With six days until the politico-media event of the decade, the tension can barely be borne. What, people ask each other in frantic huddles in the express queue at Tesco, will be revealed as Ed Miliband’s Desert Island Discs next Sunday, and what will he leave out?
The history of political castaways has always been more intriguing for the omissions, with Mr Tony Blair’s avoidance of a Barry Manilow ballad, despite the line “Oh Mandy, you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away”, Gordon Brown going for 'Hey Jude' rather than 'Taxman'(“If you drive I’ll tax the street, if you sit I’ll tax the seat ...”), and so on.
On these precedents, the Younger Milibandroid will avoid not only all songs with “brother” in the title, but Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire”. Even so, a cache of leaked emails fallen into The Mail on Sunday’s hands confirms that Ed Balls is indeed shaking Mr Miliband’s nerves, not to mention rattling his brain and driving him insane, with his refusal to stay on message about the recovering economy.
Exactly what that Milibandroid message is remains obscure. What it isn’t, however, is sticking like a superglue-coated barnacle to the word “flatlining”, as Mr Balls did last week after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s bullish assessment; or to trial “built to last” as a new economic mantra, as on Wednesday, without consulting his boss.
In an email highlighting the leader’s frustrations with the unilateral Balls approach, Milband’s chief economic adviser Torsten Bell concludes with the pithy judgement: “Nightmare”. The latest polling evidence underlines the dismal economic credibility gulf between Cameron-Osborne and Miliband-Balls, and for the 952nd time there is only one way to remedy that. Admittedly this song title does not exist. But sticking to the real world is seldom a crucial consideration with politicians, and the imaginary track that ought to be playing on a loop in the Miliband head is “(Goodness Gracious) Great Firing of Balls”.
A return to roots could secure election coup for Cameron
David Cameron eschewed The Jam’s 'Eton Rifles' when he joined Kirsty Young, but his phobia about dwelling on his schooling (and we do love the Lenor freshness of his “It’s not about where you came from, but where you’re going”) may be coming to an end. The Tory election strategy for 2015 will be to party like it’s 1992, I read, with John Major’s upset defeat of Neil Kinnock this week’s blueprint for a David Cameron victory.
For now, the details of this enchanting trip to Mother Kelly’s doorstep, which as Danny la Rue fans well know is to be found down memory lane, remain vague. Clearly a subtle attempt to paint Ed Miliband as the Neil Kinnock of NW Twee will play a central part, but perhaps the Majorite strategy will stretch to a wistful Cameron return to the scene of his youth. Far be it from me to advise Lynton Crosby. But if an election broadcast featuring the PM drawing up to Eton College as it shimmers in the dusk, and faux bemusedly muttering, “It’s still there!”, doesn’t flip a few northern inner-city marginals into the Tory column, what will?
Nancy dell’Olio comes out fighting
After soaking up the punishment from Sven-Goran Eriksson’s gallant memoir, la Stupenda du jour drops the rope-a-dope stuff and comes out fighting. Infuriated by the Swedish swordsman’s depiction of her as a draining albatross he could not wait (hence the affair lasting just the eight years) to remove, Nancy dell’Olio tells various interviewers that he a) slept with Ulrika only for the practice, to raise his coital game to her standards; b) is “one of the most insecure ... people I have ever met ...”; and c) stole her furniture from storage (a counterstrike to his accusation that she nicked his kitchen utensils). It is too late for this year, obviously, since the series started last night, but ITV will see the appeal of hosting a rapprochement in the 2014 renewal of I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!
Not the Lord of Spin
While it is the height of impudence for a scummy hack to correct a highly revered educator, an error of fact cannot be allowed to stand. In a recent lecture, the Humanitas visiting professor of media at Cambridge, a certain Alastair Campbell, mentioned often being asked if Malcolm Tucker was based on him. “To which I say, ‘A sweary Scottish spin doctor trying to maintain strategic cohesion among ministers, and set the government agenda across the media? Fuck yeah!’” (It seems he models the academic persona on the late A J P Taylor).
I refer this remarkable thinker to Peter Capaldi’s insistence, in a Radio Times interview of 2012, that he based Tucker on an amalgam of psychotically foul-mouthed American agents and producers such as Harvey Weinstein. “That was the model I took, rather than Alastair Campbell, as I didn’t know him,” said the future Time Lord. “Alastair might be a bit disappointed to know this.” Knowing something and being psychologically capable of accepting it are not inevitable bedfellows, as the professor’s enduring state of denial over the dodgy dossier suggests. When moulding impressionable young minds, however, the rigorous academic must cleave to the highest standards of accuracy.
Hack and Lord of Manor make an unlikely conjunction
This diary makes a rare lurch into exclusively revealing an unlikely romance, since it involves one of the grandest names in our trade. Sue Douglas, former deputy editor of The Sunday Times, editor of the Sunday Express, launcher of Glamour magazine and so much else, has a new(ish) gentleman caller. The ex-wife of the historian Niall Ferguson has been stepping out for six months with the erstwhile monocle-wearer, Lord of the Manor of Brighton and world middleweight champion, Chris Eubank.