The world-weary member of the Government, knowing that they're going to lose and just going through the motions; the smug Opposition candidate, so certain that they are entitled to walk into office and so clearly demonstrating their unfitness to do so, with all the same old, tired, prepared lines that just ring false; and the Liberal Democrat who's a star.
Yes, it's the 1997 Stevenage Election Debate between doomed Conservatory Mr Tim Wood; power-dressing Hard Labour wannabe Mrs Barbie wife-of-the-millionaire-author-Ken Follet; and Daddy Alex!
Well, they do say History repeats itself, first in the Grauniad, then on Channel Four.
Okay, okay, it was "Ask the Chancellors" on the telly, staring Mr Dr Vince "the Power" Cable, Sooty, Mr Frown's Glove Puppet, and someone who claims that Mr Balloon knows him.
That "someone" turned out to be Master Gideon "I've seen people do being the Chancellor so I could do it" Oboe – so called because he is wooden and windy. Presumably the young millionaire baronet would be confident that we could show him some footage of parachuting and then push him out of a plane!
In fact, most of the Conservatory coverage following the debate has been along the lines of: "Master Oboe did not actually come on stage and drop his trousers – what a magnificent triumph this is!"
Is it just me, or can we not aspire to MORE from the Shadow Chancer than passing the "barely competent" test?
After all, what kind of person can declare their "top priority" for Government to be a policy THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE YESTERDAY?
Remarking on Master Oboe's unexpected conversion to cutting taxes instead of reducing the deficit, Mr Michael Thick on the Newsnight Show said what a TERRIBLE SHAME it was that two big economic developments had occurred on the same day – like it was some kind of FLUKE that the Conservatories JUST HAPPENED to make this U-Turn mere hours before he was to go up against the grown-ups.
As Miss Piggy says in "The Great Muppet Caper" when the very transport she requires just happens to literally fall off the back of a passing lorry:
"What an UNBELIEVABLE coincidence!"Quite obviously, Master Gideon had been prompted to make this announcement to make it LOOK like the Conservatories had something up their sleeve to reply to the Liberal Democrat policy of cutting taxes for millions by raising the basic allowance to £10,000.
Not that "not raising your taxes in a year paid for by cuts now" REALLY compares to "an immediate £700 a year back, NOW when the economy needs it to get growth started again".
(And I know it's a fiddly detail, but it's a further COMPLICATING of the tax system because he'd STILL be introducing an extra 1p on NI (EACH for employer and employee) on incomes above a certain level, effectively making another NI band. Remember: the SIMPLER the tax system, the FAIRER the tax system, as it is EASIER for the taxpayer to UNDERSTAND.)
Pulling this "rabbit-out-of-the-hat" trick of an announcement is yet another in a series of WILD and UNPREDICTABLE swings in Conservatory economic policy: first it's the age of austerity, then they're guaranteeing to match Hard Labour spending; first cuts are going to have to be faster and deeper, then they're not; last week, efficiency savings are fiction, this week they're the pot of pixie gold at the end of Mr Oboe's rainbow; cut the deficit first; no, cut taxes first!
It's becoming HORRIBLY OBVIOUS that the Conservatories DON'T HAVE ANY ECONOMIC POLICY AT ALL!
They're just desperately rummaging around for anything that they think might look good on an airbrushed poster!
Last week, someone – I think it might have been Mr Paxo on the Newsnight Show after the budget – asked why, after the implosion of the Credit Crunch and the Longest Recession in History™, are Hard Labour warming up to fight on the economy?
If they DON'T, then they SURRENDER that territory to the Conservatories!
What is surely far more ASTONISHING, is just how UNPREPARED the Conservatories are to fight them there.
Remember, this is a Hard Labour Government that has just delivered a budget including such gems as saving a half a billion pounds by people in the NHS being less poorly. Presumably, this means Lord Blairimort's return to front-line British politics is to be accompanied by him curing the lame and dying through the laying on of hands (fee: negotiable).
Because while Mr Oboe may be groping for the first clue about how to run the economy, Chancellor Sooty seems to have given up even trying.
You could see it in his eyes, really. The despair.
Take this business about the "Death Tax".
The Conservatories are WIDE OPEN here. "Death Tax", they say over and over. "Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax!" And yet, the Conservatories themselves have almost the same policy – they AGREE about charging for care for the elderly; they ONLY disagree about TIMING!
The policy that they label a "Death Tax" is the possibility that Hard Labour might – just might – increase care for the elderly paid for by introducing a twenty thousand pound exit charge. Yup, you get free care till you die, at which point you are charged for it.
The Conservatories policy is the ENTIRELY different policy of charging you eight thousand pounds on retirement. Yes, you pay UP FRONT. Even if you DON'T end up needing care in your old age. The Conservatories call this "Insurance" but if they're going to keep saying "Death Tax" then I'm going to have to start calling it the "Good as Dead Tax"!
Conservatory Shadow Death Secretary, Mr Angela Lansbury, explained it all on the The Today Programme:
"one in five will need residential care in old age, costing on average fifty thousand pounds over two years. So, so long as all five in five pay their eight thousand then that'll pay for itself! Hang on five times eight only makes forty… let's just remember that Hard Labour want to tax DEATH!"
So, look, to even just barely make SENSE the Conservatories would have to chare TEN thousand pounds each, not EIGHT. But TEN thousand is a number which sounds too much like the Hard Labour charge of TWENTY thousand and would reveal the SIMILARITY.
Yes, Hard Labour and Conservatory Parties in practically indistinguishable complete non-shock!
But does Chancellor Sooty point out that Master Gideon is being a noisome TWIT, copycatting the tactics of American Replutocrats by putting a SCARY NAME on a policy that he barely disagrees with just to FRIGHTEN voters into voting Conservatory when they'll end up with much the same?
The exhausted glove puppet lets slip one of his trade mark confessions and admits that Hard Labour are going to chicken out of the policy because they're too scared to take on the snivelling little shouty-boy's half-baked argument!
It is really too much effort to crush him like one of his own pimples? For this end-of-the-line Hard Labour Government, apparently so.
He just waits to hand over to BUGGINS TURN in the knowledge that not a lot will change and no doubt he'll get a very nice retirement, perhaps on the board of one of these Banks Wot We Own.
At this point, do I REALLY need to point out just WHY Mr Dr Vince was universally seen as winning the debate?
(Oh yes, UNIVERSALLY – do you think those Conservatories would be SQUEALING about "Lib Dems stuffing the audience" if they didn't know, KNOW that our guy came in WAY ahead?)
That phrase of Mr Vince's, "Pinstripe Scargills", PERFECTLY sums up how Hard Labour and the Conservatories like the pigs and the farmers at the end of Animal Farm, have become indistinguishable.
As Mr Vince said himself in his closing remarks: the Liberal Democrats are DIFFERENT, not beholden to EITHER the Pinstipe vested interst in the City, NOR the Scargill vested interest in the Unions.
"We believe in a change of Government, but a REAL CHANGE!"
You CAN do better than Mr Frown's puppet or Mr Balloon's weakest link. You CAN have Mr Vince as Chancellor. You just have to VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT!