Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Seeing Double

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Seeing Double

Article excerpt

To no one's surprise, least of all mine as I was the first person to elucidate it, our great party has been hit slap between the eyes with the Ant and Dec conundrum. In short, you can have Ant without Dec or Dec without Ant but put them together and you risk the voters seeing double. When things are going well this is not a problem because you cannot have too much of a good thing. When things falter, however, there is precious little room for manoeuvre. If Ant makes a thorough going arse of himself on holiday then everyone blames Ant and Dec, for they are indistinguishable in the public eye.

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When the supposed dream ticket was first envisaged it was I--alongside, of all allies, John Selwyn Gummer--who first elucidated this nightmare ending. The people in marketing, not for the first time, pooh-poohed Gummer, crudely supposing that, in Cameron and Osborne, we had hit upon our very own Blair and Brown, not realising that it was their differences that made the Scotchmen special. If you didn't care for the glib barrister you could pitch your camp with the glum son of the manse. In contrast, we offered up more of the same: either a Bullingdon Bertie or another Bullingdon Bertie.

Of course, you could not wish to meet two more different members of the Buller, but this distinction tends to be lost on the general populace. Bullingdon membership happens naturally or it does not happen at all. You no more aspire to be a member than you aspire to be Prime Minister; something that Osborne, for all his day-boy cleverness, has simply failed to comprehend.

He thought if he could only oil and palm-grease his way into the Club he would be accepted, little realising that the upper classes reserve a particular hatred for those who strive to be one of them. He is now the object of that loathing; never more so than when, as the Observer elegantly put it, "Rothschild pushed the button on his computer marked 'revenge'". …

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