Monday, March 30, 2015

Election Diary - Day 1: Dissolved

Monday 30th March
The first day of campaigning is a frantic, exciting day filled with formality, constitutional affairs and everyone trying to get their face on the TV. For instance, Nick Clegg’s day began on the radio, and he was last seen being cut away from as he went to Buckingham Palace.
Here are some other key events from today’s election diary1.

“One can’t believe one has to get up for this shit”, said Her Majesty, as the D of E inspected the gin supplies ahead of lunchtime.
“You have an audience with the Prime Minister this morning,” said Sir Christopher Geidt, her private secretary.
“But why? Doesn’t he remember passing that Fixed Terms Parliament Act?”, Liz inquired. “It was quite the read, one can tell you. “This Act does not affect Her Majesty’s power to prorogue Parliament.” How generous of them to leave one with something to do.”
Sir Christopher suggested “I believe that Mr Cameron sees it as a courtesy”.
“I believe that Mr Cameron sees it as a jolly,” said Philip. “Bloody loves the trappings of the job – wants to eke out every last bit of fun – like a fucking tourist. It’s ridiculous: someone using their power for their own personal gratification.”
“Oh, that reminds one Philip. Did you see that Charles sent you a letter this morning?”

George Osborne was bemused. “It looks like the FT. It smells like the FT. But it reads like Pravda!”
A glaring, full-page ad by the Labour party was staring back at him, highlighting the risk to British business posed by a Brexit.
Distressed, he put his head in his hands and his fingers through his hair, which remarkably remained undisturbed by this intrusion.
Better news lay in The Daily Mail. George always found that better news lay in The Daily Mail. A Tory lead of four points, and an exact reversal of yesterday’s Sunday Times poll.
“You see! Our long-term economic plan is working,” he said, without knowing why.

“It’s today! It’s today! Hell yeah!” screamed Ed Miliband, as he ran downstairs to look for the special election advent-calendar he’d made.
“Damn. Wrong kitchen.”
He ran back upstairs, to find Ed Balls there, and day 1 of his calendar already opened.

In a bar on the South Bank, Nigel Farage has his first pint of the day and of the campaign. Every picture of him drinking a pint of ale generates more votes, and the strategy is simple: pub-crawl to victory. This is why Al Murray The Pub Landlord is a potent electoral threat.

“Good morning Alex. Nicola here. I just wanted to have a word about the text of your speech this morning. Where you say “I will lead Scotland to a better future”, could you at least say “We’ll lead Scotland to a better future”? Please?”

“Nick? Nick? Are you ready for your interview on The Today Programme?”
“Oh, what’s the point?”

“Nick? Nick? How did it go? I heard you said that you wanted to stay on as leader of the Lib Dems.”
“I don’t know. It was a moment of madness.”

A UKIP strategist debriefs Nigel after his interview with Good Morning Britain.
“You got the line wrong,” said his speech writer dismissively.
“No, I didn’t. I acknowledged that we’ve had a dip in the polls since last year because millions of people haven’t made up their minds yet.
“Precisely. What you were supposed to say was that we’ve had a dip in the polls since last year because millions of people haven’t lost their minds yet.”
The nuance was lost to Nige, drowned in a sea of London Pride.

“For the last time, David, you don’t have to wear tails when you go to see the Queen.”
“But I want to!”
“David, it won’t play well with the electorate.”
“Oh, that’s your answer to everything.”

Someone lets Grant Shapps outside again, and he has gone straight for the TV Cameras, like Malcolm Rifkind toward a lobbyist.
The over-firmly-grown schoolboy listed a few facts: “We overtook France in the last year as the second-biggest economy in Europe. We can overtake Germany in perhaps 10 or 15 years if we carry this on.” This was terribly exciting, Grant mused to himself. He’d had no idea that European Economics could be a sport.
His media commitment completed, he popped into a shop to buy some sherbet.

David Cameron sends a message to the Queen asking her to wait another five minutes, as he assembles a cardboard box marked “Light bulbs”.

“Your Majesty, Parliament has been dissolved.”
“I know, Mr Cameron. One has a television you know. One never misses Bill Turnbull in the morning. He is such a charming man.”
“An Old Etonian, no less.”
“Well, one shan’t hold that against him. Philip! Put that blunderbuss down!”
“But Liz,” replied the Duke, “Nicholas Witchell is well within range!”

Safely back in Downing Street, smelling the curtains and packing the towels into suitcases, David Cameron meets with his campaign staff.
“Right, Dave – it’s 37 days to go.”
“We’re not campaigning on all of them though, are we?”
“Well, yes.”
“What? Even on Sundays?”
“Even this Sunday?”
“Why should this Sunday be any different?”
“Because it’s Easter Sunday. I was going to have an Easter Egg hunt with my children. I always find the most eggs.”
“Sorry Dave.”
The PM, all blushed cheeks and exasperate breath, could not understand any of this.
“How is a guy meant to chillax?” he bellowed, before heading for lunch.

Meanwhile, at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, there is a problem. This morning they made a wild claim about Labour’s tax plans, suggesting that Miliband is planning to raise the tax bill on every family by £3,000. Turns out that this is rather doubtful, as it would raise somewhere in the region of £33.9bn for absolutely no reason at all. Maybe Ed Balls wants to build a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s vault. Perhaps, but the public need evidence.
An emergency meeting is called ahead of the lunchtime news:
“We need someone to go on The World At One and give this an air of credibility. We need someone trustworthy, dependable and assured. Someone the public will believe.”
A pregnant pause.
“No, we don’t have one of those, so it’s going to have to be Grant Shapps.”
“But he’s over-firmly-dosed on sherbet.”
“Like that’ll make a difference. Just so long as he holds firm on the party line and doesn’t show an ounce of weakness. Like using the word “guess” in relationship to the claim, for example.”

Grant Shapps or, as I like to think of him, Ben Swain from The Thick of It, says of the £3,000 claim: “Unless they're going to tell us exactly how they're going to do it, then I'm afraid we're left having to guess.”
Tory Election Supremo, Lynton Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, does his nut at CCHQ. “You lot – you’re unbelievable. I’m a master of the political dark arts. Why am I lumbered with you cretins?”
Ken Clarke (de-mob happy, stopping off on the way to Ronnie Scott’s) chortles. He wonders as he puts on his trademark hat and shuffles out into the bright new dawn of his sunset years, how CSN&Y has got this gig again, given that he’s previously run two failed campaigns.
He passes Boris on the doorstep, and Ken heaves a sigh of relief.

A most unexpected person is now seizing the focus in this election campaign. It isn’t Ed Hard Man Miliband, or even Al Murray. It’s Katie Hopkins.
Firstly, she announced that she would leave the country if Ed Miliband became Prime Minister. This was the most appealing campaign pledge yet, outdoing every party. Even the most diehard Tory had to sit and contemplate voting Labour, just for the peace and quiet it would bring on that front. It was like an inverse of 1992. Whereas then it was The Sun wot won it with its infamous headline “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain turn out the lights”, here we had Labour experiencing a bounce by someone threatening to emigrate.
Over-reaction or serious statement? Who cares? If Labour keep going this way, the sky’s the limit. Miliband might even put Blair’s victories in the shade.

And so the day draws to a close, with the hustle and bustle barely started. Soon, it’ll be time for Shapps to go to bed, if only he weren’t so full of sugar. Soon, it will be time for Mandleson to get up. Soon, it will be time for Lord Prescott to get the boxing gloves out again and practise his fearsome left hook, just in case.
Still a little over 37 days to go until polling day, and the only certainty we have is that Hobbiton is voting Labour. Bilbo Baggins is not your typical Labour voter. He owns the wealthiest house in the Shire and would thus be subject to a mansion tax. He isn’t much of one for redistribution of his own wealth, preferring dynastic inheritance. He showed with Smaug that his foreign policy is distinctly interventionist. Indeed, the only left-wing thing I can think of him doing is smoking the weed. Now, that really would be a policy to put the cat amongst the pigeons. Good night.

1Events depicted may differ from actual events. In fact, this is a work of fiction, with some facts. But mostly, it's nonsense.

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