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Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Time to put cards on table for fascinating snap election

A light-hearted look at the election’s key characters

Boris Johnson: one punter hoping he becomes PM
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In the words of Steven Gerrard (Liverpool Walton): “We go again!” Or, as Brenda from Bristol – remember her? – put it: “You’re joking? Not another one! Oh, for God’s sake, I can’t honestly … I can’t stand this.”

Some people suspected Brenda was responding to the news that, for a fourth year in a row, she had won a free Sunderland season ticket but in fact it turned out that the cause of her outrage was Theresa May’s April announcement of a snap election.

The electorate, already battered and bruised by the democratic process, wearily wondered what exactly a snap election was.

Would our future be decided by May and Labour supremo Jeremy Corbyn playing a popular children’s card game? They’d still end up spouting the same tedious rhetoric: “The game of Snap is a reminder that we must focus on what we have in common as a nation, not on what divides us.”

PM TM’s announcement seemed to take everybody by surprise but she was obviously feeling bullish about the Conservatives’ commanding lead in the polls.

Some polling data suggested that May would win comfortably even if she decided to answer every question during the campaign with a lyric from the Wu-Tang Clan.

“Prime Minister, what would you say to those who are questioning your defence strategy?” “Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?”

“And what’s your long-term vision for the British economy?” “Cash rules everything around me. Dolla dolla bill y’all!”

“But aren’t people fed up with the same old spin? How are you actually going to get your message across to the voting public?” “Raw I’m gonna give it to you, with no trivia/Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia.”

Of course, none of that happened – it would have been as ludicrous as, say, Corbyn posing for matey pictures with grime artists – but there’s no doubt that the line between politics and entertainment has become increasingly blurred.

And, consequently, betting on politics is now as unpredictable as punting on who bumped off some hapless character in EastEnders or who Simon Cowell’s accountants prefer to win a talent show.

These days there seem to be more similarities between politics and entertainment than there are differences.

The protagonists are judged on style rather than substance (incidentally, belated congratulations to the Daily Mail’s investigative team for their magnificent work in revealing that May and the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon both have legs).

Just like the makers of The Fast and the Furious series of action films, the political powers-that-be are determined to squeeze every last drop out of this democracy franchise.

That’s why we have to endure this relentless run of elections and referenda and it also explains the sense that we’ve seen and heard it all before.

Melania Trump and Marine Le Pen were accused of ‘recycling’ material from Michelle Obama and Francois Fillon in speeches this year while May has mentioned the phrase “strong and stable” at least twice during this campaign.

Politics, like showbiz, is all over social media and the focus is already on attracting the next generation of consumers.

Lowering the voting age to 16 has been mooted, which makes sense given that our foreign secretary appears to be an overgrown schoolboy who sits in Cabinet meetings eating toffee apples and guffawing because he’s just spelt out ‘BOOBIES’ on his Casio calculator.

It’s all got a bit silly – especially now that Black Rod is dating that girl from Made In Chelsea – but political punters must cut through the nonsense to dig out the value.

Escaping the echo chamber is crucial if you’re going to see the bigger picture. It’s easy to end up with a narrow view of the world if you get all your news and opinion from like-minded people on Twitter or from media organisations from one specific part of the political spectrum.

To avoid that, I’ve swapped my Facebook login details for the duration of the campaign with a friend who is really quite racist. What larks!

The calling of the snap election came as a shock to bookmakers, who suddenly had to price up the markets years before they’d been expecting to.

Fortunately, Diane Abbott’s opening show provided a useful guide for the odds compilers, with Labour quoted as 9-2 favourites to win most seats, the Conservatives at 14-1, the Liberal Democrats 10,000-1 and 50,000-1 bar.

That competitive book must have got the sporting blood coursing through your veins so let’s assess the personalities who are jostling for power for about three months before the next bloody election is rammed down our throats.

Theresa May
The strong and stable favourite to retain her prime-ministerial title belt, despite her ill-conceived branding.

It’s hard to come across as a no-nonsense leader primed to take decisive action when your name sounds as though you’re wavering like a ninny.Theresa May? Well, will she or won’t she? We need an answer. Either do your business or get off the pot, woman!

Jeremy Corbyn
The veteran leader of the red half of north London is a divisive figure even in his Islington heartland.

Many doubt whether he has the ruthlessness or the motivational powers to make it to the very top while his record when it comes to Europe is patchy and he’s still not getting the best out of Mesut Ozil.

Hang on, I’m confusing Jezza with Arsene Wenger, aren’t I?

Tim Farron
The Lib Dems’ stable of MPs has been reduced to nine so Farron is the biggest fish in a fairly shallow talent pool.

It’s a bit like being a left-sided midfielder for England in the late 1990s when the dearth of options (a result of Margaret Thatcher’s dominant right-wing ideology of the previous decade) meant you were bound to get the nod sooner or later.

So far, sadly, Farron looks more of a Steve Guppy than a John Barnes.

Other options
My in-depth analysis of the data suggests Sturgeon’s charges could be good things in Scotland so any punters who backed Celtic to win the Ladbrokes Premiership should play up their winnings on the SNP doing well north of the border.

The Green Party are bidding to improve on their tally of one MP but it’s a difficult time for those weirdos who care about the niche issue of whether the planet will be able to sustain human life much beyond the 2022 World Cup.

Yes, Donald Trump seems to be terrifyingly keen on repealing legislation designed to combat climate change but on the other hand a bring-and-buy sale in Hove raised £141.80 in aid of the Greens. Swings and roundabouts.

Another option, widely discussed during the recent French presidential election, is the protest vote.

There are various ways of spoiling your ballot – in last year’s EU referendum, for example, I bought mine a pony.

Of course, you may arrive at the polling station to discover that your ballot has already been sufficiently spoiled by a list of hilarious ‘serious’ candidates and teeth-grindingly unfunny ‘joke’ candidates.

Whatever your political persuasion, make sure your voice is heard because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to influence the future of this country.

Just like it was last year. And the year before that.

Any punters who backed Celtic to win the Ladbrokes Premiership should play up their winnings on the SNP doing well
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