Kick Up The Tabloids


So, the 2010 General Election is over, and the voice of the British people has been heard. And it’s been heard to say “I’m not really sure who I want to run the country”. It’s coming up for midnight on Monday 10th May, so by the time anybody reads this piece it is likely to be ridiculously dated. Events are moving so fast, I have had BBC News 24 on continuously as I’ve been writing over the last few days and so far have to start all over again at least three times

At the time of writing, as Gordon Brown resigns, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. All we do know is that David Cameron has one eye on trying to form a minority government and one eye on a coalition with the Lib-Dems. Nick Clegg has one eye on a deal with Tories and one eye on a pact with Labour. And Gordon Brown has one eye.

Things are particularly unclear in Scotland. For example, if the Tories do form a government, who will be Secretary of State? After all, they only have one MP north of the border, and he’s reported to be too half-witted to hold office of any kind. One suspects, that the Tories will try to seek some kind of deal with the Lib-Dems that would allow a Scottish Lib-Dem MP to be Secretary of State with David Mundell being the bloke who makes his tea, if they think he’s up to that level of responsibility. Although, they could always give the job to Charles Kennedy , who would be unlikely to want to drink tea in the first place.

One thing we do know for certain, of course, is that after May 6, many MPs will be giving up politics, temporarily or otherwise, due to the voters’ whim. However, this doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing them again. One suspects that Lembit Opik and George Galloway, to cite the two most obvious examples, will be getting their faces on the telly just as much, if not more, than they were before the Election. This is nothing new. British TV boasts a bizarre cast-list of ex-MPs who have gone on to be media whores, Robert Kilroy-Silk being the most revolting example.. There have been equally bizarre re-births in the opposite direction, from TV to parliament, Gyles Brandreth and Clement Freud being the most obvious examples in recent memory. Fortunately for the people of Luton, Esther Rantzen did not join their number.

It’s not just the career-change that is remarkable in the politician-to-media journey, it’s also the personality transformation. For example, one-time right-wing Tory minister Michael Portillo and sometime left-wing firebrand Diane Abbott appear the very voice of reason when they cosy up together on the “Daily Politics” sofa. Having said that, anyone is going to appear reasonable when they’re sharing screen-time with Andrew Neill. And of course, we have The Prescotts, John and Pauline, who have embarked on an entirely new career at a time of life when one could reasonably have expected them to be starting to take things easy. When watching their series of documentaries on the British class system, it struck me that they were naturals for TV but had landed up in the wrong genre. I would suggest that their natural home is soap opera. She looks like she should be pulling pints at the Rovers Return and he resembles some hideous barely-credible hybrid of Fred Elliott and Jack Duckworth.

But back to the election. In the view of many people, the turning point for Gordon Brown was his showdown on the streets of Rochdale with 66-year-old pensioner Gillian Duffy, whom he described as “some kind of bigoted woman”. Which pretty much hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. She was undoubtedly a woman. And anyone who asks what the government plans to do “about people flooding in here from Eastern Europe” is undoubtedly some kind of a bigot. I think his only mistake was apologising to her. Gillian Duffy who claimed to have voted Labour all her life (as if this in itself was some kind of proof that she is not some kind of deranged racist) then went on to sell her story to that totally impartial newspaper The Daily Mail, a publication read by millions of “lifelong Labour voters” and well known for its liberal views with on immigration.

But the real big question to emerge after the polls closed was what happened to the so-called “Lib Dem bounce”? One week opinion polls suggested they could have the largest share of the vote, but come election day they were down to 25 per cent and lost seats. The answer, of course, is that people lie to opinion pollsters. People who are too ashamed to say to a stranger that they’re voting Conservative, but who in the privacy of the ballot box will do just that. Voting Tory is like domestic abuse. Nobody is ever going to admit to doing it, but statistics prove it does happen quite a lot.