This is the accompanying article / transcript to my contribution to this week’s edition of The Pod Delusion, a humorous lefty / skeptical podcast. You can listen to the full podcast below.
This year’s party conference season has now finished, and attention turns to the General Election that will held some time between now and June. What that really means is that everyone’s thoughts are turning towards the prospect of the Conservatives being in power.
Many people now seem to be treating a Conservative election win as more-or-less a foregone conclusion. This is despite the fact that they still have slightly underwhelming opinion poll ratings. The Conservatives are not exactly getting an enthusiastic reception. It’s just that the other parties are disliked even more.
Something that the Tories have going for them at the moment is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that The Sun will be endorsing them at the next General Election. Truth be told, I was surprised on the one hand that they hadn’t already announced it. On the other hand, I was surprised at how early they had announced it. After all, it gives them plenty of time to change their minds between now and the election.
The Sun tends to back a winner, even though it is probably more of a case of being a weather vane rather than any sinister string-pulling from Rupert Murdoch. A few people I have spoken to think that it’s out of order for The Sun to be advising its readers how to vote. Maybe so, but the freedom of the press is vital to our democracy and they should be allowed to put it in their paper if they wish.
Some people note that people who buy The Sun are probably not buying it for sober and authoritative political analysis. That is true. But I actually think the Conservatives are a perfect match for The Sun. David Cameron and George Osborne would look great on Page 3. They are, after all, a massive pair of tits.
Putting aside whether a tabloid endorsement is something for an aspiring government to be proud about, what should we make of a potential Conservative government? Some on the left contend that no matter how bad Labour are, the Conservatives will always be worse. I do not quite agree with that.
If you ask me, the one thing scarier than a potential Conservative victory is a potential Labour victory. After all, given the turmoil of the past few years, just imagine what Labour would think if they could get away with it all. They would probably literally think that they could get away with actual murder. The thing is that they probably would get away with a lot — more than the Conservatives would anyway.
It has become common for people to say that Labour and the Conservatives have become similar to each other as far as policy goes. I don’t really agree with that. They are quite similar, but with Labour you get bonus ID cards and biometric anal probes. All-in-all, I doubt that a Conservative government would automatically be worse than another Labour one.
The most disconcerting thing about the Tories is not that they seem particularly nasty, but that they seem pretty vacuous at the moment. It may be a cliché to say that most people don’t know what David Cameron stands for. But you do get the sense that their manifesto will resemble some backs of envelopes and cigarette packets stuck together with Sellotape.
During all the talk recently about televised leaders’ debates, David Cameron seems to be the more eager between him and Gordon Brown to appear. But you wonder quite what he will find to say. With the lack of policies, I can half imagine him responding every time he is asked a question by saying, “that’s what she said!” It will probably make about as much sense.
For a lot of people, the Tories are the enemy because they are posh. Cameron and Osborne are the notable posh figures in Westminster, though Boris Johnson also comes in for a fair bit of stick on this front.
Some Conservative politicians are indeed quite ludicrously posh. For some people, this prevents them from representing the voters of Britain adequately because they lack empathy with the man on the street. But for me, a politician’s background is irrelevant. What matters is their capability for the job.
I have to confess to having a bit of a soft spot for Boris Johnson. I need to watch what I say here. I have been told off before for having an opinion on Boris Johnson because I am not a Londoner, so in fairness it is none of my damn business.
But I did once have the opportunity to vote for Boris Johnson. That was when he attempted to become Rector of Edinburgh University when I was a student a few years ago. He was the early favourite, but an intensely negative campaign from the student politics establishment played heavily on his posh image. This ensured that Boris Johnson not only failed to win the election, but he actually came third out of four candidates.
I should point out that Boris was not my first choice in the election. My preferred option was the former Scotsman editor Magnus Linklater, who finished second.
So who did we get as Rector instead? A man called Mark Ballard. I know what you’re probably thinking: who on earth is Mark Ballard? At the time, he was a Green Member of the Scottish Parliament. However, the general population was not quite so enamoured of him as the student population was and he has since lost his seat in the Scottish Parliament.
I have actually met Mr Ballard a couple of times and I can certainly say that he is a very pleasant chap. But ultimately he is a bit of a nobody, certainly in comparison to somebody like Boris Johnson. I mean, at Edinburgh University we could have had London’s Mayor as our university’s figurehead. As it was, we got someone who was rather worthy, but rather anonymous and a bit dull.
I don’t suppose there is necessarily anything wrong with that. But the mantra of “anyone but the Tories” surely isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.