The Sketch: Accountable Man, a superhero for the post-Tory era

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The Independent Online

"And the 11th word is... Account-abilitee!" That was the climax of Michael Howard's election sloganeering. Sceptics thought it lacked something in the rabble-rousing department. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's Accountable Man!

Mr Howard declared: "I want you to hold me accountable!" ignoring the underlying problem that at this particular stage in the electoral cycle voters don't want to hold him at all.

Let's hold the message man accountable. Lord Saatchi sat behind his silly red glasses like a vast frog, croaking occasionally. When shadow ministers nominated their favourite book we could see him going, "Reddit, reddit". Stupid joke, I'm not making any more of those.

But are the Tories sure they got the right Saatchi to help them? Maybe it was the other brother that did the famous posters? The non-froglike one? The one that doesn't draw his inspiration from double-entry book keeping?

Having said that, the conference did make some progress. In an intermittent series of video clips, the frontbench team were presented to the public as normal people as they answered the same questions.

"So, what's the atmosphere like where you come from? Good mix of nitrogen and oxygen, is there?" They were asked who their political heroes were. Pol Pot was conspicuous by his absence. Stalin didn't get a look in. And don't ask about Nero. Nicholas Soames, rather heroically, kept the word "fucking" out of his answers. I hope he's not ill.

Michael Howard came back to be interviewed by a former television journalist. It wasn't Jeremy Paxman, I don't know why. This wretch felt he had to prove his independence by repeatedly asking Mr Howard whether he was completely useless. Oddly enough, he got Mr Howard to agree.

"Did you see the poll in the Telegraph that asked what policies would make people more likely to vote Conservative? Five of the six policies voters said they wanted are our election policy," Mr Howard revealed. "The next stage is making sure everyone knows they are our policies."

The people are yearning for these policies, he said. They are despairing of "political correctness" and therefore they are dreaming and aspiring and yearning for freedom and security and discipline and being allowed to do what they want. And yet they don't know the Tories are promising them exactly that. And why not?

Because voters don't want to listen to Conservatives. They flinch away even when Conservatives are telling them what they want to hear. And that is the level of failure we are looking at.

The message the Tory high command want to put across is both stupid and brutal. I yield to no one in my stupidity and brutality so if they can't get me what hope do they have?

"The hopes and dreams of millions of people are resting on our shoulders," Mr Howard concluded the conference. "So now, let's get going."

They left the hall and (in the words of the old radio show), "they were never seen again".