Yes, dear readers, I was re-elected by a landslide, on an admittedly low turnout, as the academic member of the Board of Governors. In return for my muted protests against the corporatisation of higher education, I get the key to the velvet-padded Executive Conveniences and a prime seat on the Juggernaut of Educational Decline.*
(This space is reserved for an illustrative clip from The Simpsons' 'Homer and Delilah' if one ever turns up)
In return, the Executive and my fellow governors receive my patented blend of cosseted idealism and weary sarcasm, with which they cope with considerable grace and forbearance.
Having triumphed as a Tribune of the People once more, do I have any advice to proffer my Westminster colleagues? Well as it happens, I do!
Firstly: accept that the closer you get to Power, the further away you are. Was it Yes Minister which described the levers of government as made of rubber? Decisions are either made in an inner sanctum and presented as a fait accompli, or dissolved beyond recognition. Most of the things you want to do are pointless anyway. In a globalised capitalist system, the most you can do is throw some sand into the gear. Not that there's anything wrong with doing that.
Secondly: as much as people moan, they like a vile, negative campaign. I recommended that Ed Miliband take a leaf from William Morris's book and promote the sunny uplands of the Socialist Future. Socialism is inherently optimistic because it believes that people are essentially good and look out for each other. Ed had a go, but the rest of the grim-faed pragmatists in the Party joined the Tories by raging on about immigrants, scroungers, the Scottish Traitors and so, endlessly, on. Result? A core vote tie which I'm fully expecting to turn into a stronger-than-expected Tory result. Negative campaigning works.
Thirdly: never meet the public. The late Dick Tuck once quipped 'The people have spoken, the bastards'. When Sid Vicious was asked what the man in the street thought of his music, his response was pungent: 'I've met the man in the street. He's a c…'. This is the key to the 2015 Westminster election, and one I took to heart. Beyond writing a paragraph-long manifesto (no nukes on campus, no illegal wars, be kind to animals and students, I will aspire to abolish marking and Bad Things under my long-term pedagogical plan, stick with me so I can finish the job), I studiously avoided meeting my electorate. I skipped meetings, left work under cover of darkness and pretended to be David Mitchell whenever anyone tried to speak to me.**
Similarly, my junior colleagues have done their very best to avoid meeting any voter who hasn't been fully vetted.
It's not just the Tories of course: I met Ed Balls, who appeared at the tram station to pose for photos with Labour activists, then left. Political content: zero. The thinking appears to be – rightly when it comes to both them and me – that the more people you meet, the more people vote against you. Instead, you organise what photographers call a goat-fuck so that while the event looks like a cynical pretence of engagement there, it looks like a massive crowd on television.
|The same event from the preferred angle.|
Which is what matters. It is, as Baudrillard might say, a 'simulation' of symbolic exchange. The concomitant strategy is to avoid all public hustings and debates: the Prime Minister ducked TV debates, Radio 4's long-standing Election Call, the Citizens' debates a couple of days ago and many other events. Across the country, Tory candidates – including mine – have decided not to appear, to the extent that it now looks like a strategic decision. Imagine being in Tory HQ and issuing this advice. 'It turns out that people who meet you vote for the other candidate. Hide, and appeal to their worst side via staged events about immigrants and Jocks'. What a triumph of democracy. Still, it worked for me and will probably work for them.
As the Guardian reports, one woman dragooned into a faux-rally held at her workplace appears to have been threatened for asking a real question rather than holding a placard and grinning inanely while a politician makes a speech consisting of disconnected nouns, the occasional imperative, the word 'passionate' and a swipe at Perfidious Caledonia and its hordes of heroin-munching, Irn-Bru-injecting, er, citizens of the World's Greatest Democracy.
Rolled-up sleeves? I'm just an honest worker doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay just like you guv. And doesn't George Osborne look uncomfortable surrounded by his own supporters (what a diverse and representative bunch of people they are too)?
Still, one of the advantages of an election campaign is that I can update my list of Companies That Don't Need My Custom Because They Support The Tories In Crushing Workers' Rights and Pay. Banks's/Marstons' Beer: goodbye. I'm unlikely to buy a JCB or Rolls-Royce soon either.
|'I drove one of these, until those footballer chaps at West Villa made them a bit chavvy. Carry on, oiks'|
Always, always wear high-vis jackets. It doesn't make you look like one of the entitled plutocrats Kevin McCloud subtly denigrates on Grand Designs at all.
|'I'll have the platinum hip bath next to the eternity pool yah'|
On the left, Reason 2 reads 'Stop SNP running the country'. On the right: 'Why it's time to vote SNP'. Let's just hope that nobody has access to social media, eh? Oh. As to the broadcast media, that looks after itself. Do all the sofa shows, if you have to do a serious one just recite the list of catchphrases and look, just don't worry about it: the few reporters on Newsnight, Today and the others who weren't in the Bullingdon or Oxford University Conservative Association with us are fixated by the same bubble stuff we like anyway yah? Get them on the campaign bus and threaten to leave them in Stoke or Rochdale or whereversville if they try to cut up rough OK?
Never apologise, never explain. Whether it's cutting taxes on the rich while beggaring the poor, tripling tuition fees, deregulating the banks, making absolute, racist and hypocritical promises to cut immigration with 'no ifs, no buts', just keep robotically demonising your opponents. Harp on about their broken promises while ignoring your own. Above all, never, ever suggest that governing a country is a complicated business which requires adaptation in changing circumstances. If the public doesn't crucify you, the newspapers will (unless they're your newspapers, obviously). This tactic worked very well for me. I made no specific promises, mumbled something about being responsive to the electorate, then went back to my desk. Most people don't vote. Those who do, appear to be the ones doing quite nicely thank you. Pander to their prejudices. Ridicule anyone who tries to engage the poor, young, sick and marginalised, like poor Ed Miliband having actual serious arguments with Russell Brand.
So in summary: take off your jacket; stage events behind closed doors; bash the Scots; launch a pre-emptive campaign against parliamentary democracy in case your opponents might be able to get a majority together; sell fear; blame the poor; say anything but say it with absolute confidence. 'Long-term economic plan'. 'I'm going to win a majority'. Whatever. But be ready to say it over and over and over and over and over and over and over. People don't want ideas. They want reductive mantras. What do we want? Reductive Mantras. Don't Let Them Sell Off Our Reductive Mantras. Long-Term Economic Mantras. Reductive Mantras: Winning Here. British Reductive Mantras For British Workers. End The Tax on Reductive Mantras. Stop Driving Away Reductive Mantra Creators. A Reductive Mantra On Every Table.
With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.
If you can scam some crowds and fake your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor silly hacks can reach you,
If rich men count with you, but not the poor;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of waffle run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be PM, my son.So there you have it. If you can't see the sound good sense in my election-winning guide, you must be some kind of subversive lefty whinger. Your name's already on a list. See you on May 8th.
*Not really. We're actually rather democratic when it comes to the jakes. I'm not joking about the Educational Decline though.
** Sort of true. We share a birthday, opinions, style and looks to such an extent that nobody noticed I had his photo on my ID card for several years. People used to shout his name at me in the street. I once had lunch with an ex of his. She kept calling me David. I wondered if this was a good sign or a bad one. Bad, as it turned out.