The latest twist in what is becoming known as Bingogate is the revelation that the infographic describing “hardworking people” as “they” was not really the work of Tory Party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps, but was somehow forced on to the poor dear. There are even stories circulating that Shapps is for the chop over the affair. But all that this does is show what a shambles the Party has become.
Oh look, someone selling dodgy motahs
How it looked - (c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
The two narratives now going the rounds are, first, that Shapps was not, in fact, the one wot done it, and second, that he’s going to get the sack anyway, to be replaced with someone who may be even more utterly useless. Both have serious credibility hurdles to overcome, not least because those narratives cannot both be true. But let’s start with the “blameless Grant” angle.
This has been put forward by Iain Martin, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, writing in the Telegraph, who tells readers “Eyes down ... how Osborne dodged blame for bingo gaffe ... George Osborne, the Chancellor, signed off and was 'enthusiastic' about the Tories' controversial post-Budget bingo poster”. Here, it was the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, who done it.
“A small team of staffers from Tory headquarters was allowed into the Treasury to work with the Chancellor’s aides on devising political messages aimed at promoting the Budget ... With the concept and wording agreed the advert was signed off by the Chancellor as well as by Lynton Crosby, the Tory’s [sic] election strategist, and by Stephen Gilbert, the Prime Minister’s political secretary” he told.
But, as Martin concedes, “That evening, Mr Shapps tweeted the advert to his followers on the social networking site Twitter and encouraged them to ‘spread the word’”. Hardly the action of someone acting under duress. So what of the second narrative? This has come from Breitbart London, and so should be treated as highly suspect unless confirmed. It says Shapps is for the high jump.
The Breitbart line is that “no one person was responsible” for Bingogate, though “Shapps bore final responsibility”. The one to blame was now Robert Halfon, the populist MP for Harlow, but here a problem enters: Halfon is a mere back-bencher, and the idea that he can impose his ideas on the Party leadership is fanciful. Worse, the names touted as Shapps’ replacement are hardly credible.
The two names in the Breitbart frame are Chris Grayling – er, no, basically – and Esther McVey, which would transfer the Party chairman’s job from a spiv to an I-Speak-Your-Weight machine. And, of course, both explanations cannot be wholly true. Meanwhile, there is a poll bounce for the Tories, but the impression that the Party is out of touch may soon do away with that.
And the lack of candour over Bingogate just makes them look shifty. Once more.