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‘The politician in this story may like the details, but his opponent won’t!’

During 23 years with the BBC, and a 40 year journalistic career (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry has covered innumerable elections (indeed his first television interview was with a Welsh MP during the 1987 campaign), and this is underlined now by the conflicting versions of planned tax increases, as well as a huge row today over Rishi Sunak’s early departure from the D-Day commemorations.

 

Everything politicians say or do at the moment should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Leaving early was the wrong thing to do

For example it was probably unwise of Rishi Sunak to leave the D-Day ceremonies early (for which he has apologised), but, frankly it wasn’t a huge deal, yet, of course, the Labour opposition made an enormous mountain out of a molehill (to use another metaphor) because it came during an election campaign.

Mr Sunak was heavily criticised for not being at part of the 80th anniversary D-Day ceremony on Thursday as he travelled back from France to the UK to record a TV interview.

Rishi Sunak was forced to apologise

Rather plaintively he has said it is important not to “politicise” his returning  early – and denied he was planning to skip it entirely.

Some hope.

Mr Sunak accused the reaction from other politicians as being “faux outrage” and “pretty nauseating” because he said many have “done nothing but make my life difficult trying to improve veterans’ affairs”.

Sir Keir Starmer said Rishi Sunak’s claim was “absolute garbage”

Other political parties, though, used the “mistake” to attack Mr Sunak, saying it was “a dereliction of duty”.

From the other direction, he was perceived to have done well during the leaders’ debate, by attacking Labour over their tax plans, although according to his opponents he may have used misleading figures.

One paper said: “Sunak comes out swinging!”

Mr Sunak said Labour wanted to increase tax by £2,000 – a claim Sir Keir Starmer dismissed as “absolute garbage”.

The Tory-supporting press loved it, and one paper said: “Sunak comes out swinging!”.

But the truth is rather more prosaic – almost anything can be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ depending on which figures you use.

How can a child’s glue ear be helped?!

Synthetic rows like this happen during campaigns, and they remind me of the so-called ‘War of Jennifer’s Ear’ (a play on the ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’ a conflict lasting from 1739 to 1748 between Britain and Spain) in the midst of the 1992 General Election (GE).

This is so far back you may be unaware of the details (I wouldn’t blame you!), so let me jog your memory.

On March 24 in 1992, Labour ran a party election broadcast about a five-year-old girl called Jennifer with a glue ear, who waited a year for a simple operation to help it.

“If you want to vote Conservative, don’t fall ill”

This case was contrasted with that of a girl with a similar condition whose parents were able to afford private treatment (of the kind that had been granted tax breaks by the Conservatives), so they were able to resolve her problem quickly.

The then Labour leader Neil Kinnock employed the emotive slogan: “If you want to vote Conservative, don’t fall ill”, and the story of the broadcast was described by Julie Hall, Mr Kinnock’s Press Secretary at the time, as based on an actual case.

Don’t trust everything you see at the moment!

In fact while a particular incident had been the starting point of the creative team that had produced the broadcast (working from a letter by the girl’s parent to Robin Cook, the shadow health secretary), the parents denied it was a recounting of her case.

Everything at the moment is distorted like a scene in Alice Through The Looking Glass!

 

‘BUY MY BOOK!’

Some of the political stories Phil has covered over the years, as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP)have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.

Tomorrow – more criticism about Mr Sunak’s D-Day ‘gaffe’ which made the front pages on Saturday (this time from within Tory ranks), as his potential leadership rival Penny Mordaunt condemns his decision to leave the commemorations early as “completely wrong”.

  • After yesterday’s tragic news, The Eye would like to offer its heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of Dr Michael Mosley.