How I’ve started wearing my wife’s clothes (sort of)…

There has been a pile of politics around here lately. As I type these words, my feet rest on a stack of discarded grumbles and cast-offs. As a diversion, let me tell you about how I have started wearing my wife’s clothes.

This is not the confession it may appear to be, more of a small domestic incident.

It’s Saturday morning and I need to leave for work in an hour. We haven’t been to Morrisons yet and I am pacing around downstairs, ready to go. Jeans, jumper, jacket, shoes on, car keys in hand. My wife is still upstairs, mumbling to herself about not having had a lie-in (that’s a guess, sometimes you just know) while wondering what to wear.

After searching around for something suitable, she shouts from our attic bedroom and her words come bowling downstairs like little boulders.

“Julian – are you wearing my jeans?”

In 30-plus years of marriage, I have never been asked this one before. But it turns out I am. As the owner of four pairs of Levi’s jeans, three faded and one less so, I spotted this pair in the ironing basket and took them for mine. This turns out not to be so.

My wife likes to have one pair of men’s Levi’s on the go, as she thinks they look better than those intended for women. For a comfortable fit, she buys the same size as mine.

“The women’s ones don’t look like proper Levi’s,” she tells me as I arrive upstairs.

“I’ll take them off,” I say, obliging as you like.

“Urgh!” says my wife.

I tell her I’ve only worn her jeans for a short while. This is approximate to the truth, as I’d worn them the day before while interviewing someone.

Still, I keep that to myself, remove my wife’s jeans, and dig out a faded pair that belong to me. Thinking about it as we swap jeans, the buttons on the fly had seemed a little stiff, the denim being newer than on even my ‘best’ pair of Levi’s.

My wife tells me that the men’s jeans are a nicer fit, although the top at the back does sag a little.

“Mine are quite loose at the back,” I say, all thanks to my skinny arse.

“Yes, but yours are tighter at the front,” my wife says.

Ah, I think, must be all that craft beer.

We don’t have too many clothing clashes. If my wife stuck to dresses, we wouldn’t have any. But she doesn’t, so sometimes it’s Levi’s at the double. Recently we both put on gold-coloured jumpers. That’s usually a no-no, but neither of us could be bothered to change, and we were doing nothing more social than nipping to the local bar.

Shoes sometimes run to a theme as well. We both wear Doc Martens, although mine are brown to her black. Our back-in-the-nest daughter also favours Docs so sometimes we walk out in triplicate. But I never make the jeans mistake with our daughter. I wouldn’t get one leg in those jeans.


Living with a vegetarian and a vegan…

Baked potatoes for tea, crisping in the oven. A big bowl of coleslaw made. Our daughter (the vegan) arrives home before her mother (the veggie). She tries the coleslaw, made with her in mind, nothing dairy.

“This is nice,” she says. “What’s in it?”

Oh, all vegan, just white cabbage, carrots, oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard, oh and…

She savours the flavour…

…and honey…

“Honey!” she says with more emphasis than had been expected. “That’s not very vegan.”

She goes back into the kitchen to make a honey-free coleslaw.

What things a meat-eating, honey-loving man must remember.


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Fact-checking acronyms and last night’s political ding-dong…

Acronyms are tricky beasts (AATB). Sometimes their meaning is obvious, sometimes so familiar the attendant phrase evaporates, as with the BBC.

Other collections of letters are not so easy to spot, and here is one: CCHQ. That acronym stands for Conservative Campaign Headquarters, useful to know last night when the Tories rebranded their Twitter account as factcheckUK@CCHQPress, accompanied by a big blue tick.

In a cynical little exercise, the Tories pretended to be an independent fact-checking service running an eye over everything Jeremy Corbyn said during the leaders’ debate on ITV (more of which, accompanied by much sighing, in a moment).

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, went on the airwaves this morning to defend this act of trickery, saying no one had been fooled. Well, I say he did, but not on my airwaves as two wearisome syllables in, I switched to BBC Radio 3. God but that man is annoying.

The thing is, if people weren’t fooled, why bother with such a stunt? The aim clearly was to fool people and muddy the paddling pool of politics by copying the form and appearance of a genuine fact-checking service.

I’d like to think that pulling such a low trick would put people off the Tories; but if they’re not repelled by the sight of Boris Johnson regurgitating lies like an over-stuffed penguin, then perhaps they won’t care about this digital duplicity.

Fact-checking services by newspapers and broadcasters do an important job. The Washington Post runs everything Donald Trump says against a factual ruler, and last month concluded that Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days.

Everything nowadays is clouded in such a toxic fog. No one can spot the facts in this moral murk. So they chose the ‘fact’ that most appeals to them.

As the Tories’ tawdry tomfoolery gained plenty of attention, it will probably be considered a hit by whoever dreamed it up (presumably it was Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s political adviser and spinner of dark arts).

As to the debate itself, a confession: I didn’t watch the whole thing, lacking the moral courage for such endurance. Three minutes of edited highlights were more than enough.

One takeaway from this Johnson v Corbyn bout was the reaction of the studio audience to what both men said. Corbyn’s baffling position on Brexit raised a laugh; as did Johnson’s claim to be a dedicated follower of the truth.

Both leaders deserved that mockery: Corbyn because his position on Brexit is more frayed than an ancient pair of jeans; and Johnson because everyone knows he can’t open his mouth without a lie falling out.

In football terms, hardly my mother tongue, this was a goalless draw. The usual suspect newspapers today declared Johnson as the winner, but they’d say that if he stood there in his over-sized Union Jack Y-fronts singing “God Save Brexit”.

Everyone knows that “Getting Brexit Done” is another of those lies (Brexit won’t be done for years). Along with the one about needing this election because Parliament stopped Brexit. It didn’t and MPs were becoming more favourable to Johnson’s deal, merely asking for a sensible amount of time to scan the small print.

Do these debates change people’s minds? Mine can’t be changed when it comes to Boris Johnson (too impossibly awful and duplicitous). As for Jeremy Corbyn (genuinely passionate about the NHS, but hopeless on Brexit and a touch sanctimonious), it’s still a case of wait and see.

Last night I did consider setting up my own politician-checking account called TwatCheck, but sadly there just isn’t the time.


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There’s no guarantee he’ll still love us in the morning. Just ask Jennifer…

Jennifer Arcuri is the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Pile a Crock of Shit on Boris’s Head.

In case you’re not up to speed, the US businesswoman was friends with Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. What sort of friend? She isn’t saying but we can fill in the gaps; mainly because she left those gaps on full view.

During their friendship, Johnson spoke four times at events to promote Arcuri’s tech business interests; her businesses were also paid £126,000 of public money; and she accompanied Johnson on three overseas trade missions, despite, as the Observer puts it “not qualifying as a delegate” (qualifying as a bit on the side doesn’t count).

All very cosy and generous, but now Johnson won’t speak to her and Arcuri is on her scorned woman tour. Her first revenge gig was an interview with ITV at the weekend.

The takeaway line from the interview was spoken directly to Boris Johnson: “I’ve kept your secrets and I’ve been your friend. And I don’t understand why you’ve blocked me and ignored me as if I was some fleeting one-night stand or some girl that you picked up as a bar because I wasn’t ­– and you know that.”

Arcuri also suggested, quite plausibly, that Johnson was concerned about conflict of interest. On becoming Mayor in 2008, he signed a code of conduct about such things; tricky when you live by a code of misconduct.

We don’t know how reliable Arcuri is as a witness; but we do know that Johnson is a famously unreliable witness.

Worth bearing in mind now that he is in wooing mood again, offering blandishments and bribes. He brings us flowers and promises us hospitals. Exact numbers are uncertain, but facts are so boring in the heat of a fling: 40 or four, what’s the difference, honey-bunch?

He promises us 20,000 new police officers – just the same number as his party scattered to the winds of austerity, but close that door, who’s counting?

The writers of newspaper headlines, those occasional compositors of lies, splurge out more unsweet swill. They clamour that Jeremy Corbyn will wreck the economy with a £1.2 trillion spending plan, a meaningless figure pulled from a pocket in Johnson’s crumpled suit jacket (watch you don’t whip out the condoms by mistake).

Arcuri has been swept aside, just another skeleton shoved back in the closet. And we should pay attention to her fate; we should remember her as Johnson swings through a forest of money trees. The cash is falling like leaves; suddenly he’s noticed the tattered struggles of the NHS (if only someone had told him).

Think of Jennifer Arcuri in these heated moments. If he wins, Johnson will treat us all like one-night stands. He’ll shut the door. He’ll refuse to take our calls. He’ll swear he never said those things; sweet nothings will just become nothings.

Tonight, Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have their first televised TV debate. Johnson has more to lose than Corbyn: he’s comfortably ahead in the polls and he swung an election while still in his honeymoon period (why did Corbyn agree to that instead of leaving Johnson to wriggle on that hook he’d made for himself?)

Corbyn has many disadvantages, not least having one foot in the past. The charge of antisemitism may be a put-up job on one level, but he has never managed to dampen that fire; much as he has never made up his mind about Brexit.

Still, Corbyn has one advantage. You know that he believes in what he says. Whereas Johnson is merely saying whatever needs to be said to be elected.

There’s no guarantee he’ll still love us in the morning. Just ask Jennifer.


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Thatcher was hateful but at least she was up for a big interview…

I’ve been reading about Margaret Thatcher, so you don’t have to. Of all the politicians in my lifetime, Thatcher stirred the most astringent antipathy.

In my early days as a columnist, the Conservative prime minister was rechristened Mrs Hacksaw, and that’s how she remained in print and in memory. A rasp made flesh, complete with condescending voice, candyfloss for hair, and dreadful policies whose effects linger still.

One obvious example is the sale of council houses: nice if you were sitting in one and could buy it for a Tory-sponsored song; not so good for those who followed.

Thatcher showed no interest in building new council homes to replace those she flogged off as a sweetener to voters she hoped to turn Tory. A similar approach held sway with following governments and that, children, is how you end up with a housing crisis.

Thatcher was the strongest political influence in my life and those of many others. If you were liberal or left leaning, you knew where you stood: usually in front of the TV, swearing. God, how we hated that woman.

The problem, looking back, is sometimes you can hate your opponent more than you love the one you supposed to be with. That habit lingers still: just because hating Boris Johnson is easy, it doesn’t follow that loving Jeremy Corbyn is a starry-eyed synch.

I’m going to swerve that one for now, and instead look at something Thatcher was skilled in: arguing her case. She loved a TV debate and was happy, indecently eager perhaps, to take part in heavyweight TV interviews or debates.

This is something that emerges in Steve Richards’ book The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to May. I asked my wife to buy me this as a birthday present, and that shows what a weirdo I must be. Still, it’s an illuminating read, clear-eyed and surprisingly entertaining.

Having been through Harold Wilson, Edward Heath and James Callaghan, I am now stuck in the middle with Thatcher. And Richards recalls how much Maggie Mayhem loved a TV argument, especially in the early days.

“From the time when she became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 to her election as prime Minister in 1979, Thatcher never shied way from formidable TV interrogators, both in the UK and the US,” Richards reminds us.

She loved popping over the Atlantic to appear on Firing Line, an hour-long interview with the right-wing radical William Buckley. He shared many of her convictions, Richards tells us, but still gave her a hard time.

How different this seems to the leaders of our parties today. Boris Johnson prefers social media puff pieces, tame ‘interviews’ in which an unseen softie inquisitor allows him to tell as many lies as he likes. Where is the hard-headed political journalist to point out those lies? Nowhere to be see, because Johnson avoids big interviews, knowing that he will be tripped up. Much as he is evidently uncomfortable with ordinary voters, especially those in the north, as they have no manners and insult him.

That’s not good enough for a man who wants to be prime minister, but why bother when you have assorted dirty tricks up the sleeve of your ill-fitting suit? Why bother when unnamed Downing Street sources slop out nonsense for the next day’s headline trough?

Jeremy Corbyn is no friend to the hard interviewer either. He’d rather have nothing to do with the mainstream media, but that’s not possible in his job. Instead he does brief interviews, usually on sufferance and sounding tetchy. He also treats journalists and their questions with thin-skinned impatience, typical responses being, “I’ve been asked that question three times already” or even (honestly) “don’t you know it’s rude to shout?”

Those head-to-head leaders’ debates are all very well. But what we need are in-depth interviews with heavy-weight inquisitors. Whatever you think of the dreadful woman, Thatcher would have been up for it.


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Nigel Farage, that bit of chewing gum stuck to our shoes…

There is only one conceivable benefit of “getting Brexit done” (© Boris Johnson’s stuck mouth). It might rid us of Nigel Farage, as he’ll be done too.

He’s been there for years, a piece of used chewing gum stuck beneath the nation’s shoe.

Carelessly disposed latex sap he may be, but Farage is a highly effective politician. US President Lyndon Johnson said of his dangerous rival J Edgar Hoover: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

The crude image stands the test of time, and you cannot imagine Donald Trump saying something so cleverly contained.

Farage has been standing outside the Westminster tent and pissing in for years. Must he all that beer he drinks.

He has been unable to enter mainstream British politics because no one wants him for their MP. And he won’t be standing in this general election (eighth time unlucky isn’t a good look, but then neither are those mustard cords).

An elderly passer-by in Wales buttonholed Farage on the BBC news, condemning his cowardice. And, yes, he is a coward and a bully and a Brexit braggart.

But he still wins without winning. He influences our politics in devious ways, using allegedly suspicious money and the dark arts of social media to spread his message. Like his pal Trump, Farage is anti-politics in the sense of wishing to smash the system and rearrange the pieces to his benefit.

Yesterday Farage announced was pulling his Brexit candidates out of the 317 seats won by the Tories at the 2017 general election.

This is surely a pact by another name, and a typical Farage manoeuvre. Raise a racket saying you aren’t going to do something; then do it anyway.

His decision is a boost for Boris Johnson. But it should concern anyone who fears a hard Brexit. Farage has only ever wanted the sort full-metal Brexit that throws Britain to the deregulated winds.

If we’ve learned anything, and God knows it’s hard to remember what that might be some days, it is this: if Nigel Farage approves of something, then it’s a terrible idea that will benefit him and be bad for us.

And if it’s reassurance you seek, don’t hang around here. What we could end up with is a hard Brexit as divvied out by Johnson, Farage and Trump. How sweet that Farage should change his mind shortly after being told to do so by his pal Trump the Tweet.

As Farage has been recorded mouthing off about how we need to sell off the NHS to insurance companies, the thought of what that trio might agree among themselves falls many feet short of comforting.

Farage is managing to upend our lives without being a proper politician. Instead he is the self-appointed MD of the shady company known as the Brexit Party. Incidentally, all those 300-plus oddballs who were going to stand as Brexit MPs paid a non-returnable £100 each for the right to be considered. That presumably nets Farage £31,700.

Plenty remains unknowable about this election. Will this latest act of attention-seeking from Farage be as good for Johnson as it looks?

Maybe.

If Farage and Johnson have reached some sort of accommodation, the so-called progressive parties need to do the same. Unless Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson would prefer to carry on hating each other while letting the real nasties scuttle through.


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Boris Johnson chews his own tie and I chew my own fist…

Boris Johnson just did the piffle-waffle shuffle in Downing Street. This dance requires two left feet; or, in his case, two right feet.

He’d just been to see the Queen, he said. Tempting to imagine the royal muttering: “Oh, God, look it’s him again, Bad Penny Boris. Last time round he conned me into giving a totally unnecessary Queen’s Speech – and it wasn’t my speech at all, but a disguised Tory party political broadcast. If he wins, he’ll be asking me to give another Queen’s Speech. Think I’ll give it to Charles – or maybe Meghan, that would be a giggle…”

Johnson boomed; Johnson waffled. Johnson pretended none of this was his fault; Johnson trundled out old gags, a comedian with thumb-smudged material.

Like the one about how you don’t want an election, he doesn’t want an election – it’s all the fault of those pesky MPs who won’t do his bidding.

Johnson wanted to eat his own tie in frustration over Brexit. Which is funny because I want to chew my own fist whenever he begins one of his choppy speeches, all booming cadences and empty-vessel rattle.

I don’t know about the state of upper-class dentistry these days, but Johnson must have lies for fillings. Every time he opens his mouth, they come flying out.

Johnson said again his Brexit deal was “oven ready”. That deal isn’t oven ready but frozen solid and slowly dripping cold blood. And it will continue to drip for about ten years. Oven ready for Christmas 2029, yummy.

Johnson bragged about his “108 or so days” in office and smuggled out a few questionable claims. The biggest investment in hospitals in a generation with 40 new ones on the cards; 20,000 more police on the streets. Ahem, those hospitals are a Tory pledge not an actual achievement – as are the 20,000 coppers; and all those ‘new’ coppers would only replace ones lost to austerity.

“So I say, come with us,” Johnson boomed.

Oh, no thank you. I don’t like the look of the company you keep.

Johnson kicked off the Tory campaign a day after the Conservatives united in looking horribly out of touch, shabby and cheaply opportunistic (other views are available, but they might not be right).

Day 107 Or So in the Posh Brother house saw Jacob Rees-Mogg say on the radio that the Grenfell Tower fire victims did not use “common sense” when they stayed put in the burning building.

Leader of the House Rees-Mogg told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that if either of them had been in a fire they would “leave the burning building” – the implication being that those who died were somehow not as smart as him.

That was certainly the implication burnished by fellow right-wing Tory Andrew Bridgen, who suggested Rees-Mogg was cleverer than those who died in the fire.

Both men later apologised; then a different sort of Tory apology bumbled out into Downing Street to deliver his stand-up act.

Day 107 Or So in the Posh Brother house also saw the Conservatives put out a party-political clip on social media apparently showing Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, unable to answer a question put to him on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Starmer had answered the question but the footage was doctored to show him unable to explain Labour’s Brexit position. A fake advert on behalf of a fake PM.

Day 108 Or So the Posh Brother house: a huge quote from Boris Johnson on the front of the Daily Telegraph compares Jeremy Corbyn to Stalin. Oh, piffle-waffle shuffle off please, mate.


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Oh, I need a radio that turns off whenever Gollum Gove speaks…

I’m meant to be listening to BBC Radio 3 in the mornings instead of swearing at the Today programme. In my defence, all I did was wander into the kitchen and turn on the radio; and there Michael Gove was, doing his usual horrid turn, oleaginous and shouty in the same short breath (we all have our talents and that is his).

It’s about time someone invented a radio that turns off as soon as Gove starts speaking.

That man is so irritating, he gives Nigel Farage a run for his money; our money.

I am happy to be corrected and to be told that Gove is an awfully nice man. Perhaps his wife, the Mail columnist Sarah Vine, will send good word. But based on our radio acquaintance, all I can conclude is that Michael Gove gives a good impression of being a nasty creep.

Presenter Mishal Husain asked Gollum Gove why Downing Street was sitting on a report into alleged Russian interference in UK democracy.

This report has apparently passed through the usual security clearance process, but No 10 is said to be stalling on its release until after the election. As the report examines Russian activity and allegations of spying, subversion and interference in elections, you might think we should hear about it.

Normally we would, but Downing Street is gaming this election as best it can, pulling every dirty trick in the book, and a few that haven’t made the book yet.

Gollum didn’t answer the question from Husain (and what a cool yet smart presence she is). Instead he just said “Corbyn is the real threat to national security” for five minutes.

Let’s untangle this one: Jeremy Corbyn can’t be trusted on national security says the government that refuses to release a report how the Russians might have interfered in our elections; ahem.

This report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee was finished in March and referred to No 10 on October 17, according to the BBC. No 10 seems to be shoving it under the hall carpet until after the election. As this report considers how our elections may have been tampered with by the Russians, it’s clear we should see it before voting.

Ah, yes, the election. I know how I won’t vote and that’s a start. It won’t be Tory for reasons stretching back all my voting life; it probably won’t be Lib-Dem because they seem possessed of an unearned cockiness under new leader Jo Swinson. It could be Green because they talk sense; or it might be Labour as normal, even though the hand that makes the cross may feel heavier than usual.

One thing to consider is that promises made at election time might as well be written on the wind. David Cameron pledged in 2015 to build 200,000 so-called starter homes. A report today from the National Audit Office says not one of those new homes has been built. Not one.

The government response, again according to the Beeb, is that it had a “great track record” for house building. Ah, yes, much in the way that I have a great track record for writing best-selling novels.

But if anyone would like to invent that Gove-silencing radio, I’d be up for one. It could switch off for Farage too, of course, and Johnson. Oh, and in fairness, it could fall silent whenever Labour’s Barry Gardiner has his turn at being annoying.


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Telegraph pops an apology about Boris Johnson’s column into the microwave…

A bellyful of politics is going to be our lot almost until the bellyful of food interlude.

Perhaps you are sated already with the bread sauce of Brexit, stuffed with the glum pudding of another election.

Understandable, but one story this weekend offers antacid to neutralise the indigestible load. It is that the Daily Telegraph has been forced to apologise for a column written by Boris Johnson shortly before he gave up his day job of dashing off last-minute columns to become a prime minister who dashes off last-minute policies.

The Telegraph coyly avoids mentioning the prime minister by name, referring to him only as “the columnist”.

Johnson had falsely claimed something, you see – hardly surprising from a man who could swear dusk was dawn, even as the morning chorus rises to heckle him.

In his column, Johnson claimed the UK was set to “become the largest and most prosperous economy in this hemisphere”. Throwing in “this hemisphere” is typical Johnsonian hyperbole, a colourful phrase plucked from the drawer where he keeps a tattered collection (anyone who writes has one of those, Johnson’s is just deeper).

He also said the British economy would overtake Germany “in our lifetimes”. The Telegraph admitted the claim in effect was based on glancing at a real economic forecast from the OECD. It was “the columnist’s own extrapolation of this data beyond the timeframe of the forecast” – a lofty way of conceding that he’d made it up.

The data was only based on European countries, so could not justify Johnson’s boast about the UK economy outperforming all nations in the northern hemisphere.

The Telegraph had to print this apology because of a complaint to Ipso, the newspaper regulator – the third such bit of in-print grovelling in relation to Johnson’s column.

This makes me wonder if we shouldn’t have a new regulator for politicians who knowingly speak blatant bollocks – a weighty responsibility, it is true. Johnson alone deserves his own personal regulator, dedicated to correcting his lies, exaggerations and slippery evasions.

A telling anecdote about how Johnson operated as a journalist is to be found in a report on the Guardian website. This has been told before in other contexts, but here goes.

Media editor Jim Waterson reminds us that Johnson always left writing his Monday morning column until the last possible moment, leaving a brief window on Sunday afternoons, before sending it off. “His copy would often arrive shortly before the Telegraph’s print deadline, leaving little time for editors to make changes and fact-check his claims, according to individuals who had to deal with it,” Waterson writes.

A strategy to make himself the most important writer in the room – and a breezily arrogant way to dodge the rules as they apply to everyone else. A selfish but effective tactic as a columnist, but you can see how such entitled behaviour rubs into the political cloth, too.

Bluster and blab, make something up, exaggerate a shrivelled acorn into a mighty oak, and you’ve got yourself a workable policy.

Or workable for five minutes until you spot another wheeze (ban fracking, raise the pension, cut taxes, open a few hospitals, replace all those police officers your lot laid off, and so on).

Columnists like a colourful phrase, as I know. Ex-columnist Johnson cannot shake off his old habits, referring this weekend to his “oven-ready” Brexit – and yet, even then, he muddles his metaphors in rush. This “oven-ready” Brexit is ready to “put in the microwave”, which doesn’t make sense: one is ready for the oven, the other for the microwave.

If nothing else, this suggests he doesn’t know how to use an oven or a microwave.

Personally, I’d prefer a Brexit that was ready for the freezer, to be forgotten amid a frosted pile of boxes and plastics bags that have lost their labels.


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Trump wants a threesome with Johnson and Farage…

Donald Trump’s intervention in our general election breaks all conventions. But never mind, it’s of fleeting value as everything he says nowadays sounds two strides the far side of completely bonkers.

His praise for Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, and his accompanying contempt for Jeremy Corbyn, should surprise no one. But the manner of his intervention tells us something about the way politics is being devalued.

You don’t have to dig deep on Twitter to find burrows full of Jeremy Corbyn supporters complaining about the right-wing media and the BBC. Yet let’s push that argument aside for now and have another one instead.

Trump made his comments in a call to Farage’s own radio show on LBC. Never mind Laura Kuenssberg being mean about Saint Jeremy; surely Farage having his own Fox News-style phone-in to promote himself and the Brexit Party, while upending our politics, is much more of a media outrage.

Not only has he been given this shoddy broadcasting platform, but he gets his buddy the president to phone in the praise. All many shades of wrong, although there is room for debate about the benefits of Trump bigging you up. While he praised Johnson with one fork of his tongue, Trump also dragged him through a hedge too, criticising his deal with the EU.

As well as blathering on about how great Johnson and Farage would be as a team, Trump said Corbyn would be very bad for Britain. And that from the man who has dragged the US down every available ditch (including one or two that didn’t contain Boris Johnson).

On the day that Corbyn launched his election campaign with a stirring defence of the NHS, Trump insisted the US wasn’t interested in owning parts of our health service.

The Sun says today that this “destroyed Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful attack line”. Well, perhaps – but only if you are prepared to believe a tatty word Trump says, and no one should ever do that.

Another line on Trump’s intervention is that it’s a boost for Corbyn, defining who he is by what he stands against. If Trump’s against you, it can’t all be bad and might well be for the good.

Corbyn’s launch, as viewed through the allegedly hostile lens of the BBC News, looked impressive. The Labour leader lives for this stuff, if not much else, and knows how to woo a friendly crowd – a skill he shares with Johnson, who also tickles the faithful. In anything, an on-form Corbyn is the better speaker, as Johnson soon descends to spouting improvised platitudes and spluttered nonsense.

Most of the front pages today, an old-fashioned metric perhaps but one I still use, concentrate on Trump wanting a Boris and Nigel love-in. Only the i newspaper plays a straight bat on Labour with the splash headline: “Corbyn vows to transform UK by tackling wealthy elite.”

Oddly, the Labour-supporting Mirror eschews proper politics with a bit of nonsense about departing Speaker John Bercow allegedly wanting a million quid to appear on I’m A Celebrity. Not greed, it seems, but deliberately pricing himself out of the show.

As for the NHS, the potency of this as an election issue is shown both by the chanting supporters at Labour’s launch and Boris Johnson spending more time in hospital than a junior doctor (thankfully, a real junior doctor heckled him yesterday during yet another opportunistic hospital visit).

There is something distasteful about the way Johnson uses hospitals and schools for a rolling party-political broadcast. Does there come a point where this shouldn’t be allowed? Especially from the leader of the party that devoted a decade to austerity, and only woke up to the benefits of state munificence when an election loomed on the horizon.

Incidentally, my favourite pun on the Trump intervention in our election comes in the emailed Mirror Politics morning newsletter: “All the president’s phlegm…”

Nice one, lads and lasses of Mirror Politics. But a threesome with Trump, Farage and Johnson? God, no thanks…


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Workington man will nudge it for the Tories? Oh, let’s talk about Pebbledash People

Workington Man will decide this election, according to the Conservative party think-tank, Onward.

Apparently, no women live in Workington, or if they do their voice doesn’t count.

These labels always slip between gruesome condescension and downright stupidity. In this instance, it would be understandable if the people of Workington resented being stereotyped by Onward as rugby league-loving men who live along the M62 corridor and might just vote Tory.

Well, corridors have doors and perhaps those doors will slam shut.

Workington Town put out a statement saying they wouldn’t be responding to all the media requests coming in for comments on “Workington Man”, saying they were an apolitical club.

Incidentally, Onward describes itself as “a powerful ideas factory for centre-right thinkers and leaders”, which perhaps is all you need to know. I have no idea what an ideas factory looks like but suspect it’s all meetings and no smoke coming from chimneys.

Thanks to Miranda Green in yesterday’s Financial Times for reminding me about another lost tribe – Pebbledash People. They were going to swing the 2001 election for Tory hopeful William Hague. His strategists calculated that some 2.5m people lived in pebbledash 1930s semi-detached houses in marginal seats.

You can have as many strategies as you like, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be any good. Hague lost that election and Tony Blair was returned with a landslide majority.

Other voting-intention groups have included Mondeo Man and Sierra Man – both now sounding as dated as the cars that attended their christenings.

But Pebbledash People must rank as the least successful political grouping of all. Back then, we lived in an Edwardian terrace and remained free of political assumptions based on vertical adornment to the front of our house. Funnily enough, we now live in a 1925 semi with a spot of pebbledash out front, so if you want to call me Pebbledash Semi Man That Could Do With A Spot of Work, that’s fine by me (it’s the house that needs smartening, not me – unless it’s a particularly lax day).

Anyway, I am glad to be reminded that the Pebbledash People did for William Hague and like to imagine that they pelted him with pebbles borrowed from the front of their houses.

These groupings are not only condescending, they are also old-fashioned and generally based on notions of how people used to vote. They don’t speak to the whole country but pay homage to the shabby idea that pandering to clusters of swing voters will win you the election.

But at this Christmas election, we are all swing voters now. Either that or to a man and woman we belong to the Oh Piss Off With Your Election It’s Nearly Christmas Party.

Early presents of a dubious nature will be shoved under the tree soon. Boris Johnson’s elves are no doubt already busy wrapping up lies and shoving into stockings the latest issue Tory-issue myths and exaggerations.

Jeremy Corbyn is dusting off his Socialist Santa outfit. And, you know, it’s a good look and at least he believes in what he says; whether he can deliver any of those parcels is another matter.

Oh, go on, if you insist, here too is Lib-Dem leader Jo Swinson, swearing that she ain’t gonna help no such Santa, and telling everyone she can win and become prime minister all by herself.

According to a Huffington Post article by Paul Waugh, Swinson is following what her advisers term a “bicep kissing strategy”. I am guessing this refers to kissing her own biceps as a show of strength and self-belief, although frankly I have no idea what goes on at those Lib-Dem parties.

That unusual strategy, according to Waugh, is to “make big, bold claims about how tremendously you’re going to do, in order to convince the public that it’s possible”.

Perhaps we should all club together and buy Swinson a video of David Steel’s speech as Liberal leader in 1981. It’s very long and boring, but it ended with words that have never been forgotten ­– “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government”.

Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen.


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