i Editor's Letter: What a scone tells us about British politics


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When eating cream tea in Devon, do you apply jam first to the scone, then cream on top – or the other way around?* I couldn’t have told you, and neither could David Cameron, proving if nothing else that a politician is best separated from his food. (Remember Peter Mandelson in a Hartlepool chip shop mistaking mushy peas for guacamole, Ed Miliband versus the bacon sandwich, or the banana which destroyed his brother David’s political career?)

If you think I’m being especially fatuous today, bear in mind that The Prime Minister’s Scone is one of the few unscripted exchanges from this election campaign trail. Westminster’s  lily-livered leaders are terrified to meet the public – which is daft, since all of them are personable and robust, capable of sticking up for themselves. Take notes from Harold Wilson, who famously told one egg-thrower: “If the Tories get in, in five years no one will be able to afford to buy an egg.”

Instead the unvetted public are  locked out of their own election.  Politicians don industrial fancy dress to visit remote business parks, deserted factories and hedgehog sanctuaries, accompanied by TV cameras to capture them grinning gormlessly at a blowtorch or a brain-damaged Erinaceidae.

They do things differently in Scotland, where the Cabinet holds town hall open meetings. And whatever you think of Jim Murphy’s politics, his courage is unquestionable, taking his soapbox to 100 towns in 100 days before the independence referendum.

Three-and-a-half weeks are left, plenty of time for our leaders to tread the leather. And with i’s poll-of-polls today showing the Conservatives slipping in public opinion, and Labour still flailing in Scotland, their need to engage is great.

(*In Devon: cream first, then jam on top. In Cornwall: jam then cream.)


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