Who can we trust? Certainly not the voters

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The Independent Online
Today - an election forum special!

How is the election being conducted by the main parties?

In a sophisticated, sensible way, as befits a mature democracy.

Could you give an example of this?

Certainly. The Tory party is paying thousands of pounds for the erection of notices saying BRITAIN IS BOOMING DON'T LET LABOUR BLOW IT and Labour is replying with a poster campaign saying TIME FOR A CHANGE - LET'S CHUCK THEM OUT.

In what way is this sophisticated and sensible?

It is sophisticated and sensible as compared to the way parliamentary business is conducted in the House of Commons debating chamber.

How are the two main party leaders behaving?

Very maturely. They are insisting on keeping to the issues.

And what are the issues?

The issues are that you can't trust Phoney Tony and you can't vote for the Party of Sleaze.

So the conclusion is that we should all vote Lib Dem?

Yes. Except that that would be a wasted vote.

Who says that?

The two main parties.

So the two main parties do agree on something?

Yes, they agree on that. They agree on lots of other things too - on education and health and transport and investment and ...

What do they say about all these things?

That they should be a lot better.

But surely if the Tories have been in power for 18 years, they should already have improved education and health and all these things?

Ah, but the Tories would say that they have put MORE money into education and MORE money into prisons and MORE money into health and MORE money into ...

And have they actually put more money into all these things?

Oh, yes.

And have they got better, all these things?

No. They have just put more money in, that's all. Don't forget that the Tories find it hard to tell the difference between putting money into something and making it better.

I see. So, has it been a good election so far?

Yes, if you have been on holiday in Paraguay or trapped in a snow-storm in Siberia.

Is there nothing good about it at all?

Yes. It means we have heard nothing from the Ulster Unionists for a while.

Is that good?

Oh, yes. For the last six months the Tories had been going through the same ritual dance of death with the Unionists to preserve their slim majority, and the media had been going sick with excitement at the idea that the Government might tumble. Every time there was a close vote, the media would ask the Unionists if they would back the Government, and the Unionists always said, "We will make up our minds on the issues involved on the night."

What did that mean?

It meant they would vote for the Government. The only time we ever hear from the Unionists is when there is a hung parliament. Consequently, we must all pray that there is not a hung parliament.

Have there been any unusual features in this campaign?

Yes. Both sides are content to remind the electorate of the same thing - the record of the Tory party.

They both harp on that?

Yes. From different angles, of course. Tory sources tend to emphasise how wise Tory policies have made Britain the most prosperous country in the history of the world. Labour sources tend to emphasise the way Tory policies permitted the BSE crisis, the Scott report, the E coli outbreak, Black Thursday, the running down of our public transport ...

Was the E coli outbreak really caused by the Tories?

No. It was caused by Scottish inefficiency in the kitchen. When food is properly prepared, the bacteria are killed. But no party dares to criticise the voters.

Are the public in fact stupid, dishonest, greedy, etc?

Of course. In a democracy, most people are unfit to vote. Luckily, this is balanced by the fact that most candidates are unfit to stand.

Tomorrow we ask such vital questions as, Are Michael Howard and Douglas Hogg dead or merely locked away in a cupboard somewhere to stop them speaking? Has anyone mentioned Northern Ireland in the election? If there was a hung parliament, would we all go to Aintree on the Monday and vote again? Don't miss Election Forum Special tomorrow!