After a fortnight of sleaze and a Labour ’Trust me’ period which
brought a brief glimmer of Tory hope, our politicians have ended up
first in a farmyard and then in other people’s laps as ventriloquists’
This is what happens in an election when there is deliberately no clash
of ideologies and the Opposition seeks to prove only that it would be a
superior manager of the nation’s affairs.
It is said that television devalues everything it touches. It certainly
seemed like it when the Tories dressed up an ’extra’ as a chicken to
provide a visual reminder that Labour leader Tony Blair had run away
from a TV debate. And when stage foxes appeared in the chicken run, we
knew it did. If TV could accept political advertising, we would have
seen a tiny Mr Blair sitting on the gargantuan Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s
knee every five minutes, not to mention a puny John Major in the
Eurosceptics’ or Chancellor Kenneth Clarke’s lap, as Labour retaliated.
This election is dominated by the search for the Holy Grail of a winning
image. Nobody has yet found it.
Except in one respect - Europe - the election is no further forward than
when it started. The uncommitted third, who do not necessarily vote as
their parents did, are still musing, whether it is nobler to keep the
devil we know or to risk it all with a cross in the polling booth. All
the signs are that they are still in the risk business.
After 18 years in office, the Tories are blamed for every ill, real or
imagined, and their many successes seem to be taken for granted.
Meanwhile, Labour seek to soundbite their way inconsequentially to
office. For them it is entirely a media game, reducing candidates, in
the words of one of them Austin Mitchell, to Little Sir Echoes. There is
only one saving grace: the rebellion by hundreds of Tory candidates,
declaring their hostility to a single European currency. This inspired
the newspaper advertisement portraying Mr Blair as Dr Kohl’s dummy as
the Tories tried to make a virtue out of necessity.
My experience at speaking at 100-plus engagements across the country is
that thinking people are deeply concerned about our future in
Mr Major has been forced by his candidates unequivocally to say ’No’ to
a single currency, unless approved by a referendum, and to a federal
That effectively rules out Britain joining a single currency but Mr
Major, constrained by ministerial responsibility, feels unable to say so
in so many words. If he could bring himself to do so, he would set this
election alight. But he can’t now. So the 1997 election will fail to
rise to the momentous economic and constitutional issues confronting us.
We shall all live to regret it. Britain deserves better, to coin a