Given that we have reached the point in the General Election campaign where (according to the latest poll I have seen) the Tories’ lead over Labour has been cut to nine percentage points and there are still nine days to go – and therefore absolutely any outcome is theoretically possible – I think the time has finally arrived at which Rust readers should be spared any further coverage for the duration.
In days of yore by tradition UK broadcasters and Fleet Street’s finest used to refer to August as “the silly season” because, with most politicians, celebrities, movers-and-shakers and newspaper editors then traditionally on their extended annual holidays and so precious little of note in the world happening, those who were unlucky, weird or junior enough to be left behind ‘minding the store’ had to use whatever creativity or initiative they could muster to conjure up items newsworthy enough to fill their title’s pages – hence the proverbial and legendary “And finally …” reports that Trevor MacDonald sometimes introduced at the end of ITV’s News At Ten evening bulletins featuring such gems as skateboarding ducks (and similar).
And that is where it seems we have reached as regards what (the politicians tell us) is the most important and potentially far-reaching General Election of the past fifty years.
As a snap event initiated by the Government in a desperate near-final attempt to ‘break the deadlock’ paralysis that the House of Commons (depending upon you own particular viewpoint) had either contrived to create – or had found itself in – over the past three years on the Brexit issue, it was presumably designed to result in a decisive victory one way or the other that would enable the UK to ‘park’ said item and move forward.
Against the backdrop of general worldwide public cynicism towards all politicians – plus the perceived ubiquitous potential or indeed efforts of “dark forces” everywhere to manipulate the voting intentions of the masses via the internet and social media, using data-harvesting, astutely-targeted advertising and daily deployment of “fake news” – the strategists of all major political parties have been (to continue the water bird analogy) pedaling like crazy under the water whilst, swan-like, also seeking to appear ever calm and serene upon the surface.
Some of the alarmist paranoia causing this development undoubted springs from the widespread impression, real or imaginary, in political elite and media chattering-class circles that “They [i.e. every other party or interest group with ‘a dog in the fight’] will be doing it, therefore so must we in order to fight fire with fire and not lose out by passivity and/or default”.
In other words, they’re all at it.
I keep returning to the subject, but this UK (news and current affairs) media obsession with specially-staged “TV Leadership Debates” is a classic own goal – sorry, that should have read “hostage to fortune”.
When it comes to age-old clichés, there’s a lot to be said for a pair of them – “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “Be careful what you wish for”.
Back in the mists time, politicians got on with their jobs and rarely appeared in public save on exactly their own terms.
Clem Attlee, standing on a railway station platform during an Election campaign, once famously fielded a reporter’s question “Prime Minister, have you got anything you’d like to say to the British public?” by simply saying “Not at the moment …” and turning to board his train.
These days the ways of “Getting your message out there” are so numerous and varied that it’s difficult to keep up with them, still less use them cleverly to your best advantage.
The truth is that live “TV Leadership Debates” are a terminally bad method of presenting a ‘beauty parade’ of the nation’s potential leaders to the public.
By their very nature and as night follows day, they simultaneously not only reduce the de facto potential leaders to the level of everyone else, but benefit each of them in direct inverse proportion to their likelihood of achieving electoral success – as the participants well know in advance.
In this Election we have also seen a new departure, the introduction of ‘individual subject” TV debates, for no apparent reason beyond (presumably) the fact there are so many competing broadcasters vying to stage one that someone has decided it is the only way to satisfy them all.
I guess this time around we can just thank our lucky stars that we haven’t been spoon-fed a version in which a well-known stand-up comic [readers can add their own preferred nomination here], purporting to be the leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, hasn’t caught the mood of the electorate and wiped the floor with the lot of them with a non-stop repartee of one-liners.
At least it might have provided a welcome counter-point to, and diversion from, all the rest of the dross we’ve been fed.