The Sketch: The black hole isn't there, except it is, but only when it is not ours

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The Independent Online

It's going to be a good, clean, positive campaign from Labour. I know because Alastair Campbell e-mailed me twice to say so. At least, it had his name at the bottom but the text was fuck-free so it might have been someone stealing his identity.

It's going to be a good, clean, positive campaign from Labour. I know because Alastair Campbell e-mailed me twice to say so. At least, it had his name at the bottom but the text was fuck-free so it might have been someone stealing his identity.

Actually he couldn't spell "sincerely" correctly, so the balance of probabilities swings back in his favour. Let's not get caught up in details; whoever sent the e-mail sounded extremely angry: "the Tories intend to fight a totally negative, small-bore campaign focusing on a series of negative messages .... based on fear and grievance".

Not like flying pigs then, or threats that the Tories have plans to sack every doctor and nurse in the country? No, no, we are in the positive phase of Labour's campaign with my e-mail mate railing against the "vile" and possibly "evil" Daily Mail and its "ridiculous anti-Blair bile". That's positive but only in the sense of being doubly negative.

Which brings us to Labour's response to the Conservative manifesto. Those who like smoke with their mirrors would have loved it. Tony Blair strode into the press conference commandingly ahead of his other half. He took on the chairman's role which - in these fraught circumstances - involved repeating in his own way (that is fumblingly) everything the Chancellor had just said.

It's called "ownership". The Chancellor puts forward a view but it doesn't become official until it comes directly from the top man's mouth. But that's not the only thing that's making Mr Blair jumpy.

He has been denouncing the Tories' spending plan as a plan for savage cuts in public services. There is a poster to that effect, unveiled by Alan Milburn (ohhhh! Hang on, by Alan Milburn!) Now that Mr B is back in harness with Mr B, the Tories are being denounced as two things: psychos who want to massively increase public spending at the same time as psychos who want to slash public spending.

The Tories accuse Labour of having a black hole in their finances. Labour accuse the Tories of having a black hole in their finances while denying the existence of a black hole in their own. Of course, if the Chancellor is right and there is no black hole, then the Tories won't have to spend the £8bn they've earmarked for debt repayment (or have I missed something?).

The James savings (which may not exist) and the Gershon savings (which haven't been made) are double counted in a spending programme (that hasn't happened). By this means, each party is spending more than their opponents while at the same time spending less. Each denies they will face a black hole while insisting their opponents will be engulfed by the very black hole that doesn't exist. The mirrors in this mirror symmetry are almost occluded by the smoke but that's the best I can extract.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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