...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 2432: Mr Balloon faces The Tribe


Ooh, Mr Balloon is on the telly. Whatever can HE be doing there? What’s that you say, Mr Stripy? ANOTHER relaunch? Isn’t that two in two weeks? WHAT a ridiculous repeat offender he is!

This was like that new BBC Two show where Mr Balloon goes into the wilderness and faces a week of trials from a TRIBE of PYGMIES from the Newsnight Show. He tries to bribe them with SHINY BEADS and they stick him with pins coated in POISON FROG JUICE.

I just have enough time to tell you about his six IMPOSSIBLE POLICY POSITIONS before breakfast…

Immigration: too many people coming to Britain at the start of the Labour’s decade in office (Mr Balloon blames asylum seekers); too many people at the end of the Labour’s decade in office (Mr Balloon blames economic migrants). Would he send those people back? Er, no.

Iraq: he voted with the government on the invasion, was that right? Well, we have to learn the lessons of the mistakes that were made. Would he pull the troops out now? Setting a date would be quite wrong and just encourage them! So… still supporting the government’s exact position then. What lessons HAVE you learned from Iraq, Mr Balloon? (As no one asked.)

Human Rights: he wants to abolish the Human Rights Act because it means we “cannot deport people” (he means Mr Lawrence’s murderer) and we cannot control prisoners (or is that because the Prison Officers Association is on strike because they get too little money to guard too MANY prisoners?). So… WHICH Human Rights in the European Declaration of Human Rights do you want to drop, Mr Balloon? ? (As no one asked.)

ALSO, the snag is: derogating from the ECHR disqualifies us from membership of the European Union (as none of the interviewers pointed out). You DID know that didn’t you, Mr Balloon?

Europe: he wants to stay in (though see above). BUT he wants to be able to vary domestic social policy in order to gain short-term economic advantage. So… you don’t believe in the free market, then, Mr Balloon? (As no one asked.)

Tax: abolition of Inheritance Tax will only benefit the richest six percent of the population. How is this “sharing the proceeds of growth”? Are you only going to share them with those who are rich already? “Er

ALSO: doesn’t this flatly contradict your paean to the American Dream, that the very poorest can make it to the top? Not if the Balloon’s of this world start with an inherited leg up, they can’t – a legacy up, you might say. No?

Green Taxes: Mr Michael Crick had him at this point, if he’d but had the wit to spot it. Two “yes/no” questions. Question One: will you raise taxes on flying? “YES.” Question Two: will you stop airports expanding? “NO… air travel has got to grow… and blah and blah and very much more blah.

So… if you are NOT trying to cut flying (with its high carbon emissions) then what ARE your green taxes for, Mr Balloon? (As no one asked.)

Overall, though, the format played to Mr Balloon’s STRENGTHS: having four “nasty” BBC journalists GANGING UP on him allow him to play “Poor Brave Bullied Dave”. But actually the advantage is with him, as with each of them GAGGING to take over the questioning from the others they ruined each other’s chances of follow up. Instead of meshing into a concerted inquiry, with them all following their own pre-prepared agenda they took none of the opportunities to pick his answers apart, letting him hopscotch all over the place.

He is a PAST MASTER of the non-answer answer. For example, he was asked: “Mr Vague, Auntie Maude, Mr Oily Letwin, all your front bench are MOONLIGHTING in lucrative second (and third and fourth) jobs… why have you appointed this bunch of DILETTANTES?” His response: “I’ve appointed these people because THESE are the people I’ve appointed!” And THAT told them!

Having said that, as Daddy Alex first noticed, Mr Balloon REALLY cannot cope with female ladies of the opposite gender. Faced with a very senior economist and self-confessed single mother, he leans forward ready to pat her knee and you can all but see the words “don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, my dear,” forming in the atrium of his Etonian brain. At the last POSSIBLE second he recognises the glint in her eye of “patronise me and I’ll shove your silver spoon so far up that you’ll think you’re being born again!” Which leaves him dribbling something about the government bunging people two tenners as a bribe to stay married not because it would work but because it “sends a message”.

The Newsnight Show’s Tribe of interviewers allowed Mr Balloon to pull the wool over their eyes – or rather, given the quality of his answers – to pull the THIN FLANNEL over their eyes. But he could not disguise the fact that his bold new policy direction is… EXACTLY the same as Mr Something of the Night’s “new policy direction” Mr Iain Drunken Swerve’s “new policy direction” and Mr Vague’s “new policy direction”.

Construct a popular phrase or saying out of the following words, not necessarily in this order: “Strategy” “Vote” “Core”.

Personally, I think we’d have been better informed if they’d allowed Sir Mr the Merciless to cross-examine him. I do not think Sir M would have let him off the FROG JUICE POISONED hook so easily!

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