Election Blog (12)
Jeremy Paxman's final interview last night was with Michael Howard.
This was Howard's Neville Chamberlain interview. He kept reaching into his pocket and saying "I have a piece of paper!"
Well OK, he did it twice but that was twice too often and led a bemused Paxman to say "Another piece of paper! Where are all these pieces of paper coming from?" as though he was interviewing a famous conjuror.
It looked horribly amateurish and cheesy to use props in that way.
Moreover, it looked to the viewer as though his advisors had stuffed his pockets full of notes just before he went on air and said "Now Michael, if it gets rough on immigration, remember the Roy Jenkins quote is in your right pocket."
A bit like an over-protective mother stuffing bits of paper into a little boy's school jacket giving his name and address, his blood group and the fact he's allergic to penicillin.
I'd normally be ashamed of writing about a politician's appearance. But the panel of Radio Four's The News Quiz recently agreed that the Home Office Minister Hazel Blears is the wierdest looking woman in Britain and they were right.
She has staring eyes and a permanent pert, fixed smile. If you told her that her entire family had been bludgeoned to death by a psychopath, she would smile. A smile is her default facial expression. It's as though someone said 'Smile!' just before injecting a massive quantity of Botox.
Frankly, I'm not sure she's a real person. She looks to me like an atavar.
There's also an animatronic version of Hazel Blears that is sometimes installed on the Government front bench in the House of Commons. To be fair, it's as good as animatronics gets. But that means there's still that giveaway jerkiness of movement. In particular, the Parliamentary Blears constantly cocks her head to one side, like a sparrow sitting on a fence. I'm not sure whether this is down to a malfunctioning chip or because she was built by the same people that worked on a David Attenborough series on birds. We'll only know for sure if one day at Prime Minister's Questions she climbs onto Blair's shoulder and starts pecking at his ear.
I finally receive a leaflet from my Labour candidate. The delay might be because they quote a local nurse and, because health service staff are forbidden from making political statements, they've had to stick labels on every leaflet by hand saying that the nurse's views are not those of her employers. Oops.
Oddly, this political restriction, which also applies to thousands of local government staff, doesn't seem to apply to the police. London's Police Commissioner recently weighed in on identity cards and every television debate I've seen seems to feature lower rank police officers sounding off on Government policy.
Like the Conservative candidate's leaflet, it doesn't have a single photo of the party leader. The 2001 leaflet consisted of almost nothing else. Yet not so long ago we were told we had entered an era of Presidential, personality politics in which local candidates had been sidelined. Today, the leaders of both major parties seem to be regarded as a liability and been removed from most election material.
Unusually, the Labour leaflet tells us nothing about the candidate. We only know from the photos that she's a woman of indeterminate age who wears glasses.