All that money, all the fawning press coverage, and all the enthusiasm of all those party activists, and Young Dave still couldn’t get the Tories over the win line. The spin – fatuously making comparisons with 1931, which was sold to the electorate as a National Government and not a purely Tory one – cannot mask the single fact that they came up short.
And it is becoming clear that some of that effort was misdirected in the forlorn hope of producing a “Portillo Moment”: the idea of claiming the scalp of someone of such seniority in the Labour Party that it would echo the toppling of Michael Portillo from his perch in Enfield Southgate in 1997. The target for far too much Tory resource was Pa Broon’s confidante “Auguste” Balls.
Thus everything was thrown at the outgoing schools secretary. And it didn’t work. The Balls majority may have been down to 1100 or so, but it was still a majority. The tactics failed to produce their intended moment, and some of those tactics were pretty low, even by Tory standards: a video was circulated supposedly showing Balls in a Wehrmacht uniform, in a crude smear attempt.
And who was behind this waste of time, effort and money? Step forward the routinely clueless Paul Staines, who blogs under the name of Guido Fawkes. Staines’ role in the “attack advert” (the nice way of saying “personal smear”) came courtesy of the Sunlight Centre For Open Politics, which is supposed to be about increasing the transparency of the political process.
Instead, it seems that the Sunlight Centre is being used as a front for Tory cheerleaders: apart from Staines, its luminaries also include Henry Cole, otherwise known as blogger Tory Bear. And all that their “attack advert” has gained them is the wider knowledge of their partiality, along with the realisation that they have sprayed an awful lot of money up the wall to no purpose.Which begs the question: if the resources thrown at trying to unseat “Auguste” Balls had been better targeted, might Young Dave now have rather more than 306 MPs? As with so much in the election campaign, there is no-one else for the Tories and their cheerleaders to blame but themselves.