Midway through pretty much every election campaign, once the ratings have slumped and the writing team responsible for the whole sorry mess start to struggle under the weight of all those narcotics they’ve ingested, there’s usually a point where a special guest star is introduced, forcing the story in a new and kinky direction. The bloke that Prescott lamped. Gordon Brown’s racist old woman. Michael Foot in a frock, taking over from the late, great Yootha Joyce in George and Mildred.
This time around – blame upped antes, jumped sharks, and an attention span of the viewing public measured in milliseconds, or at best, the skip point in the Grammerly ads on YouTube – our special guest star is a doomed, horny Duke, who (I’m parsing, here) lives in the Pizza Express in Woking and has a penchant for what less charitable souls than I would describe as trafficked jailbait.
Oh, those Surrey commuter belt blues. A Pizza Express… sited but a brisk walk from where the aliens landed in War of the Worlds. Coincidence? I think not.
The Duke hasn’t had many starring roles of late, so it’s understandable he’d take any part offered – even one that’ll have him chased down the street by rotting rhubarb hurled by a public confusing fiction with fact again. But gamely volunteering himself as some kind of firing line, FauntleFuck dead cat is clearly a magnanimous gesture. After all, Boris’ weakness for the ladies looks oh-so tame when compared to what a billionaire paedophile and his chums may have got up to in the secluded luxury of a Caribbean island. At least no-one turned up to the party with a camera…
Primetime Saturday night – that’s the Duke’s place. And with Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon adjudged not to be box office enough for the main event, it left the slightly less glamorous Tuesday evening slot on ITV free for FauntleFuck to burble dialogue from the Biggles books at that funny old man you sometimes see slumped across from him at the dispatch box.
I don’t blame the funny old man. It’s warm in the Commons, and since the Tories closed down all of the libraries he needs somewhere to spend his days. The staff shouldn’t be giving him sherry with his copy of the Morning Star though; he’s coming out with all these crazed ideas. Spend money on what, Sir? Free stuff? Expensive free stuff, dredged from the profit glands of poor, orphaned entrepreneurs? Alan Sugar ain’t gonna like that (although it’s admittedly hard to tell; the good Lord’s expression resembles a mummified ball sack whatever the mood).
Regardless of format – and they’ve certainly tried a few – these televised debates are hard graft. A strange blend of witch trial, out-of-season marionette show, gonzo porn flick and a personal empowerment PowerPoint presentation, direct from the conference room of that new hotel out by the flyover. I’ve attended séances with more robust political chops, the wan-faced men, the little old ladies, hanging off dear old Uncle Pedro’s every word.
Uncle Pedro – ‘Give my regards to Jean and Brian, and tell cousin Flora that she’ll find her engagement ring if she looks behind the sideboard’ – passed years ago. During the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition as it happens, a victim of Nick Clegg, not like the homeless dude in Glasgow who died alone, 6pm last Sunday, in a city centre multi-storey, in the cold.
Julie Etchingham, who chaired the Tuesday’s debate as if suffering from a urinary tract infection at a provincial dog show, didn’t ask FauntleFuck about dead guys in car parks. But why would she? Homelessness isn’t photogenic – it doesn’t get the ratings – whilst as far as prime ministerial empathy goes; well, you may as well expect a farmhand from Lincoln, who’s never left Lincolnshire, isn’t really sure that there is anything beyond Lincolnshire, and it’s the fourteenth century, to take a nuanced position on whether we should still be watching Woody Allen movies.
Instead, on a set left over from a failed daytime quiz show – complete with gently shifting CGI panelling on loan from a greyscale Windows 98 screensaver – FauntleFuck garbled his usual, breezy, vacuous bullshit whilst looking like he’d just fallen out of bed, and the funny old man, his suit too big for him and specs all wonky, moaned about his bus pass. ‘Ring the bell if you can hear us, Uncle Pedro. Make the glass move across the table.’ In snap polls taken afterwards the screensaver garnered the most positive response – which seems about right.
It all feels like the end of something; if not Corbynism per se, then at least the funny old man’s time as its Prince Hal (an analogy that perhaps works better with Barry Gardiner as Falstaff). For what is a message if it can’t be articulated? Especially when FauntleFuck clearly has no message or scruples or moral framework whatsoever but is happy to whack on a hard hat or a tabard to show how down he is with the plebs, then pop up behind a hastily-erected lectern to wave his arms about a bit, guffawing as if being fellated, boorishly chanting ‘Get Brexit Done’ as journalists attempt to pitch questions about the NHS or fiscal wherewithal or anything else really, again and again and again, because by these rules – the ones that Dominic Cummings has crafted especially for him – Johnson’s clownish vacuity trumps Corbyn’s inability to say stuff with coherence every single time.
That’s one of the more challenging paragraphs hereabouts, containing as it does a Shakespeare reference, a chubby fop in a tabard, a blow job and an unstructured, free-form sentence designed to encourage each reader to extrapolate out towards the abject complacency and turgid cynicism behind the entire Conservative offer. I don’t know how we’ve arrived at this point – perhaps three and half years of Brexit tautology has addled the mind – but to observe, even at a distance, how the Tories have been knobbing about is fundamentally depressing; it’s as if the only floating voter in the entire country is Harold Shipman.
A campaign that rides upon nonchalance and self-satisfaction, in the image of its leader, whilst the backroom boys, high on the fumes of social media and high grade cocaine, engage in acts that Watergate scholars will recognise as ratfucking (and remember, it isn’t the catfishing that should be the story, but the consciously cack-handed nature of such online chicanery, whereby getting caught out as quickly as possible perpetuates the narrative – or even better, has the narrative perpetuated for them, even if you preface your retweet with sarcasm or genuine anger).
Labour aren’t immune from heading down the partisan shithousery route. No political entity is – it’s the game they play. That said, the party’s general deportment has been of a very different hue to that of the goons in the blue rosettes. You know – that almost old-fashioned concept of having policies, upon which to fashion debate and thinking that may eventually lead to some kind of vote. The perceived radicalism of their manifesto may be a by-product of the post-Thatcherite neo-liberal momentum we’ve lost ourselves in – and maybe the sums don’t add up, either – but it does offer something that Labour have been genuinely scared of since the ‘80’s; a big dollop of Nye Bevan (kids – ask your great, great grandparents).
Fuck knows if it’ll get the electorate horny, though. Paternalism’s old hat, grandad; these days we have Tinder and jackfruit and massive, drawn-on eyebrows and Brexit. As I write there’s another TV election extravaganza on in the background – one that Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson are allowed to take part in – although this one is being chaired by Fiona Bruce, so I’m due on Twitter to rant at length about BBC bias, just like I do when watching Countryfile, Watchdog, Bergerac, Willo the Wisp, The Val Doonican Show and Bob’s Full House.
‘Daddy; why does the prime minster smell of untruth and stale, discarded spermatozoa?’ asked my four-month old daughter, named in honour of Jean-Claude Juncker, as we pretended to watch.
‘I wish I knew, Junker. I wish I knew.
‘Maybe it’s privilege, some form of hereditary deviancy, or possibly it’s a medical condition, one similar to the doomed, horny Duke, except that instead of having him unable to sweat, Johnson can’t stop manufacturing semen, and he has to have a roster of fluffers on-call – Dominic Rabb and Iain Duncan Smith, perhaps – in order to relieve the pressure. You can’t have his testicles exploding live on Question Time, after all.’
Junker considered my response dutifully. And then, remembering her age, she vomited and shat herself, simultaneously. I think I’ll let my soon-to-be deported Estonian nanny clean up the mess; I have an election to grow all angsty over.