There’s something to be said for not having a telly. Mine blew up a couple of months ago (well, not exactly ‘blew up’. More like started making some very odd noises and then gradually gave up the ghost in a kind of “Ahh, sod it, I just can’t be bothered any more” sort of a way), and ever since, I’ve been reading like they’re about to close all the libraries.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve had my nose buried in Things Can Only Get Better, John O’Farrell’s amusing 1998 memoir of being a Labour Party supporter in the 1980s and 1990s, which I first read about ten years ago. Although I find much of O’Farrell’s work very funny (he wrote for the legendary TV satire show Spitting Image at its height, and is responsible for the highly amusing NewsBiscuit website), I don’t always agree with him – for a start, his devotion to Labour reminds me why I don’t support a specific political party and won’t be going into politics any time soon (or at all!)
A letter from the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition! Aren’t I a lucky girl!?
Well no, not really, for it was yet more postal propaganda rubbish – although I’m not yet entirely sure whether it’s better or worse than receiving a (similar) letter from David Cameron, as I did during the general election campaign last year…
I don’t belong to any political party or trade union – I’m actually strictly politically non-partisan (in that I despise all the major – and most of the minor – political parties equally), but I have also long been fascinated by the various factions and their increasingly desperate attempts to drum up support over the last few years by swamping our letterboxes with junk mail propaganda.
In my case, I get crap personally addressed to me from all of them (via the electoral register?), but the Labour Party is especially guilty of sending me a deluge of junk mail – probably a side effect of a number of years of persistent letter writing to my old Labour MP (her team seems to have added me to an extra super-annoying mailshot database somewhere along the line – without my permission, I might add!).
Well, that’s ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and in some ways the perceived outcome was surprising (to me – a bit – anyway). This, the first televised debate of its kind in the UK, appears to have been some sort of attempt to engage the electorate in their own homes, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a large proportion of the ITV-watching population simply reached for the remote at 8.30pm. I didn’t – for my sins – and this is what I thought…
Gordon Brown fared better than I expected, although I thought he looked worried and old – and his attempts at joking his way out of a hole fell a little flat to my ears. He handled the question on the economy with more knowledge and grace than David Cameron (all those years in the Treasury waiting for Tony Blair to begone are paying off now, eh Gordon?), but his weird little attempts at deferring to Nick Clegg were noticeable and rather amusing – “I agree with Nick” being the catchphrase of the night from Gordy. I get the impression that Downing Street may well be preparing for a hung parliament and are thus rather clumsily grooming Clegg because they suspect that he may end up in an important position in any resulting coalition government.
So it’s May 6th then. Now there’s a surprise.
In exactly a month’s time, the polling booths will be open and the British people will be casting their vote for a new/old government, but, finally, today Her Madge gave her consent to Gordon Brown dissolving Parliament – which means the election campaign really, actually, finally, officially starts now (despite the fact that some candidates have been at it for months already).
And what an exciting morning it’s been for all us armchair election followers!
I’m not entirely sure what was most (least?) thrilling about this morning’s frankly mindless media coverage. Forced by Freeview to choose between Sky or the BBC, the telly ended up being muted when my brain started dripping out of my ears. I did catch Gordon Brown’s thoroughly tedious speech – although I was slightly distracted by the phrase ‘as dull as ditchwater’ bouncing round what little brain I had left by this point.
Other media lowlights included David Cameron’s unpleasantly smug speech to the rapt party faithful, complete with its mysterious (hmm) omission of the same two words (“gay” and “straight”) which were so heavily emphasised in the draft version revealed yesterday.
With the election now widely assumed to be on May 6th, the campaign for Britain’s hearts and minds has really begun in earnest, although said campaign doesn’t seem to be working very well – that’ll be on all sides, but particularly on that of the current New Labour government – even before Tony Blair weighed in with his dubious backing of Brown.
For example, the recent budget (which may not even ever be fully implemented at this rate) can only be described as a prime example of New Labour desperation and a rather pathetic attempt at saving the government’s electoral skin. In fact, this governmental desperation is already at such levels that this year’s Guardian April Fool on Labour’s alleged new hard-man-vote-Labour-or-else election strategy actually came very close to being convincing. Scary.
And it’s only going to get worse. I had already received my first batch of election propaganda back in late February, and now, in early April, even more of this rubbish has started coming through my letter box at a steady rate – and the quality of it has got so bad that it would actually be hilarious if this election wasn’t so damn important.
Just like last time, the Tory propaganda was the first to arrive, complete with exactly the same set of slightly sinister photos of that identikit Tory blonde candidate we saw before. However, instead of their previous desperate attempts at politely begging the reader to vote Conservative, this time their desperation just seeps through the paper:
Regular readers will be aware that I’m not a great fan of politicians generally. However, there are the odd one or two who somehow manage, against all the odds, to stick to their principles and hold firm in the face of our deluded political system, and it is they who have my respect and (in some cases) even grudging admiration.
Michael Foot, whose death at the age of 96 was announced today, was one such who fell into that latter category. A left-wing politician of the old school, who – unlike today’s rabble – was an idealist and a principled man, Foot was one of those rare politicians who did genuinely manage to stick to those principles, right until the end of his long and eventful life.
Like a lot of Labour politicians and commentators of his generation, Foot came from a relatively privileged background. Born into a Liberal and non-conformist family at Plymouth in July 1913, politics were almost a part of his genetic make up; his father was twice elected MP for a Cornish constituency, his three brothers were all involved in Liberal politics, and Foot himself became a Socialist during his time studying at Oxford.
The importance of those Socialist beliefs were forcefully brought home to him after his graduation when he spent some time working as a shipping clerk in Liverpool; an experience which exposed him to the realities of contemporary poverty and the social inequalities that were part of many ordinary people’s everyday lives. It was here, in 1934, that he joined the Labour Party and determined he would stand for Parliament.