While Theresa May tries to convince the electorate that she can do more than merely stand there, engage rabbit autopilot and repeatedly declaim the phrase “Strong and stable leadership”, she can at least be reassured that the journalists among the Tory Party ranks will behave themselves and trot out the agreed line. But today has brought her the bad news that there are two non-trivial problems here.
One is that those journalists within the Tory fold are proving more hindrance than help: Michael “Oiky” Gove, his loyalty ensured by a generously sized bung from Don Rupioni, has fetched up on the Daily Politics, only to encounter in Labour’s Barry Gardiner one of those ghastly socialist chappies prepared to talk back. And London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson last night made a prize dick of himself after the Sky News an Channel 4 News debate (no surprise there, then).
The second problem potentially hindering the imperial progress of Empress Theresa is that there is now a Tory politician who has moved the other way - out of Government and into journalism. And it is a politician whom Theresa May not only sacked, but also, just for good measure, gratuitously insulted as she did so.
That would be the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, who has inexplicably been given the editor’s chair at London’s Evening Standard. Osborne may know very little about journalism, but he does know how to use the loaded weapon that is a mass market newspaper and direct it in such as way as to cause maximum discomfort to whoever is on the receiving end.
And today has seen a whole raft of incoming fire that Team Theresa would rather not have had to deal with. Londoner’s Diary has contributed “In at number two on the iTunes singles chart, just behind Justin Bieber, was a surprising entrant - a fearsome political anthem taking down Theresa May … Liar Liar GE2017, by the band Captain Ska, was only released on Friday but had quickly soared to second place by Monday”.
Might that help Jezza? Well, the article does say “Available for download at just 79p on the iTunes music store, Liar Liar GE2017 is truly for the many, not the few”. There is also plenty on that debate last night, including “when a midwife from Devon asked Mrs May how she could justify ‘chronic underfunding of the NHS’, the PM’s answer left one audience member unimpressed”. An audience member channelled his inner Roger Mellie and mouthed “that’s bollocks”. And there was more.
“She was jeered and heckled by audience members as she took questions from the public and Jeremy Paxman during a televised interview on Monday … One voter shouted ‘you’ve clearly failed’ when confronting her about protecting schools”. And the Standard’s editorial, most likely Osborne’s own work, chided Ms May for avoiding her most important issue.
That would be Brexit, the excuse she used for calling this election. “The result can be summed up by what we imagine to be the conversation around the breakfast table in Downing Street: ‘Honey, I shrunk the poll lead’”. Ouch!
George Osborne is relishing his ability to take revenge at will. But he has a point. And the Tories can ill afford to lose the Standard - or to look like the party is split.