I’ve gone back to my journalistic roots today with an interview in the Mirror with Alex Ferguson talking about his roots, and how he has never forgotten them despite all the success and wealth he has enjoyed.
He tells the story of how after the recent Manchester United win against Spurs, he and his wife Cathy had a night out with eight couples, the eight men being former team-mates from his time many decades ago playing with Govan Boys’ Club.
What he said was remarkable was not just that all the couples were still together, but that ‘every single one of them was staunch Labour then and staunch Labour now.’
He was making the point that it is the Tory view of Labour that says once someone has done well for themselves and their families, they somehow ought then to ‘become’ Tories, but that in fact a sense of aspiration is perfectly compatible with the commitment to public services or a belief that we have responsibilities to others.
I have not travelled as much in this campaign as when I was on the road with TB, but when I have been out on the road, as now, I have beeen struck by how different this campaign feels to the one I occasionally catch on the news. There is always something of a dissonance, but I do believe is more exaggerated this time.
The first thing to say is that whilst there is a residual anti-politics mood, a lot of it driven by expenses, I don’t feel the visceral nature of some of the debates at the last election, particularly concerning Iraq. Nor do I detect any hardening of hostility towards GB. On the contrary, I feel there is more respect for him than for some time, even if a lot of people don’t warm to him.
And I feel of the Clegg phenomenon that people find it interesting, but that it is more of a media thing, which in turn drives the polls, than it is a real shift of the plates.
Meanwhile, I remain of the view that the real story of this campaign so far is the public reluctance, despite so much stacked in his favour, to go for David Cameron as Prime Minister. It feels almost as though the country doesn’t want to make a decision. But ultimately this is the time when the public has that responsibility, and over the next few days the many undecideds will choose to decide.
If the Clegg bubble bursts, what matters is where the air from it goes. It might go nowhere. It might go left to Labour or right to the Tories. But it is to a large extent there in the first place because people felt emotionally resistant to both. The question is to whom the resistance is greater.
GB is GB and everyone pretty much knows him. They know his strengths and hopefully they will be on full display in the final TV debate tomorrow. They know Cameron a bit better than they did. But the Cameron who has come over in this campaign is not the Cameron who first burst on the scene with talk of radical change to the Tory Party. The one I keep seeing is a pretty standard right-wing Tory who as the campaign has gone on has become a bit exasperated that people are not quite buying him, and bemusement as to why he is not home and dry.
He is also getting posher and posher. We’re all returning to our roots.
* Buy The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.