Most people know the apocryphal story of the infamous left-wing (in fact, Communist) British journalist Claud Cockburn inventing the most boring headline he could think of: Small Earthquake in Chile - not many dead. As it happens, I can think of many more boring ones and top of my list would be: Brown does not announce election again.
Non-British readers of this blog (and probably quite a few British ones) would have missed all the excitement (sorry, can't help yawning). Gordon Brown, still Prime Minister of this country, delivered a speech for the sorry excuse for a Spring Conference that the Labour Party has organized at Warwick University.
Why political parties need to have quite so many conferences these days is anybody's guess. Not so long ago a Spring Conference did not figure on the political calendar at all.
But if you must have a conference, however low-key and inexpensive, Warwick University is quite a good place. I have been to a week-end conference there and one of the curious aspects of the campus is that once in it there are very few ways you can get out. So, those unfortunate delegates or members who entered the place had to stay and listen to the Prime Minister and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The speech is, understandably enough, seen as the one that sets Labour's election agenda. It is very difficult to produce ideas when the country is in a mess and your party has been in government for 13 years. Mr Brown is calling on the electorate to take another look at Labour (an unwise suggestion as people who take a close look at that excuse for a government is likely to feel very ill indeed) and to take a second look at the Conservatives (a more sensible idea as anyone who takes a second or a third look at that sorry excuse for a would-be government is likely to feel even more unwell).
Mr Brown proposes as election slogan: A Future Fair For All. This is not only meaningless and unwise in the light of recent figures about less social movement than there has been in this country since the 1960s, it is also very hard to say. I am looking forward to Labout candidates trying to enunciate those words, particularly after a drink or two.
Well, that's enough about the loser in Number 10. Let us turn to the losers on the other side of the party political fence. (Really, this election is going to be all about who is the bigger loser of the two main parties.)
Conservative politicians, journalists, commentators and activists went through a crise de nerfs. Once again, they managed to fall for the not-so-subtle hints that Brown will use the opportunity to announce a March election. Why he should do so, escapes most people's understanding. Equally, why should the Conservatives want an election in March while they are clearly unfit for battle remains a mystery. But one could not hear oneself think from the screams, whoops, demands that Brown show his mettle and call an election, appallingly foul language because he might not .... until this morning when a number of bloggers live-blogged the speech and found that .... nothing much was said about a date, the indication still being that it will be May 6, on the same day as the local elections.
When one discards the hysteria and bad language, what the Conservatives are accusing Brown of is not calling an election a month and a half before the local ones and two and a half months before he absolutely has to. They are also accusing him of manoeuvring to outwit them. Well, colour me stunned: political leader manoeuvres to outwit the opposing party. Hold the front page!
Of course, what is really upsetting all these people is the fact that he has once again managed to outwit them, getting them all worked up about an imaginary date for election and hysterical about the country's allegedly desperate need for it, then refused to play ball. When one considers that the Conservatives routinely describe him as completely stupid and incompetent (he is certainly all of that) as well as probably clinically mad (non-proven) it does not reflect on them that he manages to make them look completely ridiculous time after time. How many "early election announcements" have we had since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister?
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