Douglas Alexander wears girl's knickers: that's the response I am tempted to give to his ridiculous speech yesterday in which he said David Cameron was like a pig wearing lipstick. Clearly, it's the kind of language Mr Alexander understands. Is this really the level of political invective to re-engage the electorate? Surely all it does is invite ridicule and contempt.
Over the last few months Labour has attacked David Cameron as a chameleon, a sleazy estate agent (thus alienating around 70,000 estate agents in one go) and now a pig. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.
On the day the Guardian publishes a poll showing the Conservatives at their highest level for 13 years, diddy Duggie Alexander really believes that calling Cameron a pig in lipstick will knock dishy Dave off his perch.
To his credit, Cameron has not hit back at any of these pathetic attacks. He embraced the chameleon, ignored the estate agent jibe and must be laughing his socks off at the pig.
So why did Alexander frame his attack in this way? Simple: to get a headline. Well, he succeeded in doing that, but he made himself look ridiculous in the process. Douglas Alexander is supposed to be one of Gordon Brown's closest allies. He is also a cabinet minister. For a blogger or a junior backbench MP to make such an attack might be understandable, but for cabinet minister it demeans him and his office.
But Cameron also came under fire yesterday from a different source. Norman Tebbit has written a column in the Spectator criticising the Tory leader for ignoring his core vote. He says it's all very well to appeal to the chattering classes on Comment is free, but if Cameron ignores the foaming-at-the-mouth right he will live to regret it. Tebbit reckons Cameron is losing support in droves on the right and failing to replace it from the centre. This attack might have hit home a little better had it not been made on the day the Guardian published a poll showing the Conservatives at their highest level in the polls for 13 years.
I yield to no one in my admiration for Norman Tebbit, but like many of the scorched earthers in the Cornerstone group, he fails to understand that all political parties are coalitions, and that the trouble with the Conservatives over the last three elections is that the coalition has been too narrow. Instead of a big tent, the Conservative party has resembled a teepee. Cameron's challenge now is to transform the tent into a bloody great marquee.
Gordon Brown is rumoured to want to take the gloves off in dealing with David Cameron. but his allies reckon he is being thwarted by Downing Street. I have no idea what the truth is, but if calling Cameron a pig wearing lipstick is taking the gloves off, I'd love to see what Douglas Alexander does when he really swings his handbag at dawn. I bet David Cameron is quaking in his hoodie.
If Alexander wants to know how to attack the opposition, he should make an appointment to see Norman Tebbit (though Norman might bite his legs).
This piece was originally posted earlier on Comment is Free.
"Douglas Alexander wears girl's knickers"
You may have sent him them Ian but you cannot be sure, can you, that he actually wears them?
If this is the brightest and the best of Labours next generation, then we don't have much to fear.
How can you alienate estate agents by calling them sleazy?
Iain I think you have wrongly ascribed the 'lipstick on a pig' quote. Alexander was likening David Cameron's repositioning of the Tories to a 'lipstick on a pig' strategy. The phrase was coined by James Carville. I don't think he called Cameron a pig wearing lipstick.
What's wrong with political invective? Such episodes are usually the only times a politician or hanger-on lets us know what he/she really thinks and one of the rare occasions where the electorate hear something that isn't anodyne pap/promises with carefully constructed loopholes/outright lies.
We need more of it, IMO.
If they run short of material they can always consult the voters - they've got loads they'd like to unload.
I noticed someone decided that it was an insult to call you a Tory apologist in Comment is Free. Very amusing...
Having seen a photo of Douglas Alexander I wouldn't have thought he was in any position to insult anyone else's personal appearance. Perhaps he's been doing rather too much of the "Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" and didn't like the answer!
Griswold, I think you are splitting hare lips here. Anyway, as we speak, there are lipstick-wearing pigs out there in the high streets of Britain, collecting signatures on their petition against unfairly being compared to Nice-But-Dim!
The Labour Party have effectively endorsed it by highlighting his speech as a press release.
Mr. Alexander is absolutely right. How dare Mr. Cameron try to win an election for his party by showing there is more to Conservatism than the typical "nasty party" spin perpetuated by this government. I wonder if he'd care to comment on Mr. Brown's lame attempts to ingratiate himself with English voters too...
I did enjoy my old pal Lord Tebbitt's words (quoted on the BBC's web site). 'Tories treated favourable polls "like a baby grasps for a dummy"'. How very true these words are, even today.....
Is this the same "Douglas Alexander" whom was described as a "Ministeral TWIT" by Prof david starky on BBC Question Time not so long ago! Mr. Dimbleby rebuked david sarky . D.S. replied by saying the comment was "Measured & fair" Was it? Did he use the correct vowel in the noun TWIT [or was it a transitive verb] or would twerp have been more accurate. dont upset him for gaurds sake he's at transport. We could end up with "The darling" back or even Bloody prosser at transport = Trains & boats & planes & roads. On a personal leval I dont care if he wears a satin bra with the knickers, but I do wish he could do something about the bone-shakers that our local "stagecoach" use. Jocks sorrry jokes again. if it aint them it must be the french.
They are getting desperate aren't they.
I agree. David Cameron has rightly pledged to end Punch and Judy politics, and it reflects badly on Labour to just mud sling instead. Why didn't he stick to measured, reasonable criticism? I don't know, like "fruitcakes" or "racists"?
Griswold is right - you've got this slightly wrong, Ian. And your parody of Norman Tebbit's thinking isn't justified. All in all, not up to your usual standard of excellence.
I dealt with Douglas Alexander briefly in a job I had as a civil servant and remember thinking how shit he was. He's got where he has, I suppose, by sucking up to Brown. Still, being in with Blair and Brown is all you need to prosper in 21st century Britain I suppose.
"I yield to no one in my admiration for Norman Tebbit, but like many of the scorched earthers in the Cornerstone group, he fails to understand that all political parties are coalitions, and that the trouble with the Conservatives over the last three elections is that the coalition has been too narrow. Instead of a big tent, the Conservative party has resembled a teepee. Cameron's challenge now is to transform the tent into a bloody great marquee."
Metaphor (see above), rather than policy, doesn't attract those of us
who are fed up to the back teeth with Blair/Mandelson/Cambellism and the attendant sound bites.
At least, by your own admission, Norman T. has some teeth.
I only wish our ManChild leader had the courage and wisdom (and you too Iain) to say what you mean rather than hide behind woolly abstractions.
A useful question I sometimes think is 'How specifically?'
He's got form on this sort of thing. He was the person who called for a higher level of political debate in Britain, but then got Kylie Minogue involved in a PPB before the 2001 election. Not as clever as he seems. He also used to prick Bishops but that was because he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Forget a pig in lipstick, do any of you remember that episode of Dads army where Mainwaring gets a ginger wig?
Its just dawned on me who he looked like..
Who is Douglas Alexander to question anyone's morals, when he is an MP elected in Scotland, but in charge of England's transport?
He doesn't even know what (or care) democratic accountability means, so how is likely to understand even basic politics?
Douglas Alexander's standards of personal political conduct in this repsect, are about as low anyone can possibly sink.
What DC (much better nickname than Dave)knows is that the core vote will vote Tory even if Danny la Rue was leader COME THE GENERAL ELECTION!!
ok sorry for caps....
Why should he announce policies while NL commit sapukoro? Why show your hand before you need to?
All Tory leaders since MT were insufficiently strong to withstand the cheap jibe - NL Fettes educated barrister v working class grammer school boy? v baldy guy with funny northern accent? I won't bother with the next one. v Dracula (look what Matthew Parris did for John Redwood's career). Well TB or GB or AM will do anything like that to DC. We like to be ruled by toffs. Well now I'm bored so c u l8r m8. Groan...
Just how helpful is it to refer to anyone "to the right" of Cameron (ie, large chunks of the electorate) as "foaming-at-the-mouth"?
It certainly isn't going to build a wonderful cohesive consensus, is it?
NuLab tactics, I'm afraid: "If you don't agree then you are evidently bonkers".
"a sleazy estate agent (thus alienating around 70,000 estate agents in one go"
Does that mean Iain that, in your opinion, all estate agents will recognize themselves as sleazy or that Mr. Alexander has only aliented the 70,000 that are sleazy?
Also the 'pig wearing lipstick' is a quote as pointed out above and (again) as above what is wrong with a bit of invectice - you've just put up a podcast from the man who described Norman Tebbit as a 'semi-house trained polecat" - a slur on semi-house trained polecats if ever there were one
"the trouble with the Conservatives over the last three elections is that the coalition has been too narrow"
No. In 1997, not only the public but many natural Conservatives were disgusted at the behaviour of the senior leadership, especially its clear contempt for allegedly Conservative values, and indeed its own membership. In 2001 and 2005 we were simply grossly misrepresented, by the BBC amongst others, something which the leadership of the time seemed unable to grasp.
Cameron appears set to make both these mistakes. He's trying to appeal to natural Lib Dem and Labour voters, but telling them they were right to vote that way in the past is not likely to stop them doing so in the future. Furthermore, he seems to be trying to deal with the MSM problem by pandering to it. It won't do him any good; they are stringing him along now, but at some point they will turn on him.
"Douglas Alexander wears girl's knickers". What are the ambitions of this blog? Don't they include 'good writing'?
Anonymous, obviously some things are lost on you. The point of that was to highlight how ridiculous little Duggie's Lipstick on a Pig analogy was and to show how low things have got. But 99% of this blog's readers will have understood that...There's always one...
I am sure there are plenty of other blogs for yout ofrequent if you think this one is not up to standard!
Alex Swanson said "In 2001 and 2005 we were simply grossly misrepresented, by the BBC amongst others"
No. The Tories were not misrepresented. They were simply crap and the electorate saw it; no decent policies, no decent politicians. To run the 2005 General Election campaign with only 5 tangible policies (one of which revolved around clean hospitals) simply confirmed that they were a party bereft of direction.
Every party goes through such a period. Conservatives need to realised that 1994ish to 2006/7/8ish was just such a period for them, to learn from it and to rebuild, just as Labour did in the 80s/early 90s.
Those Conservatives who think that they will return to power based upon a return to Thatcherism and the glory days of the 80s are plain wrong.
Blair, for all his many, many ills *has* changed the face of British politics. For example, witness the abandonment of Tory policies such as health insurance and automatic tax cuts; these are a direct admission by the Tory Party that they can no longer expect to win these debates on the doorstep. Old-school Tories (such as you appear to be) need to recognise that - not bleat on about being "misrepresented".
Cameron's got the right idea - the Tory party membership are loyal and will fall into line come election time. The best way to win as many seats as possible, therefore, is to renew his party and secure as many floating voters as possible. It's hardly rocket surgery...
Douglas's sister is an MSP and just as there was Scottish folk duo called "The Alexander Brothers" he and his sibling are known affectionately in some circles as "The Alexander Sisters".
If the Tories lose 2 votes on the right to pick up one from Labour they, in theory, don't lose out because both they & Labour are down one. Possibly also the old Tories, having nowhere except UKIP to go, will hold their noses & vote.
On the other hand this is exactly the thinking which, under Bliar, has led to Labour haemorraging members.
On the third hand it makes the Tories (& Labour) vulnerable to a wave of popular disatisfaction led by the LDs, UKIP, the BNP or a British Ross Perot.
On the 4th hand Norman Tebbit was an annoyingly competent pepsologist when in power & still clearly knows many thinks that the current high flyers have yet to learn.
On the 5th hand if democracy is to survive parties are going to have to actually offer the public some choices.
This has been another criticism of our present corrupt voting system in favour of one where opinions get represented proportionately to how popular they are.
What ridiculous faux-outrage/ignorance! Alexander did not call Cameron a pig in lipstick: he called Cameron's strategy the 'lipstick on a pig' strategy which is the name of a book by political strategist James Carville.
The phrase itself is not Carville's however. It was used by Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, to describe John Kerry during the last election campaign. "In Wyoming we've got a saying for what it is when you keep trying to make something that's not so good look good, we call it putting lipstick on a pig."
It echoes exactly Tim Bell's recent comments - "The Conservative Party has not moved one inch. David Cameron has convinced the public that he is different to their normal expectation of a Tory leader, brilliantly done, well done. He has convinced the public that he thinks the Conservative Party should be different. He has not changed the Conservative Party."
The only difference is that Douglas Alexander phrased it using contemporary political phrasing... It appears it was too contemporary for some.
Iain, the polls aren't nearly as encouraging as you suggest. Putting the Guardian poll numbers into http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/ still leaves Labour as the biggest party! In fact, they've closed the gap because based on polls last month the Tories would have been the biggest party. In the context of stories we've seen recently (hospitals closing, unemployment up, inflation up, school grade inflation up, police investigations) it is incredible that the Tories aren't doing better.
Norman Lamont may not be right that a return to Thatcherism is the answer (anyway that wasn't what won the 1979 election) but I think he is right in that what's coming out of CCO (e.g. positive discrimination, pro-EEP) at the moment isn't the right answer either.
In your argument you are making the logical error of creating a false dichtomy.
The Conservative party did not win the 1979 election because of Thatcherism. The Conservative party won because of the Labour partys inability to control its trade union founders, and the economic caos that followed.
Quite how much British politics has moved on since then is quite astonishing. Thank the Great Lady for that.
The 1979 Conservative Party as a whole, was to the left of all the main political partys of today.
Under these circumstances it is inconceivable that DC would not have different idears different policies and indead a different party to lead.
By 2009 I guess less than half of the voters will even remember the problems of the 1970s. However they will have a fairly good idear about the countries present problems, and a very good idear of who and which party to blame for them.
My concern is not whether DC will do a good job, how could he possibly do a worse one. It is what sort of opposition will emerge when New Labour finally impload. Look forward to the first BNP, and many more Respect MPs in Britain.
I expect the left to get nasty like back in 79-91, and the BBC becoming their ever more alarming allies.
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