For a fuller account of the surprise Tory victory in Britain’s general election last week, you’ll want to read Ted Bromund’s piece elsewhere in this issue. The Scrapbook, for its part, chooses to believe, eccentrically, that the polls were basically correct until a massive last-minute swing against Labour’s Ed Miliband, too late to be measured by pollsters. And what caused that swing? Well-deserved ridicule of Miliband’s hubris in engraving his platform on a mammoth stone tablet.
In Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, newly elected Conservative MP, and peerless polemicist, Miliband met his nemesis. Johnson posted this rhetorical masterpiece on his Facebook page on May 4, and the rest is history:
“It’s the smugness that gets me. It’s the brass-necked complacency. As a piece of premature chicken-counting combined with insolent disrespect to the will of the electorate, this Labour stunt is frankly unbeatable.
“Never mind measuring the curtains for Downing Street, Ed Miliband is so confident of victory this Thursday that he has already commissioned a vast monument to himself. He has caused a stonemason to engrave an 8ft 6in slab of limestone with a series of fine-sounding but essentially vacuous slogans, as if this were East Germany circa 1973, and he has promised—nay, sworn—that on the very first day of his regime the work will be religiously installed in the garden of the prime minister’s offices.
“In true totalitarian fashion, he has signed it himself, and appended the red-rose Socialist logo of the Labour Party.
“When someone showed me a pic of Ed in front of this absurdity, I thought it was a joke, some photoshopped wheeze.
“It is no joke, my friends. This thing exists, and Ed fully intends that this tasteless, verbless, truthless stele should loom over No. 10 like some kitsch version of the laws of Hammurabi, or some new Decalogue—except that he couldn’t think of 10 things to say.
“What was he drinking? What was he smoking? What was he on when he came up with this one? Keep taking the tablets, Ed—don’t erect them in government offices. There are all sorts of people who are capable of putting a stop to this vandalism. If (heaven forfend) Ed Miliband were indeed to find himself in Downing Street this week, then the head of the Civil Service would quietly tell him not to be such a confounded idiot. No. 10 is a department of state; you can’t use it for party-political propaganda. Imagine the hoo-ha if I had festooned City Hall with the Conservative logo, after we kicked out the Labour administration in 2008.
“Then there is Westminster Council, for whose punctilious planning department I have deep respect. No. 10 is a Grade I-listed building. Would they allow it to be desecrated with some weird commie slab? No way.
“But there is another far more important person who can kibosh the whole thing—and that, of course, is you: you, the dear, the gentle, the reader who has already put up with so much election coverage and who is now about to take centre stage.
“You can stop Ed and his monument; you can stop him stone dead. After all the yarping and the carping from the media and the politicos, it is time for you to have your say; and on Thursday you have a decision-making tool more powerful than 100 TV studios or a million barrels of newspaper ink. You have the stubby pencil and the bit of paper, and you hold the destiny of the country in your hands.
“It will take only 23 more seats to give the Conservatives the stability of an absolute majority—something that is now completely beyond the reach of the Labour Party. So wherever you are voting, I hope you will consider why Ed Miliband reached for this preposterous gimmick. Why carve slogans in stone? Why pretend that there is something imperishable about his words? Why go to these lengths to tell us there is something fixed and rocklike about his agenda? Why? Because he knows—and he knows that we know—that the opposite is the case.
“If this country were to make the tragic mistake of electing Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, we would usher in perhaps the most intrinsically weak government of modern times. Far from being graven in stone, his words would not be worth the paper they were written on. Miliband knows that his intentions would count for nothing—that he could not get a single bill through the Commons—without the approval of the Scottish Nationalists. He wouldn’t be Moses or Hammurabi; he would be rapidly transformed into the obsequious butler of Downing Street, constantly tending to the demands of fiery Aunt Nicola, always making sure that Alec Salmond was topped up with pink champagne—and at the expense of the English taxpayer.