1. The most absurd, embarrassing, counter-productive, demeaning, inane, childish, silly, insulting, awkward, laughable, ridiculous gimmick I have ever seen. And I've seen Edwina Currie waving hand-cuffs at a Conservative conference. I’ve seen chicken costumes and pictures of VAT-exempt groceries. I’m even old enough to remember David Cameron promising to pass a law against tax rises. But this takes the garibaldi, the Rich Tea and the digestive.
The only argument for it is the “all publicity is good publicity” argument, that it is so bad it draws attention to Labour’s promises. Unfortunately, they were better hidden on a pledge card: they are utter vacuous pap, apart possibly from number 6 part 2, which would reduce the supply of rented housing.
2. The Peter Mandelson Memorial Dim Sum Lunch met in emergency session a week ago, but I haven’t had time to write up its proceedings until now.
To recap, the event is a gathering that started on 23 December 1998. A group of my friends were lunching in Soho when news came through that Mandelson had resigned from the Cabinet. By coincidence, the same group were dining on 24 January 2001, when Mandelson resigned again. So we made it an annual event, around the turn of the year, and its main business consists of predictions for the year ahead. With the election upon us, though, we felt the need to reconvene to fine-tune our guesses.
I have been told that the Prime Minister studied the conclusions of this year’s conclave, and that he was eager for an update before polling day. So here it is:
The headline is that a majority predicted that he would continue as Prime Minister. The average of our seats forecasts was Conservatives 284, Labour 266. In other words, the narrowest margin by which David Cameron could conceivably stay on. It would give the Conservatives, Lib Dems and DUP a total of 323, a majority of one over all other parties (with three or four votes to spare, because UKIP’s handful of MPs would support a government that legislated for an EU referendum).
Although, as I said in The Independent on Sunday yesterday, this would require the Lib Dem membership to vote by a two-thirds majority in a special conference to continue with the coalition. Hence the minority view that Ed Miliband would be prime minister.
In other business, the average prediction for the number of SNP seats was 45, and for Lib Dem seats 30. Nick Clegg and Jim Murphy were unanimously predicted to hold their seats, while Douglas Alexander was unanimously predicted to lose his. A majority thought that Jo Swinson would hold on in Dunbartonshire East, and that Danny Alexander would lose in Inverness.
3. Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday carried the final pitches from the leaders: articles by Miliband and Cameron and an interview with Nick Clegg in which he had some interesting things to say about possible post-election deals. And an editorial endorsing no party.
4. We also had our final opinion poll from ComRes, although it is not ComRes’s final poll – there will be another in the Daily Mail this week. We had the Conservatives and Labour tied on 33 per cent, which would mean Miliband as prime minister of a minority government, supported, whether he wants it or not, by the SNP.
And our final Poll of Pollsters told a similar story, with Cameron – contrary to the dim-sum index – just short of the numbers he needs to have a chance of staying on (Con+LD+DUP+UKIP = 319, Lab+SNP+SDLP+PC+Lucas+Hermon+Galloway = 326):
5. An outstanding analysis by Amol Rajan of the relation of Tony Blair and Blairism to today’s British politics, with some fine lines in it about Clegg being “a kind of Dutch liberal” and Michael Gove, “by far Cameron’s most successful minister until he was dismissed ... for being too successful”.
6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for lonely hearts news:
“Man unable to describe what he wants his partner to be like seeks simile.”
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