If Boris Johnson wins next week, it will be on a manifesto of change. He will not deliver the fourth term of the same Tory government, he says, but a new agenda guided by a new philosophy — and the big difference will be spending. Gone are the days when Tories defined themselves by a determination to balance the books. Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, promises a ‘new economic plan for a new era’, which would mean investment on a scale that would have made George Osborne baulk.
My six-year-old son announced, from the back of the car, that he was backing Boris Johnson. My wife, who’s voting Lib Dem, was horrified, accusing me of indoctrinating the boy; I resisted the temptation to film a video and post it on Twitter, to be retweeted by Tories and hate-tweeted by others accusing me of brain-washing, even child abuse. But when we questioned our son it soon emerged that he had heard — whether from a news report, or from his parents talking — that Boris Johnson was in favour of cake and in favour of eating it, and this was very much a policy he could get behind.
This election campaign feels unreal. Commentators focus on spending plans and personal foibles, but what will make next week’s vote historic is something else, something so momentous that we draw back from discussing it seriously. The Lib Dems boast of Stopping Brexit, knowing that as things are now they will never have to try. Jeremy Corbyn pleads neutrality: the first leader not sure which side he was on since poor Henry VI in the Wars of the Roses.
Christopher Biggins has managed to bag some of the nation’s favourite TV characters over the years: Lukewarm in Porridge and Nero in I, Claudius, to name but two. Yet there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have had a career at all if it hadn’t been for his Aunty Vi. She was ‘the most terrible snob’, he tells me. The family accent (a mishmash of northern and broad Wiltshire) troubled her, so she sent the young Biggins off for elocution lessons.
You might well expect the final election debate, Johnson vs Corbyn head-to-head on primetime BBC, to provide the most watched moment of the election campaign. In fact, the clip on course to win that accolade has never even been aired on television, and if it were, some of its claims might fall well short of Ofcom broadcasting rules.
This video shows an actor called Rob Delaney, American star of the Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe, promising to offer some home truths on the future of the NHS.
‘Four beef burgers is the same as flying to New York and back! FOUR BURGERS!’ When I arrived at the Extinction Rebellion demo, the first person I met was a woman activist, clad from head to foot in ocean-polluting, synthetic fibres, talking absolute nonsense.
And because I’m a beef farmer, I felt I should set her straight. I explained that no, my grass-fed beef does not harm the planet, and asked her what on earth she expected the farmers of Britain to do if they couldn’t keep cows.
Until recently, the Tories seemed pretty confident about next week’s election. Despite spending three and a half years blundering over Brexit, they were still comfortably ahead of Labour in the polls. In Jeremy Corbyn, they had an opposition leader denounced as a terrorist sympathiser, an unreconstructed communist, a rabid anti-Semite and — in general — an enemy of Britain. You might regard Corbyn this way yourself.
Radicalism does not usually work out well for the Labour party. Michael Foot fought the 1983 general election on a hard-left manifesto famously dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’ and saw his party’s worst result since the first world war. But as next week’s general election approaches, despite running on an even more sweepingly statist programme, Labour is rising in the polls. The most left-wing government in British history is now a real possibility.
No one sends Christmas cards any more. Except that I do, and you might, and a few other people do too. But overall, cards have become so expensive, time-consuming and, let’s admit it, unfashionable that many people have abandoned them with some relief. Some of them rather piously tell us the money thus saved is now going to charity. Others, even more piously, say they are no longer sending cards because of the waste of planetary resources, and they now prefer more ecologically sustainable methods of celebrating Christmas.