You’d be heartless not to wish the people of Eastleigh good luck with their latest MP, as they haven’t had much since the 1990s when they elected a Tory who strangled himself in a sex game. Maybe that explains why the Lib-Dems hung on to the seat, as the voters thought: “The Tory wanked himself to death so fiddling speeding points is at least a step in the right direction.”
Another explanation for current Tory unpopularity might be that it’s becoming obvious whose interests they care for most. For example, this week they’re boasting how they told the European Union they won’t let them dictate to us by limiting bankers’ bonuses to 200 per cent of their salary. The Financial Times quoted one MP as saying: “How dare this jumped-up Euro pseudo-parliament set pay in the City of London?”
That’s the spirit. We didn’t fight on the beaches of Normandy so the Germans could ask us to only let bankers fleece us for 200 per cent. It’s the right of every Englishman going back to King Harold to allow, nay demand, that bankers swipe everything we thought we owned, including coming round our house and microwaving our photos and holiday mementos, pouring cat sick in our socks and strapping us to a flaming barbecue and grilling sardines on our buttocks while they eat our biscuits without interference from some busybody from Belgium, because we’re ENGLISH. “Once the British people understand that message,” think the Tories, “our mid-term blip will be over.”
Their argument, as ever, is that insisting that bankers can only have double their salary as a bonus will lead to them leaving the country. As threats go, that should be as troubling as if Abu Qatada had said: “You’d better give me some Semtex or I might leave the country.”
But while the Government seems discredited, this doesn’t appear to result in any enthusiasm for Labour. It feels as if Labour is only ahead in the polls because most people have forgotten about them. Maybe this is the strategy, to be as vague as possible until everyone forgets who they were and votes for them, then when Ed Miliband announces he’s Prime Minister, we’ll all say: “Oh, THAT bloke. I’m sure I’ve seen him on something, was it 8 out of 10 Cats?”
News stories come and go and Labour has hardly any impact on them, so not saying anything that might be noticed must be the strategy. They’re probably writing a speech in response to the Budget that goes: “We had cauliflower cheese for dinner last night, first time for years.” The local election leaflets will have a dot-to-dot puzzle and six anagrams of characters from Harry Potter.
At the moment, there must be millions of people upset about bankers, about Murdoch, and about the Government, which ought to translate into support for Labour, but instead Ed Miliband comes across as an inoffensive Sellotape salesman you meet at a service station. Occasionally, he tries to look cross and impassioned, but he might as well say: “What the hard-working British people demand is the wider three-quarter inch rolls, available in grey or transparent, and apparently slightly stickier than before. Oh, there’s a special offer of three boxes for the price of two until 25 March.”
You can’t put this down solely to him, as there’s no one obvious who’d do any better. So maybe there’s another explanation, which is that Labour can’t exploit the woes of the Government fully because it was as keen on investment bankers and outrageous wealth itself. In fact, the party’s leader made it his mission to make Labour love bankers and big business.
So Ed Miliband needs to be bold. Perhaps he should try a speech at this year’s conference that ends: “Our party cannot be bound by the ideology of our past. We must abandon the language of the 1990s, when our ideas had to be approved by tax exiles and not announced until agreed by Richard Branson.
“Previous generations may have thought it suitable for our policies to be decided by the old block system, in which Rupert Murdoch’s vote counted for more than everyone else’s put together, but we face new times with new challenges.
“In the past, our leaders said they were intensely relaxed about the filthy rich but, if we want to ever win an election again, we must realise in today’s world it is essential to curb the power of the investment bankers, and realise we will never win the trust of the British people if we regard Peter Mandelson as a normal human being.
“I therefore propose a new clause in our constitution, Clause 4A, which will read: ‘Bloody Nora, have you seen how many billions a year goes missing in tax avoidance. We’re having that back for a start.’
“Old New Labour may have been fine for the old new times but that time is past. We are now in NEW new times; times that will belong to NEW New Labour, for a NEW New Britain.”