Monday 13th April
The Labour Party’s having a book launch. In fact, all of the parties are this week, because it is Manifesto Launch Week, where the parties release their latest works of literature. It’s as if the Hay Literary Festival were being curated by Andrew Neil.
Today Labour is publishing its manifesto, and the critics are divided. Guardian Books calls it an “optimistic work of social-realism”, The Times Literary Supplement calls it “a densely-written work of fantasy”, and Tom Paulin hated it.
The Tories launch tomorrow, and Guardian Books calls the Conservative manifesto “a pessimistic depiction of a dystopian future”, The Times Literary Supplement calls it “a considered and assured work of fluent prose”, and Tom Paulin hated it.
No-one’s bothered reading the advanced copies of the Lib Dem Manifesto, but Tom Paulin hated it.
The manifesto launch is underway, and the hall is stuffed with Labour party members. At such gatherings, Ed Miliband has a habit of referring to everyone as “friends”. A lot.
“Thank you, friends. Friends, thank you. Welcome friends. Ah, friends, here we are. And let me tell you, friends, I think this is very important and I’m glad I’m here, friends.”
Though, when you go and check the official text of the speech, that word occurs once. He’s putting it in ex tempore. It’s as if he’s saying “friends” a lot because he’s astonished to find that he has some. He then gets really carried away and turns to the journalists and says “I’m going to turn to our friends from the media”, before asking the assembled faithful not to be aggressive toward the outsiders. It’s like a room filled with militant Quakers.
He also calls on journalists by saying “I’m going to take Gary Gibbon”, “I’m going to take Allegra Stratton”. At one point, he confuses a Labour party man for a journo, and says “You’re not a journalist? I’m not taking you then.” He seems to be taking fighting talk a little seriously.
Afterwards comes the Cava reception. Over the bubbly and fiscally responsible canapés of Cathedral City and biscuits, people talk about the text itself, apart from Ed Miliband himself, who goes about asking people “Are you a friend? No? I’m going to take you then.”
The Labour manifesto puts fiscal responsibility on the very first page. They smell blood as the Tories have decided to trade in their reputation for hard but sound economic management for a Wolf of Wall Street look, with lots of tossing about of money (no word yet on their attitude to cocaine and orgies).
However, there is some speculation about the phraseology in the manifesto. The aforementioned promises have a lot of small print attached, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that you don’t know what you’re voting for if you vote Labour.
Mark Lawson asks Ed Balls whether the text is fiction or non-fiction, and Mr Balls has to enquire as to what the distinction is.
“Non-fiction is a factual work,” responded Lawson, “whilst fiction is a creative work.”
“Are you suggesting that we’re being creative with the facts?” said Mr Balls pugnaciously.
“Your words, not mine,” was Lawson’s caustic response.
The Tories have been watching all of this, and are worrying whether their launch tomorrow can match the spectacle of today’s.
“I think we need to up our game,” said George Osborne as he threw some money at a crossword he was struggling with. “Let’s have strobe lighting, confetti, Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig, all of the cabinet dressed in capes like Madonna, and dancing girls wearing t-shirts saying “We love the NHS. Honest.””
“Where are we going to get the money for all this?” asked Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who was creating an eye-catching montage out of IOUs.
“We’ll find it later,” said George, as he raided the office’s Monopoly board for a few £500 notes, to discover a missive from the party treasurer that said “I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left”.
In other news
In response to the Labour manifesto, Boris Johnson said that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were the “Thelma and Louise of British Politics”, before adding glowingly that George Osborne and David Cameron were the “Castor and Pollux of British Politics”. No – I’ve no idea either.
The Greens had a poster launch this morning and were supported by Brian May of Queen, who opposes the badger cull. For obvious reasons.
Nick Clegg met with some students in Maidstone, and survived the encounter, despite turning down the offer of a police escort.
Events depicted may differ from actual events. In fact, this is a work of fiction, with some facts. But mostly, it's nonsense.