchen.
It is clear that the following days might be significant for the SNP in light of this probably fabricated story. The media, and particularly The Daily Telegraph, seem to have little understanding that Scottish contempt for Westminster casts shades over politicians and journalists alike. Many more Scots than just the erstwhile YES voters don’t trust either of them one iota.
10/40 – Scotch Mist
The depressing fog around the Sturgeon memo continues to thicken. Not because the veracity of the memo is becoming more and more debatable – it seems today that it is already being regarded as utter bunkum – but because the media continue to treat it as though it is legit. The right-wing press are no longer delivering news with an ‘editorial bent’, but are printing straight forward, no-messing, Riefenstahl-lite Tory propaganda. The Times is running headlines such as ‘Conservative House-price Utopia’, which means I can’t even summon the lead-lining to my stomach needed take a look at The Express or The Mail; but I’m sure Lord Dacre has commissioned hook-nosed cartoons of Ralph Miliband eating babies to run any day now. It seems an odd tactic, and I’m not sure if it is designed to fool or frighten swing voters, or is just simply charged with the duty of solidifying the core Tory vote of bemused white people whose entire interaction with the Great Recession was when Waitrose put up the price of cheese.
But back to the Sturgeon hullabaloo – because I think I’m growing an opinion on her for the first time. Tiny tiny buds. Ed has dived in and condemned her. For what, it is unclear. But ‘damning revelations’ is his phrase. It seems quite unwise to side with the The Telegraph on anything, never mind a political story. It looks as though Ed still sees hope of winning something north of the border. When he should probably be thinking of how best to work with the SNP, he is finding new and interesting ways of coming up with things he’ll need to apologise for come partnership negotiations on May 8th.
But apart from that it seems Sturgeon is moving on from her denial and has called for an investigation into the ‘leak’. Everyone is denying everything at the moment, and the journos who wrote the article in The Telegraph, Simon Johnson and Peter Dominiczak, were last seen crossing the border to Syria.
Sturgeon has also called on Labour to agree to forming an anti-austerity pact designed with one thing in mind: to keep Cameron out of Downing Street. Labour are in a tricky position, and of course Sturgeon knows this. The right thing to do, for the weak and disadvantaged (by disadvantaged I mean ‘went to state school’), is to have her hand off immediately, and consign Cameron to his cocktail party anecdotes of the ‘time I caught Ian Duncan Smith practising his sneer in the mirror.’ But if Miliband agrees to this pact he will be painted as admitting to the inevitable bashing Labour are going to get in Scotland. And so politics urinates into its own font once again.
11/40 – the Lamb of God
Easter weekend and the politicians are deep into ‘sweater and jeans mode’. Cameron says he’s taking the day off campaigning, which involves inviting photographers to snap him feeding a lamb, a photoshoot only slightly less off-putting than the one where Kate Garraway breastfed a goat.
Aside from feeding cute animals, straight-talking Cameron refused to rule out a cut in the top rate of tax by evading a straight answer. Straight-talking Cameron also gives an interview to a right-wing paper about his faith, about how his Christian beliefs guide his political conscience, which sounds about right – both are dodgy as hell. Cameron, of course, is talking about the white, wealthy, English form of Christianity, the one that does not stop him from casting out the poor and needy of society into the street, rather than, y’know, the one Jesus espoused when he said he had no regard for rich people as they did not need his help. The Guardian, in a fairly bold move, calls him out on this in an editorial, and gives a poignant RE lesson to our PM, stating that the lesson of Jesus is that every person has inherent worth regardless of status or attitude, not the superficial billboard faith of the cucumber sandwich brigade. But Cameron’s faith is just as thoughtful as everything else about him. There also seems little thought gone in to the couple of times over the last few weeks he has brought up the tragic death of his son, Ivan, when discussing the NHS. If he’d have thought about it further, he may have seen how distasteful it is, to the memory of his son, and the memory of all those who have suffered (and died) because of the cruelty of his ministers’ policies during the five years he has been in power.
The press, who lambasted Gordon Brown for once mentioning the sad death of his own baby in a campaign interview in 2008, seem perfectly at ease with Cameron mentioning Ivan several times during campaign speeches, and the TV debate, over the last few days.
12/40 – Sam Cam No Go
My initial concerns yesterday about the way Cameron uses the death of his son in his debates has been beautifully addressed by this mother from Scotland who, like many of us, can’t quite equate the Cameron’s rhetoric with their cruel policies.
Read the open letter here.
13/40 – Is there a (Tory) Doctor in the House?
I am sick of the election already. I look at the little countdown digit I’ve decided to apply to the top of each posting and my heart is already sinking at the commitment I’ve made. I think of political journalists, who love this, who live for it, and think: you bunch of sick-minded perverts. And some of them are my friends. One phrase always associated with high-octane politics, is ‘the cut and thrust’, a metaphor suitably both distasteful and arcane. You imagine, for instance, if Jacob Rees-Mogg were really backed into a corner, a sword would be his weapon-of-choice. A rapier. A tool for the all grown up boy scout. Cut and thrust. Or sectis et fixuram, he’d probably say with an arch of the eyebrows. (And apologies to Mr Rees-Mogg if I’ve forgotten to conjugate a verb or something in that translation).
It seems as this election enters the end of its earliest phase, that ‘cut and thrust’ won’t quite… er… cut it, and perhaps ‘death by a thousand cuts’ might be more apposite (not only because it seems to be the coalition policy for poor people for the last five years). The coalition has had a fraught relationship with the NHS during its reign. Cameron has had to grin his love for free healthcare the whole time, whilst secretly spitting into a bucket at his feet just out of camera shot. Like a dope on the rope, his body will take the masochistic untruths, blow after blow showering down on his ribcage (where the souls of lost children abide), resilient in the knowledge he is almost certain to get away with privatising the whole thing eventually. And one way or the other the NHS is done for. The financial chasm is deep enough to lose a wizard and a Balrog, and Miliband has enough of Tony Blair in him to believe in the Market as a creeping provider (rather than Cameron’s dream, in which private healthcare firms ride in like the KKK in Birth of Nation).
Miliband, truth be told, may not worship at the temple of the Free Market before every meal (not like Ed Balls), but he’s a casual philosopher of the doctrine, popping in to church when it’s most expected of him. Miliband seems to be positioning himself as the champion of the people, opposite Cameron’s champion of the rich; but still Miliband cannot say anything other than ‘slower and shallower’ when it comes to austerity. He and Balls are part of the European political class, and this is their flat earth belief. To suggest there is another path is viewed as slightly potty. So the manoeuvring by Miliband is almost entirely political and vote-driven. Of course it is, you say. Well, yes, of course it is. But it is also the opportunity for Miliband to place himself on the side moral righteousness, and as yet he seems unwilling to do that. I think if we were to see Miliband coming out and saying, ‘people have died as a direct result of Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare policies,’ the polls would be looking quite different.
In the continuing saga of the open letter with hundreds of signatories, the NHS had its say today. 140 NHS doctors signed a letter that stated quite clearly that the coalition have been the worst thing to happen to free healthcare since, and I quote, ‘old folk stopped dying so regularly.’ But seriously, if the news media had taken this letter as seriously as they took the SPIV 103 letter (as I’ve decided to call it), then Cameron and his Bullingdon cabinet would be stammering and stuttering all through their softball interviews. (Not Gove, of course, with his massive balls, who is being wheeled out to showcase said assets at every available opportunity. Gove is great at this sort of thing; so weathered is he in the art of talking with absolute condescension on topics he knows nothing about. Cameron knew what he was doing when he made him party Whip.)
The Tories have dismissed the letter as the work of Labour-backing, socially-conscious, communist, gay lesbian doctors. They spat the word NHS into that bucket at Cameron’s feet. And it’s a shame because the Tories usually love a letter. They always make a big deal out of it. They waved the SPIV 103 around like they had never seen that footage of Chamberlain on the tarmac – the last time a politician put such sway into a note of so little worth.
14/40 – Non Dom Rom Com
The Tories were sucker-punched this morning when Miliband announced that were Labour to win the election on May 7th the first business of government would be to tar and feather Sir Philip Green in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, Miliband gave this speech extremely early, and since journos are now all eating 3 Shredded Wheat as Mr Cameron talked about, they all missed that bit. They did get there in time to hear him say he would wipe out the Nom Dom status. Nom Dom status is the legal equivalent of having a concubine, only here it is the UK that gets treated like a whore. It is almost certainly posturing from Labour, and Ed Balls, proving more and more every day that he isn’t really fully informed of anything to do with the day to day of living in the world, least of all his party’s strategy in this election, said in interviews over breakfast that ‘Yes, that’s a good point, this might not work financially; but frankly, I’ve only just got up and I haven’t even checked my emails and Ed is always emailing me shit like this at, like, two in the morning and I watched Back in Time for Dinner on iPlayer and was asleep by, like, half ten, so I’m a bit out of the loop on this one, but give me minute and I’ll just repeat pretty much whatever the Tory position is only with my head bobbing up and down and I’ll pinch the air with my thumb and forefinger and say we’ll do it slower and shallower. How does that sound?’
But the confusion was not totally reserved for Labour. The Tories were utterly all over the shop about it. Miliband’s positioning had forced the Tories to side with people who in the eyes of the average voter are tax dodgers. Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary (praise be to the Mighty Lord she ain’t no teacher!) said that Conservative Party policy was that everybody should pay tax in the UK, whether they live here or not, including President Obama, Jeremy Clarkson and Poldark. Oddly, this is the most sense Morgan has ever made. She was given a gold star by Massive Balls Gove and allowed her to lick the window.
But Miliband explicitly positioned himself on the side of moral righteousness. He used the word ‘moral’. But it’s still a big swing at a billboard issue. However, there is plenty of time still left for him to plop through the fabric roof of Ian Duncan Smith’s Sedan chair as he’s carried through Parliament Square and run him through with an épée.
Most heart-warming moment of the day was when David Cameron issued a call for the people he had only a few years ago called ‘racists’ and ‘fruitcakes’ to ‘come home’. Awwww, the Tories have allowed UKIP to babysit their wayward Cholmondley-Warners but now they need them back. Awwww.
Labour welcomed back its own desperately needed undesirable today too, as His High Anointed Majesty Tony Blair decided to join the campaign trail – quite possibly without having consulted Miliband beforehand. ‘The Tories will destroy the country if they get in,’ Tony said with his usual gremlin grin. ‘They’re already in, Tony,’ says the journo; ‘have been for 5 years.’ ‘Ah,’ says Tony, his grin not fading. ‘I’ve been away you see. In the Middle Earth.’
And Labour had another returnee. Only this one had only been gone for slightly less time than it takes a Clydebank drunk to the get the keys into the ignition of his camper van. Duncan Bannatyne decided the only thing he wanted to hear from Miliband to get his vote was ‘bravery’. The Non Dom thing swayed him. Does this mean he takes his name off the letter he signed two days ago that said Labour would destroy the recovery if they got in? Someone get that man another peach schnapps and lemonade.
15/40 – So, it’s going to be like that is it?
It had been warming up, of course. The right-wing press have been using schoolyard tactics against Ed for five years, and the bacon sarnie incident is so overused it’s actually pretty close to working in Ed’s favour nowadays. He uses it to laugh at himself and he looks affable for crying out loud!!! But today we saw the campaign click into ultra-Crosby-mode. Lynton Crosby, the Aussie who styles himself as a kind of On the Buses Lee Atwater, has finally made himself known. He is famous throughout the political world (well, in Westminster) as a black-hearted bubo on the public sphere. He’s championed for it, in fact. He’s a gun for hire, like a cross between Lee Marvin and Charles Hawtree. It’s understood the Tories got to him just seconds before Labour, and both only beat the Eating the Souls of Babies Party due to the latter’s shortfall on ad-buys. But what is certain now, after the performance of Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on the early shift, is that the Tories think the way to win this election is to campaign negatively against Talkin’ Ed’s personality and character. Fallon, generally regarded as a decent and level-headed bureaucrat (yes: yaaaaawwwnnn), informed the public on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Miliband would ‘stab the UK in the back, just like he did his brother’. Immediately the first problem with this is that the Tories now seem unsure as to whether Miliband is to be portrayed as weak or ruthless. Tomorrow’s rag press are running headlines suggesting Ed is a bit of a shagger. Weak? Heartless? Ruthless? A womaniser? Not entirely sure the Tories aren’t actually trying to recruit Miliband rather than defeat him.
The upshot of all this negative campaigning is that Labour enjoyed a bump in the polls. As Isabel Hardman points out in The Spectator, calling out Miliband on Trident is a dead cat tactic. The problem is, is that if everybody knows the dead cat has been slammed on the table in order to change the conversation (in this case from the nom dom issue to Trident) then people will just brush aside the dead cat. Or am I giving the British public – and the media – too much credit. In fact, a considerable amount of time on tonight’s Newsnight was given over to the nature of the dead cat, how much it stinks and how cute it used to be, rather than just pushing the corpse into the bin. Nobody seemed all that fussed by the fact that on Trident, officially, in every way imaginable, Labour are with the Tories. It’s not just a dead cat, it’s actually just someone telling you they have a dead cat and after the election Ed Miliband will slam it on the table. Or something. I may have lost the metaphor there at some point.
So, is it worth paying attention to polls this far out from the the eye of the storm? Almost certainly not. But if Crosby has misjudged the British appetite for seeing rich men bitch at each other, then he has just lost them an election out of which they might have squeezed a narrow victory.
Read Gary Raymond‘s Election Diary every week in Wales Arts Review.