Me and Stephen Hawking we laugh.
How desperately unfortunate then that the GDP figures for the first three months of the year are so disappointing. They are just a snapshot, based on incomplete data and may well be revised up. All the same, that without the boost provided by the drop in oil prices and corresponding low inflation the economy would be all but flatlining is not the news the Tories were expecting at this stage. Their response, the only possible one, however counter-intuitive, has been to say this just proves the last thing needed is a change of government or the instability of an inconclusive outcome next Thursday. Clearly what's needed isn't just the certainty of a Conservative majority, but the impact the further austerity proposed would have on growth. This is assuming the Tories mean what they say, which is open to doubt considering Osborne slowed the retrenchment programme in 2012 when the economy was double-dipping (since revised away to mere stagnation rather than a second recession), in spite of all his denials of adopting a Plan B. We can though only go by what they say, rather than what a government not hell bent on an ideological shrinking of the state would do in such circumstances.
The further evidence this was precisely what the Tories weren't banking on is this is their designated "economy" week. They would have known all too well today would see the ONS publish the latest statistics, and so clearly went ahead presuming their boasts of having rescued an economy on the brink would be further reinforced. Oh and dear.
Not that it will likely make much difference when actual news is the last thing on the mind of a press that has long gone past the point of embarrassment when it comes to serving up what's given to them by the Conservatives: the Mail today dredged up a two-year old story on Miliband somehow being a Stalinist for daring to suggest more use of compulsory purchase orders to help get more houses built. The Times meanwhile declared there are 10 days to save the union, just as there were however many days in the past to save the pound, save the NHS, save Jennifer's ear and so on. Considering the Conservatives have been going out of their way for the past two weeks to suggest a vote for the SNP is somehow illegitimate, with the two parties almost in cahoots in their attempt to squeeze Labour even further in Scotland, it's an odd line for Cameron to suddenly take.
Equally strange is Cameron feeling entitled to say who his opponents should or shouldn't be interviewed by. Considering Dave's idea of an interrogation is less Paxman and more Philip Schofield, such is his preference for the sofa of This Morning as opposed to the rigour of appearing on say the Today programme, not to bring up the whole avoiding anything resembling a debate that wasn't a waste of time, it's a bit rich to declare Ed Miliband a joke for agreeing to an interview with Russell Brand. Apparently Cameron hasn't got time to hang out with Brand, although he did find room in his schedule for the chuckleheads at Heat magazine to ask him a few truly important questions, such as whether Sam prefers pink or brown.
Brand, it cannot be said enough, is a gimp. He goes after the easiest of targets, has no interest in anything beyond the shallowest understanding of what he talks about, does so in the most infuriating way imaginable and has, up to now, undermined any good he has done by supporting causes like the Focus E15 mothers and generally raising awareness by telling those about to shafted the most by a Conservative government not to vote. As soon as he gets bored or gets a better offer than spending his days making money from Google via the YouTube partners programme for the Trews channel he'll be off doing something else.
For Miliband to agree to be interviewed by Brand is nonetheless exactly the sort of thing he should be doing: he has absolutely nothing to lose at this point, and, if as the Graun is suggesting it's finally got through Brand's thick skull that not to at least offer a suggestion as to whom his viewers should vote for if they're going to would be a betrayal, then all the better. Moreover, detest Brand's way of expressing himself as I do, I'd much rather listen to him and Miliband having something resembling a normal discussion on how to tackle tax avoidance than the cringe inducing falseness showcased in Labour's abominable "Ed Miliband: a Portrait" political broadcast.
Still, if tomorrow's front pages are anything to go by, we've reached the stage in the campaign where cries of anguish about what supposedly isn't up for debate, as exemplified by the Mail last week having the gall to claim immigration was the great unmentionable, have given way to straight ad hominem attacks. Do you really want this clown ruling us, asks the Mail, the paper owned by the non-domiciled Lord Rothermere. Oh for the chance, the mere possibility, of being able to say it was the right-wing media wot lost it.