Tuesday 28 October 2008

Does Auntie really always know best?

The lead story in Britain’s best-selling paper on Sunday was the shock news that we are all racists. Apparently we are failing to vote for the black contestants in Strictly Come Dancing, despite the judges telling us that they are absolutely terrific.

As a matter of fact I am completely innocent of this charge, because I have never watched the programme, and would rather go to a cocktail party on a yacht with Lord Mandelson than do so. But that will surely not spare me a stern lecture from the BBC about my disgraceful behaviour. And what if the electors of America pull the same stunt and have the temerity not to elect Barack Obama next week, after the Beeb’s months of cheerleading for the man? What it might have to say about them, in those circumstances, really does not bear thinking about.

I have believed for years that the simplest way to arrive at the correct opinion on any issue is to listen to the BBC’s view, then adopt the opposite one. The US election therefore presents me with a bit of a problem because, if forced into a corner with a cattle prod, I would have to admit that my only reason for wanting Senator McCain to win would be the simple joy of seeing industrial quantities of egg all over the face of our national public service broadcaster. Obama is undeniably the more inspiring orator, and it is hard to mount a convincing defence of any party in office which has made such a truly monumental mess of both economic and foreign policy.

The other big reason for reluctantly admitting the case for Obama is the dread prospect of Governor Palin inheriting the presidency. In Britain, her selection seems an error of judgement as egregious as George Osborne’s in thinking he could beat the Prince of Darkness at mud-slinging. In fact, it seems almost as bizarre as the idea of Dave Cameron sacking young George and replacing him with Kerry Katona.

Which might not be so crazy after all, come to think of it, as she is well used to going to Iceland and is probably scary enough to secure a full refund of our money from all those collapsed banks.

Yet, despite all the hilarity at her expense, Mrs Palin clearly wows rather a lot of Americans. There is even talk of her running for president herself in 2012. At a time when classic national stereotypes are crumbling all around us, with the traditionally prudent “bang went saxpence” Scotsman replaced by ones who run banks into the ground and bail them out with countless billions of our money, it is comforting to know that our friends across the pond remain so reliably dumb.

Obama is Bambi Blair all over again; the one ever so slightly black, the other almost imperceptibly socialist. Let us hope that his brave new dawn, if it duly breaks next week, does not prove to be quite such a crushing disappointment as the one in 1997.

But we have other delights closer to home before the big day in America, including Halloween and the Glenrothes by-election. There is apparently no truth in the rumour that the Northern Rock repossessions team will be taking to the streets on Friday, disguised as grim reapers on a trick or treat mission. However, there is every chance that the bloke in the unconvincing rubber Gordon Brown mask, desperately knocking on doors in Fife, really is the Prime Minister.

Will he defy the experts and pull of a surprise victory? As with Senator McCain, it does not seem the way to bet. But it is probably only fair to wait for ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox to send several jumbo jet-loads of pundits across the Atlantic to tell us what we should be thinking.


Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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