First published in Clarity: March 31 2015
Food was very much on the minds of the candidates, on this, the first full day of campaigning. It seems that George Osborne has decided to start interviewing for his next job already – today he had an unpaid work trial at Pizza Express, where he successfully rolled out a pizza base and produced an American Hot. Lets hope he is successful. Pizza Express do not apparently employ workers on zero hours contracts, although their owner Luke Johnson is a passionate defender of them, so Osborne might be set up for a promising career in fast food.
He might need a good result, considering that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released official figures today that paint a conflicting image of the economic recovery. Though the economy grew by over 2% in 2014, this is the slowest recovery since the 1920s. Self employment has sky rocketed, but the average income of self employed people has gone down. Only the service sector has seen strong growth, with construction remaining stagnant. And living standards remain 1.2% below pre-economic downturn levels (GDP per head).
Meanwhile, David Cameron started his day in London, donning hard hat and high-visibility vest during a tour of a Sainsburys construction site. The retailer hopes to create 480 specialist jobs in London and Coventry in an attempt to create new and innovative ways of shopping in the digital age. The space ill act as a creative environment for developers, designers and product owners to participate in blue sky thinking exercises in order to try and second guess future trends in purchasing habits.
Cameron was then whisked off for an interview with Heat magazine, where he revealed among other things that he was distantly related to Kim Kardashian. We also learned that he prefers brown sauce to red, is a fan of marmite, and once aspired to be a lorry driver, and a farmer. He also admitted to being bad at multi-tasking. “I’m a man,” he said, “I can’t do two things at once. Don’t be ridiculous!” Not re-assuring words to hear from your Prime Minister, but then again, this is the man who apparently did not understand Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms, but advocated them anyway.
If this is what Cameron believes injects life into election campaigns, rather than debating the issues, then perhaps he should have got Heat magazine to chair a head-to-head debate between him and Miliband? But then again maybe not. Faced with questions like “What is your favourite biscuit?” each candidate would have “dithered” – Gordon Brown style – for twenty four hours in an effort to select a voter friendly biscuit. “Ed Miliband likes Boasters? What an elitist. This man isn’t fit to run the country!” Heat would cry, and then Cameron would select a more working class biscuit such as chocolate digestive.
Nick Clegg probably wished he’d stayed that the hedgehog sanctuary he visited yesterday. Humpty the hedgehog, whose head injury causes him to keep walking round in circles, was far more amenable than Joey Essex, who gatecrashed Clegg’s set piece speech on mental health and demanded a “selfie.” “Only the Liberal Democrats, ” he stated, “ will make sure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health, with money to back that up, and challenge the stigma every day.” An admirable position, and one that the other candidates should adopt forthwith.
Clegg then boarded his battlebus, drove to Watford to take a hard hat and high visibility jacket photo in a near empty building site, and then drove to Cardiff, where he spent a therapeutic afternoon making pancakes in a Panasonic factory. To be fair to Clegg, his policy on mental health is at least progressive. “Only the Liberal Democrats, ” he stated, “ will make sure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health, with money to back that up, and challenge the stigma every day.”
Spare a moment for Ed Miliband. The Labour Battle Bus (a two litre silver Fiat Scudo) broke down before it had even set off from Labour Party HQ. But he was on the road today, though he wisely avoided culinary set pieces. Instead he dropped in on Magic FM. “If this is a contest to see how someone can eat a bacon sandwich elegantly, I’m not going to win…I’m not going to win a photo opportunity contest.” For the record, Ed Miliband likes 80s music – he is a big fan of “Take on Me” by A-ha, and believes that Rosumund Pike should be the next James Bond.
What to look out for tomorrow? Expect a media storm to follow Miliband’s announcement that Labour will outlaw most zero hour contracts, and to raise the minimum wage to £8 by 2010.