Mickey Mouse ears, a damp start and mudslinging for Sunak… attacking his own side from Starmer…

Photo: Aaron Chown/PA

How’s the general election going for you? As a bleary-eyed observer of these affairs, I’d say this one is wearisome and bumpy.

Nothing much is going right for Rishi Sunak, unless calling the election during a Downing Street downpour, without an umbrella to hand, was a masterstroke. Then again, maybe he wished to show off his breaststroke.

After that soggy beginning, Sunak’s campaign has sparked with all the verve of a damp box of matches. He went to Northern Ireland and visited Titanic Belfast, launching a thousand quips about sinking ships. Whether he rearranged any deckchairs while he was there remains unexplored.

But he did obligingly stand beneath the exit sign on a plane, and then proved his worth as the patron saint of newspaper photographers for a second time.

After announcing he was going to get rid of ‘Mickey Mouse degrees’, he appeared to be wearing Mickey Mouse ears at an event, thanks to smart work by a PA photographer.

On another visit, a worker could be seen looking unimpressed and laughing on camera as Sunak spoke, causing a bullet-headed Tory fixer to emerge from the shadows and step in front of her, which somehow amplified her disdain.

Oh, and Sunak made a common-man fuss about catching a train to Cornwall, only then to fly back, safely away from common people and their common lives. Sunak seems to spend most of his time in the air when he isn’t making a fool of himself on the ground.

The main effort of the Tory campaign so far seems to look no further ahead than the next day’s headlines.

The usual suspect right-wing newspapers regurgitate whatever the Downing Street wonks dream up the day before – the return of national service for the young, the ending of those Mickey Mouse degrees, free pies for everyone (one of these may not be true). Oh, and the tax benefits/bribes supposedly being offered to state pensioners (true, but unimpressive, and merely reversing an earlier Sunak cut).

All burped up on those front pages, and dutifully reported at one remove by the BBC.

As for Labour, Sir Keir Starmer is so intent on winning over people who don’t vote for his party that he is happy to piss off those who usually do.

His control-freakery has paid off in the opinion polls over the past four years, but attacking the left within his party leaves a bad taste for many and looks petty.

If that tactic works, which looks likely, then maybe it’s worth it. Anything to stop another tawdry Tory government.

Of course, plenty of former Labour supporters will tell you that there is no difference between Sunak and Starmer. To which you can only say, let him win and give him a go.

Still, the stain of Thatcherism and neoliberalism on public life will not go away just because we have a Labour government. The Blair government was good at fixing national life, especially the NHS, but did so in a way that lumbers us still with expensive private finance initiatives. More of the same under Starmer seems likely.

Surely we need to move away from encouraging private equity to buy its way into every aspect of our lives, from the railways to care homes and children’s services.

Such fleecing of the public purse may be a natural fit for many Tories. But Labour should seek a better way.

As for the hounding of deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, that was a running disgrace in the build up to the election being declared. A right-wing newspaper and two Tory MPs bullied the police into investigating whether she avoided paying capital gains tax on the sale of a council house years ago.

Now the police have said there is nothing to investigate. You might have thought the Tories, and their pet newspapers, would shut up. Nope, the mudslinging continues, even though they’ve run out of mud.

Then again, the Tory election campaign mainly involves chucking mud. Labour should throw some back. There’s a pile dating back 14 years.

Over on what you might call the fringes, the Lib-Dems seem to be enjoying their campaign, falling off paddleboards or whizzing down hill on a bicycle.

And the horrible people of Reform UK – a right-wing pressure group that pretends to be a political party – grind out the daily hatred and intolerance without a spark of anything much. Just hateful drudgery, and appalling speeches from its leader, the bullying charism vacuum known as Richard Tice who, like his bedfellow Nigel Farage, is a wealthy type pretending to be a common man.

An act no-one should fall for, although sadly some will.

Leave a Reply