This week, that part of the Fourth Estate that cheers for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps has, as if by magic, come together to concentrate its fire on Corporal Clegg – just in time for the second Leaders’ Debate. And, for Danny Alexander, Clegg’s election coordinator, the timing is more than fortunate coincidence: he appears to be of the opinion that the Tories have been, if not directing the attacks, at least egging on the participants.
So Alexander has called on the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, to “come clean” on his involvement with the slew of negative stories. Fat chance. Osborne had met with a number of political editors earlier in the week, but all that has been admitted is that he was discussing the Tories’ response to Clegg’s increased popularity.
Osborne has not yet had to face serious interrogation over his role, the long straw going to Fat Eric and “Oiky” Gove, who were wanting to go after Pa Broon for a series of leaflets accusing the Tories of intending to cut benefits to pensioners. This pair of Laurel and Hardy lookalikes, whom I would not trust any further than I could chuck them, bodyswerved much of the criticism and suggested that the anti-Clegg stories were merely evidence of the press subjecting politicians to routine scrutiny.
Well, one of the stories – that in the Maily Telegraph – which suggested that Clegg receiving money into his personal bank account which was then used to pay a member of staff might not have been totally above board has been thoroughly debunked. It emerged that the staffer concerned was paid more by Clegg than those monies received. However, Danny Alexander might find the Twitter feed of one Donal Blaney, CEO of the Young Britons’ Foundation, interesting: Blaney has made a number of perhaps too knowing comments about Clegg’s probity that he might not like directing at himself (or enjoying wider publication).
Ultimately, though, what do all the anti-Clegg stories in the press, together with Tory cheerleaders’ blog posts and tweets, reveal, other than a desperate effort to re-impose the status quo? Their man isn’t out in front, the electorate are suggesting a result they don’t want, and opinion is not being swayed by a load of cheap scare stories.Perhaps the Tories could listen more to the analysis of their own party chairman: Fat Eric said of the papers running the anti-Clegg line that they were “read by grown-ups who make their own minds up”. Yes Eric, and right now that includes rather a lot of grown-ups who don’t want what you’re selling.