Simon Carr: Brighter than Brighton with baffling Boris
Sketch: The other Eastend blond wades into 'stale and miserablist' Labour
Monday 05 October 2009
Sunshine! Blue skies! Fluffy white clouds float round the hall. There's a live, high-definition feed from the city showing trees and nice buildings. The outside world, you see, brought into the hermetic conference world of politics.
Eric Pickles came on the widescreen TV (they'd built an extension to it so he'd fit). He was so dull labour watchers must have dared to hope.
But then there was Boris. I'm jumping over those chumps Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude. They spent 15 hours reciting what sounded like the world's most boring list of policy initiatives. This was a feat as some of the policy was quite interesting.
But when someone clapped at one point Letwin admonished him: "You weren't supposed to clap at any point! This is a purely factual list, there is not a single clap line in it!". They really haven't got the hang of this - and their two-year policy hunt could have been done in one week end with a quart of brandy and an ounce of speed. You can get centre-right manifestos off the shelf these days.
But then, as I say, there was Boris. He had his own video - including his Eastender appearance, with that other gorgeous blonde Barbara Windsor eyeing him speculatively.
He talked, he joked, we laughed. He engaged us. He charmed us. He produced a Latin tag "as we say in Walford. Or as we will say in Walford." He compared the Labour high command to "Peckham motorist Harriet Harman driving away from the scene of the crime" leaving others to clean up. Topical jokes are the hardest.
He cleverly defended our financial services industry, "that leper colony in the City" on the basis of the tax revenues they provide for schools and hospitals. And there was much about young people, jobs, enterprise, helping citizens.
The big point. When he calls Labour "stale and miserablist" we don't feel the venom with which even Nice Labour would infuse the remark. Especially as he follows it up with a claim that his lot have has been "so frugal we haven't exhausted the previous administration's reserves of Chateuneuf du Pape" - and again we are directed to our happy place rather than the dark and dripping dungeon that Labour rhetoric inspires.
Likeability is important as Gordon has raised his cack-caked hand and decreed that it shall be the central election issue. The Tories are the same twisted, malevolent, vindictive sadists they always were and their cuts will poison the country - unlike healing Labour cuts.
But Boris is self-evidently a decent, large-minded, intelligent and amusing fellow without a racist or homophobic bone in him. Excuse the Frankie Howard moment there.
And Cameron's almost certainly the same. A decent, liberal, Treasury-bred Tory - it's obvious what he'll want to do.
So this much was clear here in Manchester on Day One. Gordon's rhetorical strategy for the election is a complete dead end.
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