If people remember only one line from Caroline Aherne’s comedy vehicle The Mrs Merton Show, which aired on the BBC during the mid-1990s, it was her aside to Paul Daniels’ much younger wife Debbie McGee: “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” That question could easily be re-worded and posed to whoever at the Independent decided on the paper’s political endorsement.
At least the Standard didn't pretend to be "Independent"
The paper, so long characterised by its advertising campaign proclaiming “The Independent … it is … are you?”, has recently seen its ownership pass to Evgeny Lebedev, along with the Evening Standard, London’s only surviving evening paper, which has already declared for the Tories, having previously garnered nicknames such as the London Daily Bozza for its slavish endorsement of the occasional Tory Mayor.
So what did the Indy have to tell us? In an editorial laughingly titled, considering what comes next, “In defence of liberal democracy”, readers are told “Only a legitimate government with a proper mandate and a commitment to the Union can prevent the fragmentation of our country”, which is another way of reassuring London-centric readers that those pesky Scots don’t really count.
A grim scenario is then painted: “A spectre is haunting Britain – the spectre of its own end … At stake is the very idea of majority government, the union with Scotland, and membership of the EU. In other words, British democracy itself … You wouldn't have guessed that from a data-driven, negative, and deeply uninspiring campaign”. Did the Indy only look in on the Tories, then? But do go on.
First the noble preamble: “The Independent was founded on the principle enshrined in its name. We honour that again today, by declaring that we belong to no party or faction … That is why we will not be telling you how to vote”. Then they tell you how to vote. “For all his talk of no deals with the SNP, Miliband is bound to rely on that party to get his legislative programme through”. So what would that entail, O Independent oracle?
“This would be a disaster for the country … how could Labour govern with authority? They could not. Any partnership between Labour and the SNP will harm Britain’s fragile democracy. For all its faults, another Lib-Con Coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence”.
And the final selling of the pass? You’ll love this one: “if the present Coalition is to get another chance, we hope it is much less conservative, and much more liberal”. If the Lib Dems lose half their seats, there is a not unadjacent to zero chance of that. This is where the logic gymnastics come apart and the Indy falls off the beam.
As today’s Mrs Merton might have asked, “So, Evgeny Lebedev, what attracted you to the non-dom retaining, 45% maximum Income Tax maintaining, mansion tax avoiding Tory Party being in control of the UK’s Government?”
In defence of Amol Rajan he has written a book on spin merchants (The TwirlyMen).
Perhaps all the research it for has led to him being tied in knots himself.
Or he's been bowled a wrong 'un and has followed the wrong line!
How sad. If frightening the old ladies is what the Indy has come down to, then it must be time for them to seek alternative office space.
And since when was our democracy fragile. You could accuse it of much - but not, I think, fragility.
And we don't yet know that labour would be bound to rely on the SNP. A possibility, sure - but not yet a certainty.
Who'd ever have thought that the Indy would become defeatist?
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