Things are steadily going from bad to worse for the Tory campaign in the Eastleigh by-election, and yesterday they confirmed their suitability for a Team Shambles award as their most memorable moments were Young Dave having a shouty tantrum at the BBC and the Party’s vice-Chairman making an oral sex joke when he should really have had his mind on higher things (as it were).
And, while all that was going on, the bookies reported that the chance of Maria Hutchings winning next Thursday’s contest had sunk to around 20%, with the number of bets on a Tory victory effectively drying up. That might have not been unconnected to the morning’s Radio 5 Live hustings, when, despite having been given eight days’ notice, Ms Hutchings failed to turn up.
While George Hollingberry, who represents the adjacent seat of Meon Valley, sat in for the Tories, the audience booed Ms Hutchings’ name and both Labour and Lib Dems made hay at her absence. Then came the spin: she was hosting Cameron at a nearby factory. But she had not cancelled until the previous day, and could have done the hustings and still made the meeting.
So the spin fell apart. This led to a BBC reporter questioning Young Dave, who went into full scale wobbler mode, blaming the hated Corporation for spoiling his jolly good appearance in the constituency. Cameron might have been better advised to devote more of his bollocking skills to vice-Chairman Michael Fabricant, whose tendency to levity backfired twice during the day.
Firstly, he observed Lib Dem minister Vince Cable with his hat pulled down while touring the constituency and said he “looked like a war criminal” (laugh? I thought I’d never start), and then to no prompting at all Tweeted “Great questions of our time: Why is it not called a ‘Suck Job’?”. And a word in your shell-like, Mike: that Avatar looks amateurish. You’re supposed to be a serious politician.
But Fabricant can hardly be singled out when he is deputy to Grant “Spiv” Shapps, a conflation of Joe Walker, Flash Harry and Arthur Daley, but without the laughs. And trying to play the “look at all those Polish immigrants down the road in Southampton” card – hello, Lynton Crosby, I’m looking at you – just makes the Tories look like a cheap imitation of UKIP.
Every prediction – including those from within the Tory Party – is that the Lib Dems will retain this seat next week. So those peddling right-wing fantasy, like the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), talking of Chris Huhne being “so widely disliked here” (he wasn’t, Quent, why do you think he added 3,000 to his majority in 2010?), should get real and tell their readers the truth.
Perhaps the Tories will also tell themselves the truth, painful though it might be.