Election 2015: Day 13
The kids are alright
Today was the day politicians decided to engage the kids and it went badly wrong. The UK’s sons and daughters were in no mood to be trifled with; they had just had trifle for lunch and they were super pissed at the news that E4 was going to close on May 7th to encourage them to get out and vote.
“You can’t win anything with kids,” that was Alan Hansen’s famous review of Man U’s chances in the hyper-competitive Premier League. Of course like most things he said he was proven wrong and Alex Ferguson’s young stars romped home to a huge working majority in that particular election. But the truth at the heart of this aphorism is also quite applicable to the General Election race. You can’t win an election with kids.
Kids are a dangerous unknown quantity who don’t play by the rules and might just throw a Tamagochi hand grenade right into the middle of your well planned photo opportunity. The little blighters can’t even vote, they’re practically subhuman. This is especially true of kids of the primary school variety. These jam covered little idiots don’t have much life experience to call on, so they don’t understand the cultural legitimacy of two grey men in suits coming to disrupt their finger painting while a group 15 other grownups take pictures. It might be crucial to the democratic process but try telling little Tarquin that. To him it’s just an unwanted interruption before story time and if he gets the chance he is dangerously likely to call bullshit on the whole caper. We've already seen a kid literally slam her face into the table when Cameron tried to talk policy and another tell Tristam Hunt, the Labour politician with the Tory name, that he was going to vote UKIP.
Slightly older kids are even harder to predict. When a politician approaches a ‘yoof’ in he has no idea which tribe he is going to get. Worst of all is one of those politically engaged 6th form militants who just fished the Spark Notes for The Constitution of Liberty by Hayek and wants to give you a lecture on political theory. More likely and still difficult to handle is the apathetic teenager who thinks GDP is a legal high and is too busy listening to illegally downloaded grimecore and sexting to give a toss about politics.
The thing all child tribes have in common is an astonishing ability to make politicians look stupid. We saw how quickly Cameron gave up on hugging hoodies when he realised they were all bastards.
So the risks are obvious. Despite the potential for humiliation and mockery politicians know they need to show the can relate to the kids. Why? Exhaustive pollster analysis has shown that the majority voters used to be children themselves. If you can’t at least engage 11 year old on a human level what chance do you have with a voter with the intelligence of a 10 year old?
Last time Boris and Dave were in school together they romped around town smashing up restaurants and burning cars. Today they are arguably the two most powerful Conservative politicians in the country. Go figure.
Today they wheeled into a nursery to try and look like they don’t hate each other. To make sure no one could see the gritted teeth all the journalists were kept behind a rope a safe distance from the PM and the Mayor of London.
The whole idea about the ‘political walkabout’ is for politicians to meet voters and get some real opinions right in their faces. Sadly it does not work like this any more. “Walkabouts’ are essentially highly controlled photoshoots. If politicians are not actually meeting anyone or saying anything new, then what is the point of all this? Never mind that, don’t ask questions, and ohhhh, look, it’s Boris, the funny one!”
Inside the school the small list of tame journalists were treated to the bizarre scene of Boris and Dave squatting on kid size furniture to do jigsaw puzzles and finger painting. Without a shadow of a doubt they both looked like idiots so maybe that’s the point. At least the Boris had a few decent jokes.
So Dave got schooled by Boris in art class, just like at Oxford. In the PM’s defence he already had his mind on the algebra part of his homework. And he had been working really hard on it.
Later in the day, in an interview with The Spectator Cameron unveiled his own algebraic formula for successful government. This was done with relatively little fanfare considering he has basically solved politics, so I’m including this long quote in full
That tells you that [Labour] have got lots of dreams but they have got no plans. Now I accept plan versus dream makes you sometimes the boring one but I think the vast majority of the British people know that plan plus carrying out a plan equals dream. Dream plus rhetoric equals chaos.
‘Plan plus carrying out a plan equals dream. Dream plus rhetoric equals chaos.’ There are so many holes in this I don’t know where to start. It’s either the maddest thing ever said by a sitting PM or a truly brilliant piece of political theory. Either it was so nonsensical that if a mad vagrant outside the bus station screamed it you would consider calling a mental health charity to come and see he was OK.
While all this was going on a rather bizarre and unexpected turnaround was happening for Hunky (nee Creepy) Ed Miliband. Young people were starting to warm to him. It all started with the ‘Cool Ed Miliband’ Tumblr page which was so obviously set up by a Labour staffer in their early 30s. Surprisingly it actually gained some traction in the news cycle with real human young people taking quite a liking to it. And good for Ed, its always nice to see your own face photoshopped onto Poldark’s torso when you are used to being called a geeky communist freak show.
The first thing to say about this story is that if you even know what Tumblr is you’re already part of Farage’s disgusting ‘metropolitan elite’. We’ve already heard more than enough from you and your wine drinking ilk. Let’s be straight, Middle England does not give a shit about Tumblr blogs of Ed Miliband. No one changes their vote because of something like this.
If you already think that when Miliband becomes PM he is going to bang Nicola Sturgeon in the Queen’s bed then burn all the UK’s money on a Marxist bonfire then a few pictures of him looking like James Dean isn't going to change your mind.
If they really wanted to swing the results in rural England they should have put a picture of Ed looking cool onto one of those cardboard hangers covered with packets of peanuts.
If someone had tried this cool Ed business a few months ago they would have been laughed out of town. But we live in a brave new world when a girl who declares her love for Ed using the hashtag #Milifandom gets 11,000 retweets. Is Ed cool? I’m not sure, but he is certainly less crushingly uncool than he was.
So what’s behind this new phenomenon? Basically real life Ed could never be as bad as the caricature we've been presented with. The right wing press have spent years telling us that every time Miliband comes out of the house he stabs a bacon sandwich in the back, eats his own shoe then falls down a hole. Up against this Ed was always going to be able to impress, moderately. In reality he has only eaten two shoes during the campaign and both incidents were off camera. One bacon sandwich stabbing remains unsolved.
One guy who was not so lucky with their interactions with the kids was Ed Balls, who has had a quiet campaign so far. Balls was at a nursery school and was having a nice old time hanging out with the mums and babies.
‘These guys aren't interested in my deficit reduction plan’ thought Ed, perfect time to drop my excellent duck impression.’ And that is what he did, and it was predictably awful. At least he tried. No one can reasonably hit him with a piece of negative press based on that, can they? Duck impressions do not correlate to economic competence.
He must not have counted on The Sun who have been told by their boss Mecha-Murdoch to be “much more aggressive” in its attacks on farm yard animal impressions by the Labour high command. Bad Duck impression? Release the hounds!
“Is this the way to win votes?” asked the outraged Sun. The reporter told readers that:
“one mother drew her baby away in horror while the children at the table watched on with confusion splashed across their faces.”
Sounds awful, judge for yourself:
Of course ducks, hashtags and jigsaws are stupid storm in a tea cup distractions, but nevertheless, it that showed the younger E4 watching generation are at least waking up to this General Election. That’s no surprise, teenagers always sleep late, it’s an eternal truth. But now the kids are awake, they've had a bump of Meow Meow and a Pop Tart and they want to talk politics.
And who was unlucky enough to blunder unexpectedly into their line of fire? None other than the big dog himself, CEO of UK PLC Dish Face Dave.
We all know Dave and his team have put a huge amount of time and thought into avoiding any debate or media event when he can be called out and challenged on his record . And he would have gotten away with it but for one fateful mistake. He agreed to feature on a Newsbeat Radio 1 debate.
He probably thought he was in for an easy ride. Of course we know he thought he was in for an easy ride or his people wouldn't have agreed to it. Couple of easy questions then, drop some well rehearsed anecdotes left over from the Heat Magazine interview and he’s out of there.
Instead he got absolutely savaged. Cam has never been through a barracking like that since he had to fag for Portillo at Eton. Not even Paxman compares to the unfiltered rage of Radio 1‘s politically aware listeners. These guys knew their shit and they wanted Cameron to smell it.
The first problem was that these youngsters had not been schooled in the political process of letting a politician finish a lie before disagreeing. They cut him off, they shouted over him, they called him a liar. It was brutal. The first question is from a girl who spent a year on the streets and was laughed out of the council support centre. Understandably she blames Dave for his government’s cuts to key support services. Cam flounders like a drunk octopus and it all goes down hill from there.
The whole thing was made even more compelling by the fact that it took place in a tiny studio with a jacketless Dave face to face with the youth. And who ever the Radio 1 presenter in charge is, Dimbleby he is not. This guy is clearly a left wing firebrand whose mind has been twisted into permanent fury by a career of replaying Nikki Minaj and McBusted to nine year olds.
Perched on a little bar stool only feet from the PM, he knows this is a once in a life time opportunity and he let fly accordingly. He interrupts Cameron so much the PM actually has to call him on it, he uses the audience questions as a foil to launch into all kinds of attacks. When the questions are personal, as many of them are, he attacks Dave for talking about macro issues, when its about a personal issue he attacks him for focusing on individual examples.
The BBC despising press quickly hatched a plan to have him strung up outside of television centre. It took a day longer than usual for the video to come onto I player, which I think was probably the result of the forces of darkness demanding the BBC destroy the tape. But they did’nt so you can share in Cameron’s discomfort.
The Telegraph led calls for an inquiry into the BBC loading the audience with ‘left wing plants’. WTF? These are children! Surely our PM should be able to engage with them and swing their views? Is a bunch of left wing kids really cause for a period of national examination? The furore of the press at perceived unfair treatment of Cameron is truly hysterical when it appears on a page facing more news of Miliband’s weirdness and endless partisan scare mongering about anything the press don’t like from the EU to non-dom tax status. But that’s just our media.
So that was a day with the youth that left our politicians bruised, confused and wondering what FML meant. After Dave’s experience today keeping people behind a rope won’t be enough.
I’d be surprised he even comes within a hundred feet of a wild young person for the rest of the campaign. And if the Tories win the host will be shipped out to the BBC world Service office in North Korea and Radio 1 will be shut down. So every cloud has a silver lining.
IS this the way to win votes? asked the outraged Sun? describing the scence the reporter told readers thatOne mother drew her baby away in horror while the children at the table watched on with confusion splashed across their faces.
All this is storm in a tea cup stuff, but nevertheless, it that showed the younger E4 watching generation are at least waking up to this general election. And that’s no surprise, teenagers always sleep late, it’s an eternal truth. But now the kids are awake, they've had a bump of Meow Meow and a Pop Tart and they want to talk politics. Pol
because a) the leader of the nation deserves to be heard and b) it is so nonsensical that if a mad tramp outside the bus station screamed it at you you would probably seriously consider calling a mental health charity to come and see he was OK.