On days like these, every prime minister needs his useful idiots. The morning after the local elections is a time for twattery as all parties try to make sense of the results and give them the best possible spin, so any sensible MP makes sure to steer clear of the airwaves.
Unless, like the unknown – even to himself – Tory MP for Ruislip, David Simmonds, you’re using the opportunity to call for your leader to go over Partygate. Though once he’d sensed his was a lone voice and that others were biding their time for now, he rather rowed back. He just wanted Boris Johnson to rethink his priorities. Of course he did. So brave. We won’t be hearing from him again.
But the Convict could be grateful for Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden, who toured the studios as a double act, Dumb and Dumber, giving a second-rate impersonation of what they imagined to be the authentic, official voice of Her Majesty’s government.
Jenrick isn’t even in the cabinet. He had been, of course, but Johnson had realised he was too rubbish even to make it into his cabinet of the talentless. Imagine being that crap. But Jenrick isn’t one to let his no-mark status bother him, in that he’s the heir apparent to the needy Matt Hancock, so he’ll do or say anything to curry favour with the boss class.
So Jenrick’s take on the results was unsurprisingly chipper. Everything was going wholly to plan. Couldn’t see what the fuss was. The Tories might have been in meltdown in London, but elsewhere everything was just tickety-boo, all things considered. Which, of course, he hadn’t considered.
He was also happy to relate that he had been shopping at the 24-hour Asda in Newark at 5am. The Asda later confirmed it wasn’t open round the clock and that any shoppers turning up in the middle of the night would have to come armed with a jemmy, ready to break in. So where Honest Bob had been at 5am was anyone’s guess.
Dowden has ample form on the moron-meter. Back in the day, before he became an MP, he worked in David Cameron’s planning unit, where his most telling contribution was to admit he had been taken by surprise by unforeseen events. He had one job … But as co-chair of the Tory party, and being more or less responsible for the Conservatives’ election campaign, he was rather obliged to front up the results.
Some councils had been challenging, he said, but it wasn’t looking as if Labour had done enough to win a general election. On the Today programme, Nick Robinson was for once reduced to silence. He hadn’t realised it was the job of the Tories to run Labour’s campaign.
On LBC, Nick Ferrari asked Dowden what had gone wrong and what had come up on the doorstep for Tory canvassers. Dumber ummed and aahed. No one had mentioned parties. Not one. Amazing, that. Though if they had done, it would have been to ask why they hadn’t been invited. No, what had come up most was the sheer abundance of new Brexit opportunities.
Why, only the previous day the UK had relaxed its red tape so we could import radioactive vegetables from Fukushima. Don’t remember that on the Vote Leave bus.
Still, none of this was quite so catatonically stupid as the unnamed Tory source who told one reporter that it was just as well the Conservatives had been wiped out in London, as the rest of the country couldn’t stand snooty metropolitan elites. Brilliant. The way to win elections is to lose them. Dialectical stupidism. Plus it’s a top look to appear totally unaware that London is home to some of the most deprived communities in the country.
Just before lunch, the Convict came out of hiding, looking as if he had been dragged through a local park. He’s looking beyond rough these days. An insult not just to himself but the entire country. He, too, conceded that some results hadn’t gone entirely to plan, but that overall he was ecstatic about the situation.
Everything pointed to voters recognising that the Tories were getting on with governing and had got all the big calls right. God knows what deep shit we’d be in if they’d got them wrong. Inflation at 10%, energy prices rocketing, a cost of living crisis and taxes and interest rates rising. Yesterday’s Bank of England forecast terrified most economists. Johnson seems to take it as a ray of sunshine.
While Momentum chose to rubbish Labour’s results – “What do we want? More antisemitism” – Keir Starmer turned up in north London to celebrate the victory in Barnet, as well as those in Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Cumberland and Southampton. “This is a big turning point,” he said, as he tried to lead his supporters in a triumphant rally. But it all felt a little awkward. Starmer is not a natural demagogue.
Which made it all the more ironic that later in the day, Durham constabulary announced that it was going to reinvestigate Beergate. Someone less likely to have knowingly broken the rules, it’s hard to imagine. And if he does get fined, he’d probably feel obliged to do the honourable thing and resign. Unlike the Convict, who’d still deny any wrongdoing even if he was caught waist-deep in cocaine, tequila shots and fixed-penalty notices.
The real takeaway from the results was that the Tories had done badly and Labour hadn’t done as well as they hoped. But neither party could bring themselves to admit that. Still, the Lib Dems and the Greens had probably exceeded their expectations. And if the most likely extrapolation was that Labour was heading for a minority government with the Lib Dems, then most of us could settle for that.
It was better than most might have expected when the Convict won an 80-seat majority just two and a half years ago. For the Tories, Things Can Only Get Worse.