Election Blog (8)
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, on a TV programme today referred several times to his decision to invade Iraq. It was, he said, "the most difficult decision I have ever had to take".
I think Jack should ask the Health Secretary if he can be fast-tracked to a specialist in delusional thinking.
General Elections are the finest hour of our old friend the vox pop. They fill great chunks of television coverage of the election and contribute nothing to our understanding. To say this isn't intellectual snobbery about the views of 'ordinary people'. It's because these people who are stopped in the street are representative of nothing and nobody other than themselves. It only has some limited value if you question a sufficiently large number of people in an organised poll, usually at least 1,000.
One poor old man, coralled into being part of a panel for a live outside broadcast on television news, could only stammer "I'm not very good at this....." When this happens, the interviewer is free to ask the kind of leading questions that would not be allowed in any court and which no reputable polling company would ever use.
The Labour Party Political Broadcast on Michael Howard was technically 'negative campaigning' but I think in this case it was reasonable to focus on his record in Government and, unlike the Tory attacks on Blair, there was nothing personal about it.
When Howard first became party leader I thought what a great gift it was to Labour because this man has more baggage than a left luggage office. I couldn't believe the party had been stupid enough to elect someone responsible for policies like the Poll Tax and who had been one of the most hated politicians of the Thatcher and Major eras. That's why, despite the current dislike of Blair, his personal poll ratings are still far ahead of Howard's.
But if Michael Howard was anyone other than Michael Howard, one could almost feel sorry for him. After all, he and his party have almost nowhere to go in policy terms. They can't really attack Labour on the economy. They supported the Iraq War, ID cards, ASBOs and detention without trial, with just a bit of minor quibbling over the details of these policies. They try to be gay-friendly now but they are led by the man who introduced Section 28. They can't say too much about Europe because they're so divided on that subject.
They can't move much to the right of Labour without colliding with UKIP or the BNP. And they can't move much to the left of Labour without colliding with the Lib Dems and ceasing to be Conservatives at all.
On the Labour Party website there's an interactive feature where you can type in a few details about yourself and they'll tell you their personal promises to you. I gave it a whirl. And lo, in less than a second there was a page saying "Our Personal Promises to Willie Lupin".
Alas, where the promises should have been there was some text saying "You have an error in your SQL syntax.......check the manual."
But I haven't got a bloody manual. And how dare they criticise my syntax. It may not be perfect but I'm sure it's a lot better than the average City Academy A Level student's.
So where my personal promises should be, there was just some meaningless jargon.
Just like the Labour manifesto, actually.