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Nothing To See Here

Nothing To See Here

houses of parliament reflected in a puddle

More’s the pity, as there’s a helluva lot going on, behind the scenes. With the parliamentary cat away for the summer (such as it is, here in UK), both Tory and Labour spin-doctor mice are scurrying around in their struggles to create a narrative for the general election. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, they’re also trying to create a persona for their respective publics.

Back in their day, both Tony Blair and Boris Johnson knew just how to wow the fans. The same can’t be said of either Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer.

Neither of them is exactly appalling, but neither is exactly appealing either. The Prime Minister lacks oratorical flair, and the Labour leader looks like he’s swallowed a wasp.

Seems only yesterday the image makers in the red corner grappled with Gordon Brown’s rubbish communication skills by trying the line ‘not flash, just Gordon’. Oh dear.

Every bit as bad for the Tories, when they settled for branding their serially sotto voce leader Iain Duncan Smith ‘the quiet man’. Another fail.

Whatever anyone thinks of the PM’s policies, there’s little doubt he’s basically a decent man, which brings us on to the question of what in god’s name he’s supposed to say to people.

Some in Number Ten believe it’s time for tough talking. Like, seriously beastly talking.

Cue Sunak’s claim a week or so ago that Labour was a subset of lawyers on the same side as criminal gangs: ‘Propping up … exploitation that profits from getting people to the UK illegally.’

Way below the belt, and absolutely not his style.

A stretch, but not an impossible one, to draw a parallel with the job applicant mistaken on live telly for a leading IT expert and duly interviewed. One of Auntie’s all-time best cockups.

It’s doubtful, given the backlash he faced, that Sunak will be going there again.

So what exactly does he say to voters absorbing yet another interest rate hike and a gloomy outlook from the Bank of England, given that none of his existing pledges look set to be met.

He’s going to slash inflation? National debt? NHS waiting lists? Illegal migration? Don’t think so.

In view of the monumental tab clocked up in World War Two, successive British governments of the period were prepared to settle for orderly decline.

Not that they were especially keen to admit it. And it’s certainly no pitch for the modern age.

Whaddaya do then? Simple. Just change the subject.

The Tories’ managing to hang on, just, to Johnson’s seat in the by election triggered by the partygate pyramid of piffle, to chuck his own phrase back at him, has given them an idea.

Seeing as the outcome was skewed by locals’ rage at the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to their very own manor, why not go with that?

It all comes under the umbrella of what David Cameron once derided as ‘green crap’. So, the thinking clearly was, let’s big up other ways of bashing the Just Stop Oil movement.

Cue last week’s fanfare that came with Sunak’s big anno on North Sea oil exploitation.

Donald Trump’s in yet more hot water over the Capitol riots, and playing for yet more time to get re-elected before he’s banged up, so he can pardon himself for his alleged coup attempt.

But his the-hell-with-climate-change slogan ‘drill baby drill’ has been cited as an accurate description of the Tories’ apparent shift in emphasis.

More than six hundred boffins have vented their rage, with one warning the new approach risked a ‘climate meltdown’.

And it’s not as if the seemingly endless succession of devastating freak weather events across the globe don’t speak for themselves.

But there’s a hardcore of Tory MPs – and voters – who’re refusing to buy the argument that securing tomorrow means tightening belts today. Someone else’s maybe, but not theirs.

A chunk worth pandering to? It seems so. Not as if, the calculation goes, they’re going to look too closely at the details, luckily for Sunak.

It probably even slightly suited his purpose when environmental protesters clambered over his gaff in Yorkshire while he was off doing his Disney thing in California.

That’s because the reality behind the headlines he’s so pleased to have generated is that the ‘new’ oil and gas exploration he’s been on about isn’t really new. It’s already happening.

The other bit that isn’t quite as it seems is that the stuff that’s easily found was sucked up years ago. What’s left is low quality and elusive. In short, there’s not much more to be had.

Sunak knows this, and so does Starmer. But when it comes to winning hearts and minds slogans can matter just as much, if not more so, than facts.

Besides which, with a by-election in the offing north of the border, Labour doesn’t want to pit itself against all those Scottish folk who make their living on the offshore rigs.

Be interesting to see what Starmer comes up with when he gets back from his blustery staycation. Especially as he’s in pretty the same bind as Sunak.

Yes, all the polls point to his winning the election, but that’s not the same as sealing the deal. And, assuming he does get in, he’ll have no more cash to splash than the Tories.

Also, given that his central mission to date has been convincing the electorate he’s no Jeremy Corbyn, he daren’t risk promising anything much that’ll cost anything much.

So, like Sunak, he’ll have to duck and weave his way into seeming to offer something that the Tories can’t, or won’t. Pity the poor voters wondering, when the time comes, which is which.

Not that such dilemmas are unheard of in the trompe d’oeil world of animal husbandry.

Hangzhou Zoo in China has been busily denying claims that some of its creatures trading as bears are humans really, wearing fluffy costumes.

Has to be said, checking out some of the pictures online, their legs look jolly slim, and their rear paws look suspiciously like, er, shoes.

Other establishments in that country have in the past been accused adjusting their dogs’ coiffure so they can be passed off as wolves or African cats.

Then there’s the zoo in Egypt that had to bat off suggestions that it had done a zebra-style paint job on donkeys.

Not that there was any doubt last week, in the Californian city of Burbank, about the identity of a glorious beast filmed by local police cooling off in someone’s jacuzzi.

This one definitely was a bear, even though the jauntily human way one paw was resting on the side of the pool made the cops laugh.

Different from today’s British politicians, however. No sitting on the fence here, after a while the creature just climbed over it. Barely a backward glance, bear necessities met.

Watch Peter’s report HERE

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.

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