With less than three weeks to go before the general election, millions still haven’t made up their minds which way they’re going to vote. If at all. Though, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, party leaders have no one to blame but themselves that the electorate’s puzzled.
‘I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.’
Lady Bracknell’s point in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was that ordinary people were best treated like mushrooms. That’s to say kept in the dark and covered in, well, you know what.
And the most peculiar thing about this peculiar election is that the more Bojo and Jezza tell us, the more they keep to themselves.
The Conservative Party manifesto comes with bells and whistles, natch. All fully costed, natch, like everyone else’s.
Telling more than two million low-paid workers they won’t have to pay National Insurance, thus eventually saving them £450 a year, was just for starters.
There’s lots more for everyone. All topped and tailed and tinsel-wrapped for Christmas with the absolute undertaking to get Brexit done.
But there’s the rub. Promising to get Brexit done by the end of January is like committing to gold-plated teddy bears for all the kids by the middle of last week.
Sorry to be a killjoy, but just getting parliament to say let’s do it is simply not the same as getting it done.
Boris Johnson knows this perfectly well, but would really rather we didn’t trouble our pretty little heads with it.
The brute reality is there’ll be a gruelling year of negotiations simply to sort the transition out of the EU. He’s refusing to countenance any extension, and the Europeans doubt it can be done within the timeframe.
If they’re right, then we’re looking at no deal. Delayed, but indisputable. Parliament and the British people’s least favourite outcome.
And even if they’re wrong, there follows up to a decade of tortuous talks to finalise an overall set of arrangements.
Boring, of course, and unlikely to generate daily headlines. Thank god, you might say. But the hordes of hard-working business folk who have any dealings with anyone across the channel really do need to know how much they can buy and sell their stuff for.
Given that roughly half our trade is with the European Union, that’s rather a lot of spreadsheets that can’t afford to have smudgy bits all over them.
But, hell, maybe these harassed execs should learn to chill a bit. Help is after all at hand from Jo Swinson’s LibDems, who’re promising in their manifesto to legalise marijuana.
Actually, that’s one of the few promises to come out of this campaign with a copper-bottomed guarantee of fiscal affordability. Think about it. If the rest of us can buy dope in the shops, the Treasury can tax it. Spliffing, so to speak.
Which brings us on to Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto, that’s left many economists wondering what he’s on.
The promised renationalisation of rail, mail, water and energy will obviously come at a price. And the figures go up and up.
It’s said to be the biggest spending splurge in British political history. Courtesy a cool eighty-three billion pounds in extra taxes. Good news for schools, hospitals, kids, university students, older people, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
Problem being it’s not so much Cobley as cobblers, according to the respected think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies. ‘Simply not credible’. Their words, not mine.
Not that the equally respected Organisation for The Organisation for Economic Co-operation attached much credence to any of the parties’ cash-splashing plans.
That’s because, it predicts, the UK economy is likely to be a bit below par for the next couple of years. And to go halfway round the U-bend if we end up with a no-deal.
Meaning any so-called ‘giveaways’ will likely be no more than robbing Peter to pay Paul. And, er, Peter as well, by the looks of things.
And, if that’s not enough of a bellyful of bad news, there’s worse, much worse to come. Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, everyone, but you’re being asked to vote in not one but two elections.
But it’s a fact. One of the few definites that came out of the leaders’ debate on telly a few days ago.
Anybody who saw it will surely have been struck by the fact that Labour’s election is all about the public services, while the Tories’ is no more or less than the Brexit election.
Given that the magnitude of Britain’s membership or otherwise of the European Union utterly dwarfs any promises that may or may not be kept about tarting up schools and hospitals or whatever, Bojo is spot-on, and Jezza’s off with the fairies.
Yes, Labour is now committed to angling for a gentler path out of the EU, then asking the people what they think.
But no, Jeremy Corbyn is not saying which way he’d swing in that second people’s vote.
Really? He’s honestly trying to tell us he’d squabble his socks off with our European friends and partners, ahem, for months. Then say he’s got no idea if it’s a good deal or not?
It’s like telling the comrades he’s got this wacky idea called ‘socialism’, but isn’t sure if it stacks up.
Soz. The other one really has got bells on it.
And that matters every bit as much as Bojo keeping his lip zipped about that nasty little no-deal he’s got padlocked away in his closet.
Of course, you can understand Jeremy’s jitters. Never mind his own personal mistrust of the EU, there’s the small matter of his punters. Many of whom are flat-out Leavers.
Here at least, he has common ground with Jo Swinson.
Can’t quite see the two of popping down the pub and drowning their shared troubles over a pint. Or taking a toke together behind the bike sheds.
But the LibDem election blurb received by households in strongly leave-voting North Cornwall says it all.
The party leader puts cancelling Brexit at the top. The local candidate doesn’t mention the B-word at all.
If you’re not confused then I’m afraid you’re not keeping up at the back.
‘A little learning is dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring. There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.’
Ok, English poet Alexander Pope might have been a bit wordy by today’s standards. But you get the idea.
Think about it good and hard, before you believe anything any of them says.
Chin chin. Bottoms up .. Spark up?
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
Click the banner to share on Facebook