You will doubtless think me naïve, but there was a time, when I was young (ie until I was about 30), when I assumed that politicians who were older than I and ran parties and governments had the wisdom that went with experience and could be be entrusted with such important matters. Even if I disagreed with their politics, I assumed they knew what they were doing, acted in good faith and that everything would turn out OK in the end. When I reached 45-50 it dawned on me that I was as smart as some of the people who stood as MPs and that I, as a journalist, sometimes knew more about certain matters than they appeared to do. I began to grow concerned that politicians, who controlled large aspects of my life, were doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons and could get millions of people into financial and other trouble by their thoughtless egotism. Things would no longer automatically be OK in the end and could, actually, go disastrously wrong. The worst examples of this for me are the periods under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan when this country pretty much went bankrupt and the decision to attack Iraq which has left the world with an, as yet, unsolvable global terrorism problem that may one day result in a nuclear war.
But my most immediate problem, even greater than global terrorism which I can shove to the back of my mind for the time being, is Miliband. I’m nearly 60 now and I’m damned if I see anything whatsoever in Miliband that commands the slightest respect. The thought that there are people out there who will find themselves capable of putting a cross next to Labour in the privacy of a polling booth, knowing that the man who will sanction any decision the party makes is a total buffoon, is utterly terrifying. He is clumsy in his delivery, especially for a politician, he is childishly petulant in his responses to Cameron at PMQs and he makes absurd mistakes in public by constantly saying the wrong things in front of cameras. But above all, he fails to convince me that he is any more capable of running Britain than I would be – and that, for me, is a huge problem – huge; to paraphrase Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. He cannot be stupid and yet he gives me every impression that he is. “I tend not to watch the news,” he told us yesterday as though he were some precious actor insisting they never read the critics in case something depressingly untoward is said about their performances. Too late, as always, he realised that in suggesting that his vanity is so fragile that he cannot bear to listen to anything that might feature him in the media glare of TV he was also admiting that he is seriously uninformed about current affairs. So he pretended that he was joking: “That will sound a little strange (sic). Look, I don’t tend to spend much time watching myself on TV. Obviously I do watch the news, but I tend not to shout at the screen.” I mean, honestly, how bad can it get? How stupid is this man? Talk about giving someone a shovel and then watching him dig! Blink and eye and Miliband’s through to Australia without a Tory is sight. I don’t know why Cameron even bothers. Mad Eddie does all the work for him.
And then there’s the way he either doesn’t know his facts, is incorrectly briefed or simply deliberately lies when it comes to trying to score political points against the Conservatives. He claimed in his debate that people are worse off under the coalition than they were in 2010 although the latest official Quarterly National Statistics make clear that households, taking low inflation and wages into account, are actually £900 better off per year than they were under Labour. He continues to claim the Conservatives will raise VAT and “carve up” the NHS despite Cameron stating that he will categorically not raise VAT and that his party has absolutely no plans to “carve up” (presumably this means privatize in plain English) the NHS.
The fact that this man stands the slightest chance of ever heading a Westminster Government is a frightening testimony to something I cannot begin to understand or quantify. But I suppose, in the end, history shows us that one should never overestimate the ability of the electorate to do the sensible thing.