June 6, 2017 § 6 Comments
‘I don’t have the figures’ snapped Amber. I don’t know which figures she meant (I’d missed what preceded) but their irrelevance was surely made plain by the answer. Emily had the policing figures: ‘I’ve found them at the bottom of my handbag’ – a nice touch, more endearing than figures on an iPad – and she read them out. Labour always has the figures, even if it means a bit of rummaging. The Tories disdain exactness; it’s beneath them.
It was the Woman’s Hour election debate, this morning from 9 to 10.45, where Emily Thornberry and Amber Rudd were joined by Kirsty Blackman of the SNP and LibDem Jo Swinson – and a waffly woman from UKIP, the only one never to have been an MP. Jane Garvey handled phone-in and discussion with an even hand, upholding the programme’s general mission to keep things sisterly and civilised. (Listeners’ expectation of courtesy was what made Jeremy Corbyn’s encounter with the true-blue Emma Barnett such a shocker. Aiming to emulate the Paxman bellow and the Kuensberg snarl, and managing to outdo both in rudeness and hostility, Barnett turned what should have been an interview into a pretext for relentless verbal harassment).
Unpleasant as she is, I’ve been entertained by Amber Rudd’s recent appearances. An unexpected asset to Labour, she replaces May’s wooliness of presentation with a peremptory definiteness resting on the belief that it’s better to cow an audience than baffle it. She’s the deputy headmistress out there to bat away all the flak while headmistress May hides in her office rehearsing her Brexit lines and election victory speech. Rudd’s so bossy she’s the second coming of Margaret Thatcher’s Spitting Image puppet.
Getting to know Amber on Woman’s Hour was just one more little pleasure in what’s become an increasingly enjoyable campaign. When the election was announced so many of us who had supported Corbyn feared all would be lost. But something extraordinary happened. He appeared to relish the prospect, he shone with such confidence that he clearly had a secret weapon. He is now hailed as a master of Zen – maybe that’s it. Whatever it is, his performance on the media stage has been impressive, albeit with some glitches. And the exhilaration of the manifesto! The policies we’ve waited for all our adult lives! I’ve never known such an exciting election campaign. I’ve never wanted to cheer politicians so much: Corbyn, Thornberry, Lucas and others. Cheer them because they mean what they say, because they speak the truth about the appalling corruption and inequalities of our society, and propose to remedy them. And this is new.
If the Tories win (would it be surprising, given the combined efforts of The Mail, The Sun, The Times, The Telegraph etc etc) something will still remain, have changed, and who knows what might come of that.
It isn’t only optimism that’s making me rule out that possibility. I’ve seen two Labour election broadcasts that couldn’t be bettered. I don’t know what effect such things have as campaigning tools, but Vote for Me was inspired: a series of girls and young women cheekily and sagely demanding that their parents and grandparents cast a vote for their future, for their education, health and well-being. Last night’s brought us doctors and nurses speaking to camera about the NHS with a candour and power that was heartbreaking.
There’s been heart, soul and humour in this campaign. Maybe the Tories are facing a truly irresistible force.