Memo to Dave: we need more canapés and less talk

14 April 2010


The Tory manifesto launch was a study in post-urban chic. It was all very edgy but – sniff, sniff – what WAS that smell?

The Tories held their manifesto launch in the incredible hulk of post-industrial Britain that is Battersea power station. “A building in need of regeneration in a country in need of regeneration,” said Dave. I found this helpful, for it is one of those things that I could never have figured out on my own.

The first thing I noticed, upon arriving at the living metaphor (sorry launch), was the smell. “Do you smell rubbish?” I asked a man at the gate. He pointed at the building next door. “It’s a dump,” he said. I wrinkled my nose. I like my metaphors sterile.

I set off across a dystopian landscape of dirt and rubble — it was all a bit Mad Max — until I found a ramp that, like a tunnel in Alice in Wonderland, emerged into a totally different land. Here, inside the great hulk, we were hermetically sealed in an extremely expensive marquee that was part tent, part glass.

I identified it as Toryland almost immediately by the canapés, which managed to mix Notting Hill trendy (cranberry-streaked mini-muffins and tiny pains au chocolat) with post-industrial working-class fare (mini bacon sarnies and sausage rolls).

It was all very post-urban chic. The wastebaskets were covered in burlap, for God’s sake. In the loos there was sea-kelp moisturiser. We gazed through the glass wall at the wreck that is Battersea Power Station. Overhead, between teetering towers, birds — crows? pigeons? vultures? — wheeled. Hitchcock used this for his thriller Sabotage but it would do for The Birds. If you wanted to go outside, the Tories had hard hats and fluorescent jackets for us.

The Tory soundtrack was all about change. “Ch-ch-ch-changes,” sang David Bowie as we trooped in for the show. The fun stopped the moment we sat down. On our seats was a little blue hardback called Invitation to Join the Government of Britain. It was full of tasks. They want us to run schools, join the Cabinet, fire our MPs. What about those of us who want to come home from work and slump in front of Come Dine with Me? No mention of us.

The manifesto, like the launch, was hard work. There were seven speakers. I accept that William Hague and George Osborne might have a say, and Baroness Warsi, if only because I like her. But Caroline Spelman? Theresa May? It was only when Andrew Lansley told us: “You want to be your own boss, you can with us!” that I felt like shouting: “OK, sit down!” As it dragged on, I couldn’t help but wonder: how can we trust the Tories to cut the deficit when they can’t even cut the speakers at their manifesto launch? Or the speeches? Dave gave one that was 13 pages long. If I were invited to join the Government of Britain, this is what I would do: more canapés and less talk. And let’s ban post-industrial metaphors too.