We're all in this together, Dave tells us. That seems unlikely.
By Ian Dunt
The message was clear: The Conservatives are a team.
With David Cameron treating the general election campaign as a one man show, Tory strategists evidently felt it was time to bring out the wannabe ministers. Today's manifesto event was the polar opposite of Dave's election campaign launch last Tuesday, in which he was everywhere to be seen, but always alone. Brown pulled the same trick in reverse yesterday, making everything about him when his launch had been about the team.
Dave invited his shadow Cabinet colleagues onto the platform whenever he could, and was introduced by an interminably lengthy parade of Tory spokespeople. Behind him, the remains of his front bench team were interspersed among activists in blue T-shirts. At least I presume they were activists. I noticed all the most beautiful women were strategically placed behind the leader, although that could be overly-conspiratorial. It's fascinating the places the mind goes to when sitting through a feature-length Tory event.
The effect of his shadow Cabinet spread out evenly among members of the public was highly problematic. It looked as if face-shifting aliens had tried to masquerade as ordinary people before being suddenly revealed.
Ken Clarke was on his last legs. George Osborne looked as if something was broken inside him that no-one would ever be able to put right again. Sir George Young appeared totally alien. Chris Grayling looked like a young schoolboy being invited out with the boys from the year above. Eric Pickles resembles a volatile but recently sedated panda. Liam Fox is so forgettable he actually starts to blend into the background. Oliver Letwin always appears to be on the verge of sleep.
For some bizarre reason, the Conservatives had dragged everyone to the beautiful and deteriorating Battersea Power Station, only to leave it criminally underused for the event. Dave was placed behind a standard backdrop which could have been placed anywhere. Emblazoned across it, the words 'We're all in this together' filled the entire backing, as they did the T-shirts of the various activists filling up the room.
It could have referred to the shadow Cabinet, but instead it harked back to Osborne's keynote conference speech, in which he tried to convince the less-well off that his posh accent didn't mean he'd make them pay for the deficit.
The Tories clearly feel the phrase has legs, but I'm not so sure. We're not all in this together, because some of us are rich and some of us are poor. My hunch is people understand this on a very deep level that will remain untroubled by political campaigns. The bankers that caused the crisis will not end up having to live on a council estate. Life doesn't work like that, and Britain never has.
As for whether his team is all in it together, lets put it this way: if the Tories win the election we'll all be surprised if Chris Grayling makes it into the Home Office.