(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.
To establish the tone of this diary, 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.
Friday, April 17th
22/40 – The Other Debate Day of Days
So the dust begins to settle on last night’s ‘challengers’ debate, and the views seem to be very similar to those formed in the aftermaths of the other debates. The girls’ done good. Farage had few friends in the auditorium but he has plenty at home in their armchairs. Miliband is in with a chance. It seems inconceivable there is another 3 weeks of this to go. What else can these people tell us? Is there anything they can tell us that could possibly convince anyone of sound mind to change that sound mind. If anything, this election, propped up by the modern political state of disrepute, has only served to make me (and many people I speak to) extremely suspicious of anyone who solidly identifies with one party. Suspicious because that person might be deranged, but most likely because that person is likely also to be as untrustworthy and Randian as the politicians themselves. The distrust runs deep.
Cameron crawls out from wherever he’d been hiding last night during the debates, less a ghost at the feast, and more a distant memory of a slightly psychotic ex. He warns the voting populace of the dangers of voting Labour – SNP will be pulling the strings, he says. Vote Labour and get a coalition of chaos, he says. Thanks, Dave, say the public – you could have said all this last night if you’d only had the guts to turn up. He’s the embodiment of that moment, hours after an altercation, when you come up with the perfect come back. Don’t come out all fists flying when the cleaning lady is pushing a mop around the dance floor. You look like even more of an idiot.
Although, maybe there is something in this. Perhaps, despite the way he delivered the message, we should all pay attention when an expert in amateurism and abject chaos who has just spent five years presiding over a coalition, warns us of a ‘coalition of chaos’. Surely he knows one when he sees one.
The ‘dangers’ of Labour and SNP forming a partnership are scenarios we should all be aware of, however. Wouldn’t it be fair and just if the public were truly allowed to see what each and every vote truly meant? But as Orwell lamented famously, obfuscation is the language of the ruling classes.
But just think about it – there is no way on God’s green earth that every party does not have flowcharts upon Ven diagrams of what their moves will be come hell, high water, and even a strong turnout for the Lib Dems. But will they discuss this with us? What if I happen to think a Labour SNP partnership would be a good thing for the UK? (I don’t but what if I did?) Shouldn’t I be allowed, in a democracy, to understand the real consequences of this? Likewise, if I spent my days alone in my own misery, poking my own faeces with a twig, muttering to myself, ‘That Nigel Farage seems like a good egg,’ then shouldn’t I, in a democracy, be allowed to be privy to the shimmying at Conservative HQ as they piss and wine looking for ways to hold on to power? The debate, as you may have noticed, has almost nothing to do with the Election anymore – no! It is now all about the days after the election.
Might this end up being the election remembered in history as the year everyone got it wrong – the media especially – and there is a landslide? Either way. It could happen.
Warnings from the polls, too – not the ones Farage is scared of (that’s Poles); but the ones Lord Ashcroft keeps in his attic. Looks like Jim Murphy, the henchman sent up to Scotland by Ol’ Talkin’ Ed to win back the Labour vote might lose his constituency seat. He was not a popular choice in Scotland at the time, and, as politicians keep telling us: if you don’t like what we do, you have the chance to vote us out.
Saturday, April 18th
23/40 – Major Blow?
Who could have possibly predicted twenty years ago, when John Major was known to many as the monotonal grey-skinned pea-lover from Spitting Image, that his entry into a political campaign – never mind a General Election a generation after his premiership began – would be regarded as the movement of a heavyweight. What a sorry state of amateurs we must be looking at now. But Major is a heavyweight, a man who rose above the massive figures like Heseltine and Obergruppenfuhrer Tebbit to win the party leadership and Number 10. And history has treated his premiership well, if that was far from the case at the time. He is perhaps the opposite of Blair by now.
What may be surprising is that I once briefly (the politest way, I always feel) shook John Major’s hand at a book signing. (I may disagree with his politics, but his book on the first centuries of cricket is a marvellous thing). And the truth is Major is a heavyweight – he’s a big man, with an imposing frame; a former athlete who gave up a possible Olympic-standard career after he was victim of an IED during the Biafra War. He lost a knee cap. When you shake his hand you shake hands with an impressive unit. It is astonishing that this man was the wimpy grey thing that the ITV puppets almost single-handedly kicked out of power.
Major is also perhaps the paradigm of the type of conservatism that is not only something I can respect (whilst disagreeing), but also something that can be a power of good. I just wonder if this Tory party is something Major can so truly reconcile with his own ‘compassionate conservatism’. But he was in Thatcher’s government, so he probably sleeps like a bloody baby.
Sunday, April 19th
24/40 – How very dare you…
The big news on this sleepy Sunday was the Prime Minister’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show. It has often been suspected that David Cameron lives in a rarefied atmosphere, a cloistered club of Yes men and that he really doesn’t like the sound of disagreement. The implication is that he is from an outmoded privileged class who believe they are born with the right to be right, to be infallible, rather than have the tasks the rest of us come up against the completion of which might propel us toward the respect of our peers. Marr, on the other hand, has been often accused of soft-balling in his interviews with cabinet members. This day he was smart, dogged – and so he should have been, his questions went to the very heart – or heartlessness – of Cameron’s government. The questions around Cameron’s welfare policies were not being answered, and Marr would not let it go. Cameron’s top lip began to disappear, curling upward and inward as all the fluid in his face was recruited by his dormant brain.
Best thing is to read the transcript. It’s better than watching the footage. Imagine it’s on stage. Imagine it’s Pinter.
Monday, April 20th
25/40 – some of us are looking to the stars
Some people think old people have it great, because looking at the tail end, they feel they can speak without consequence. What that really means is they can speak without worry of consequence to themselves. Ken Clarke said in an interview today: ‘I’ve heard David Cameron refer to Tony Blair as ‘the master”‘. We must assume he meant ‘guru’ rather than super smooth gentleman Time Lord supervillain.
Cameron, when asked this during an interview from a 12 year old girl deep in the depths of his nuclear bunker, said that it was simply not true. Imagine this: Peter Mandelson, interviewed whilst peeling the shell from a duck egg with his talons in one unbroken beautiful ribbon, sitting on his bone throne in his chamber of baby skulls, says that, ‘I’ve heard Ed Miliband call Margaret Thatcher the shizzle.’ Now do you think the media might have made a banquet out of that, or just fizzled away to a follow up questions that is gently dismissed as a ‘lie’?
The media, for instance, at the behest of the Tories, will not let the SNP badgering go. When Nicola Sturgeon was asked during a press conference today why the English are scared of her she, quite rightly, replied, ‘I don’t think they are.’ What she failed to say was that the truth is the Conservatives may very well be scared of the SNP, but the Conservatives no longer represent England; rather they have represented 32% of the voting population of the UK for the last five years, enabled by Lib Dem nudges. When Channel Four News followed this up by interviewing some people eating ice cream on a park bench in Wobbly on the Wode, they seemed to support Sturgeon’s assertion that the English aren’t scared of her at all. I mean, maybe the English would be if there was in any way a clear idea of what her influence will be really be after the election. But we’re not allowed to know that. We’re just told she will burn down Buckingham Palace with her fiery breath. That is the only thing we know for certain.
Tuesday, April 21st
26/40 – Peach Shapps
Well, the most delicious story of the day was undoubtedly due to the itchy little fingers of Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps. Wikipedia, no less, has branded him ‘exceptionally dodgy’ and blocked a user account that they have explicitly said is either Grant Shapps or an account used by someone under the direct influence of Grant Shapps (which could mean one of his many aliases, such as Michael Green, Janette Winterbottom or Dobby the House Elf). Shapps is perhaps the most dodgy politician – in the minor leagues of the Non-Murderous Non-Paedophile Division – currently plying his several trades (many of which by moonlight). Shapps is now a walking talking laughing stock after the parade of embarrassing small-time scandals that follow him around.
He ran an extremely odorous online company selling a make-money-quick scheme, one that was plastered with testimony of people who had made squillions off the back of it, only for it to be revealed that none of those people actually existed, and they were all Grant Shapps doing silly voices. He was then caught lying several times about his businesses, claiming he had never had a second job whilst being an MP, which turned out to be both untrue and shocking to those in his constituency who had no idea he was employed at all.
How Shapps can keep his high-ranking job with the Conservative party is a very peculiar thing indeed; but the truth is there never seems any suggestion that his humiliating behaviour might ever result in the most severe of reprimands. But all that really happens is there are only two facts you can be sure of when it comes to Grant Shapps: he’s crooked, and, along with cockroaches, his smirk is the only thing that will survive a nuclear apocalypse.
In other news, I’m becoming increasingly distressed that the only party election broadcast I have seen thus far is the one for UKIP. And I’ve seen it about 15 times. Well, probably not 15 times – but it bloody feels like it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see any party election broadcast, but if I must then could I see NOT the UKIP one?!? Nigel Farage’s geezer-down-your-local schtick is utterly ridiculous, like a snake-oil salesman holding out an old slipper and saying ‘you’re going to have to squeeze the oil out of this snake yourself.’ Cretinous. If you even entertain for a moment the idea of voting UKIP, you are just fifty years on the lucky side of ending up in some upper state New York sanatorium covered in your own shit.
On a lighter note, however; Dark Lord Tebbit was good copy today, although great swathes of the press ignored him. Of his party leader he had this to say:
I just cannot read Mr Cameron’s mind, it’s a foreign country to me. Men like Churchill, Atlee, Bevan, were real men with real depths of experience. They had not gone from school to university to being a special adviser to working in an advertising agency – they had some experience of life.
I’d forgotten about the year Churchill spent as a car mechanic in Leeds.
Wednesday, April 22nd
27/40 – Catch me if you want
Talking of party election broadcasts, I saw Plaid Cymru’s today. Their tactic seems to be based around the idea that Plaid voters, like homosexuals in the 1950s, are out there in their droves, only are reluctant to own up to it due to some social stigma (or illegality). It has a sense of humour, and not in the same poised, cynical, humourless way the UKIP one does, but it may be more of a message for the Assembly elections next year, rather than for this GE. But anything that puts Eiry Thomas on the tele, even if for a few minutes and with a bad script, can’t be a bad thing.
A pattern is emerging if it hadn’t already emerged. The Tories will fight this election through an odd mixture of cowardice and aggression. Cameron avoids debates, he is ushered in front of cameras at rallies that are stage-managed and largely meaningless as rallies, but meaningful as photo ops. And now on Newsnight, for a debate on the Welfare reforms, they refuse to put up anyone to defend those reforms. As I said in the first entry to this diary several weeks ago: a prime minister must run on his record, and Cameron – perhaps wisely – is refusing to do that.
Another thought, because this election already is pretty slim on ideas: is it right that the media can barely contain their excitement at the weeks of election coverage? It’s like the Olympics for the people who were bullied in school.
The news media have a marvellous – a famed – capacity to ring droplets out of a stone, and this election now, with two weeks to go, is solid impermeable rock. The journos keep asking the same question: when will the polls move? Why haven’t they moved? And no-one sees the answer that is as clear to me as the wireless antennae coming out of the top of Jeremy Hunt’s head: the polls aren’t moving because nobody is listening!!!
Every time a journalist delivers some vox pops, they are of people struggling to even summon up the God-given breath to answer, ‘I really don’t care.’ I swear to god, on ITV news the other night, a man was asked if he thought Nigel Farage was right about immigration, and the guy, rather than answer the question, ran across the street into the pathway of an oncoming lorry. You just watch – the next time someone musters any kind of answer, the look behind their eyes is the look of someone thinking only one thing: ‘For God’s sake, don’t look like you don’t give a shit on TV.’ Everyone else just doesn’t give a shit.
Thursday, April 23rd
28/40 – the poll vault
I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand polls. For one, I don’t understand how I have never once been contacted, or ever known anyone who has been contact to answer a poll on any subject. But I also have the same suspicions and disappointments about the surveys for the answers on Pointless. But I have been beffudled that the nightly ‘parliamentary seat generator’ on Newsnight has seemed way out of whack with the best of the other polls I have been seeing. Newsnight still regularly gives the Tories 280+ seats. Which next to their projection for Labour, back on the 250+ seems to have it all sewn up for the boys in blue. But The Guardian today now has the same ‘parliamentary seat generator’ and has Labour on 271, with the Tories, admittedly dropping, to 269. Pair up the Labour seats with the SNP and for the first time you have the 326 seats required to force a vote of confidence in a government. So the BBC still knocking about on the Tories having a commanding lead, to use a sporting phrase, seems very much at odds with The Guardian’s view.
Probably worth pointing out that The Guardian have consistently polled for the doom of the Labour campaign. 13 days out, and are we seeing a gradual – oh so gradual – move to the reds?
Another point on polling, and who exactly is it being polled. The pollees (as I shall call them) are purported to be a braod cross section of society. If they weren’t it would be all rather moot. But how many people hit by benefit sanctions are being polled? How many people cast out of the parameters of society are being polled? How many of the 1 million people using foodbanks have been polled?
Agh, I’m just bitter that I’ve never had the call.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that in a General Election the margin of error for polls is 4 points. Now in an election this close (as we’re repeatedly told) 4 points is enormous. So the polls, in an election this close, mean pretty much zero.