Friday, October 03, 2008


The Avengers, The Prince of Darkness, Two Uninspiring Veeps, David Cameron’s Missing Plan and a Dashing Secret Liberal

A relative quickie today, as (for a change) I’m feeling rather under the weather (for a bigger change, I’m well-wrapped-up). I hope mainly to be asleep this evening, but if you’re insomniac BBC4 brings two episodes of The Avengers tonight. At 11.35 there’s Silent Dust, a bitter ecological fable with some memorable imagery but an uncertain tone, then at 12.25 the rather better Room Without a View: an entertaining gourmand; Steed enjoying his new job; Emma not enjoying hers; and a thrilling exposé of the unsettling reality behind posh hotels. But what of Sarah Palin, Joe Biden and Peter Mandelson? And what’s missing from David Cameron’s package?

Peter Mandelson Rises From the Grave

Peter Mandelson’s an odd sort; the Prince of Darkness, and an unrivalled unprincipled backroom operator who’s done more than almost anyone else to make politics untrustworthy. The thing is, I thought he made a pretty good business minister and a pretty good trade commissioner. If only you could erase Mr Mandelson the master of spin and just keep the competent free-trader, he’d be one of Mr Brown’s best ministers. But you can’t. His background means no-one will trust him, and popping up in the Lords means no-one will hold him to account – presumably Mr Brown was driven to it by the man known in our flat as Sir Pigby Jones, who unexpectedly changed animals and disappeared with a squeak and a splash. And three goes at the Cabinet’s pushing it, rather… Still, I’d rather have him than Mr Blunkett, who trumps Mr Mandelson by being even more vile politically than he is personally.

Way to disprove Nick Clegg’s gag about your “zombie government,” Mr Brown. For goodness’ sake, you’ve still not even dumped Geoff Hoon.

A Tale of Two Veeps

I did watch the Vice-Presidential debate this morning while pottering about the flat and, goodness, at least Governor Palin’s improved a lot. Shame, really, as her eye-wateringly awful interviews at least made good car crash telly, while an hour and a half of relatively competent incessant perkiness was like overdosing on a bag of evil Skittles. Joe Biden, by contrast, was a bit less soporific than usual, and answered far better – particularly in the second half, when he came across like a human being and she started to forget her lines – but I can’t kick the feeling that the two Vice-Presidential nominees together are like tartrazine and Horlicks. Or a very, very boring man and a kick in the eye. A debate where you’re being constantly lulled to sleep and then jerked brutally awake is surely some form of cruel and unusual punishment. I’m glad Senator Biden did better, but I still wouldn’t have started from here.

It’s a good job I’m not a betting man about these two extraordinarily defensive choices: one Veep nominee’s the one I spent August wincing and hoping wouldn’t be chosen, the dull more-of-the-same Washington insider with a record of gaffes who I’ve disliked for years and who made the ideal person to blunt Senator Obama’s message of change and mumble the alternative message of ‘Mommy, I’m scared!’; the other’s one I’d read about a couple of months ago and confidently written off. Shows what I know! And that wasn’t even because I knew then what a disaster Governor Palin would be when not allowed an autocue, nor because she’s a swivel-eyed creationist to keep the fact-loathing Republican base on side, nor even because with her at his side, Senator McCain would suddenly look an idiot calling Senator Obama young, inexperienced and lacking in foreign policy knowledge. It was the corrupt and spiteful way she used her high office – look, Alaska’s high up the map, at least – to hound a police officer from his job, even causing her head of policing to resign in protest after being leant on, purely because, er, her sister’s just divorced from him and she wanted to take revenge. I hesitate to use this metaphor today, while the celebrations over Labour’s favourite tainted ‘public servant’ stooge being forced out of office still throng London’s streets, but it’s as if the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had resigned, loudly blaming the Mayor of London for ordering him to sack a police officer who was going through a messy divorce with one of the Mayor’s family. Yes, that’s right: Governor Palin makes Boris Johnson seem principled, competent and comprehensible.

If she gets in, the world’s doomed.

“A Man With A Plan (Actual Plan Not Included. Please Check Your Package For Testicles)”

In other news, the Tories had their conference this week, and I didn’t think much of it. Oh, wait; I said “news”. Well, Mark Valladares gives George Osborne’s pledge-without-actually-pledging-anything offer to freeze one of the few taxes over which, as Chancellor, he would have no control an even bigger kicking than I did, while Mr Cameron’s speech is effectively eviscerated by Andy Hinton, Mr Cameron’s own early draft and, of course, Millennium Dome, who asks the devastatingly pertinent question – if he’s “a man with a plan,” what on Earth is it? Was he really so dumb as to think just announcing he had a plan would convince people he had the answers? Apparently, yes, and you only have to look at Nick Mate-of-Dave Robinson’s predictably hagiographic coverage to see why, but the question remains. There’s no sign of this plan. I’ve looked under the bed, in the cupboard, and in the shoebox his chauffeur carries. Is it a secret plan to fight stagflation? Or… There is no plan, is there?

Secret Agent Quist and the Man They Couldn’t Ban

And finally, you may have noticed a new arrival to the Lib Dem blogosphere in the last few weeks – my good friend the impeccably Liberal, witty and occasionally smutty (all hurrah-words here) Costigan Quist. I have an inkling of his* secret identity under that distinctive cape, gimp mask and Pantone 1235 Pimpernel, but I’m sworn to secrecy: she’s** a Liberal agent under fire and constantly on the move, and to identify him*** would be to expose her****, Mrs Quist and all the little Quistlets – definitely not Quistlings, take note – to reprisals from the vicious team of Tories on their tail. The last message I had from him***** was beamed from a secret location aboard a ship somewhere in the ------- Sea, where the little Quistlets were complaining to her****** that their crate was smelling of fish when not taking it in turns to look out for the Tory bounty hunters (they’ve all been trained since birth to kill with one delivery of a sharpened FOCUS). In our younger days, he******* and I were once smuggled north in a lorry together, you know, but I’m more of an armchair agent these days. Still, I look forward to reading what she******** has to say with interest, and you might like to start with just how improbable it is that the Tories are now demanding unquestioning loyalty from the gay vote – I know they’re into asking for support based on a non-existent “plan”, but this is just plain insanity. We know that most of them still want to go back to banning us. Speaking of which, who was the BBC’s most-banned man, and just why was Deep In The Heart Of Texas so subversive?

* Or her
** Or he’s
*** Or her
**** Or… Oh, you get the idea

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