What you could of won.
Being as absurdly presumptuous as the prime minister was for reasons we are no nearer to understanding in turn necessitates equally absurd defences. All Cameron had to do was say I've got to win this election before I start worrying about the next one, and yet he didn't. That he then expressly set out the frontrunners to succeed him rather than try and row back makes clear how calculated it was. You can only guess at what the calculation was, and so too it seems can his allies, but at least we don't have to claim that black is white to incredulous journos.
The aforementioned Gove wasn't scheduled to be on Newsnight, but there he was doing his bit. Not so long ago he might have hoped to be among the names reeled off by Cameron, and yet now his task was to try and provide some clarity. He did so by constantly referencing the American system, as though it's worth emulating a model where a two-term president has essentially four years in which to achieve something, the other four years taken up with campaigning for re-election and then as a lame duck. The introduction of fixed term parliaments has on its own meant we've been anticipating the election now for over a year, a situation which hasn't turned out to be an immediate improvement over the one where it was up to the discretion of the prime minister as to when to dissolve parliament.
That Gove had to be wheeled out in any case was evidence by itself of the Thick of It style panic which must have descended following the Cameron interview, although considering his way of putting it in perspective was to go all West Wing, most likely Crosby and pals wished they hadn't bothered. By morning the message was at least slightly more coherent, if still utterly transparent. When the AgeUK conference laughs at the prime minister repeating the I was being a pretty straight kinda guy line, it's fairly apparent just what a self-inflicted wound this has been.
Perhaps the Tories will console themselves that it at least knocked the Afzal Amin disaster down the news agenda. Dealing as we are with absurdities, the story of the prospective Tory MP for Dudley North making a deal with the EDL whereby they would announce a demonstration then call it off following mediation with Amin, along with an exchange of hard cash to make it worth their while has to rank up there. As well as Amin claiming that he was drawing on his experience of "dealing with the Taliban", having served in Afghanistan, although whether his claims about counter-insurgency are bullshit or not is anyone's guess, Alex notes that Amin's company succeeded in wrangling a contract out of the Department for Communities and Local Government to giving inspiring talks on Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the world wars. Whether Amin might perhaps have a case for being stitched up, as he claims, is open to question: we are after all relying on both the Mail on Sunday and Tommy Robinson himself, who secretly recorded and filmed their meetings, as to the veracity of what went on. Speaking of Robinson, considering he was supposedly meant to have put his EDL days behind him thanks to the work of the Quill.i.am Foundation, that he was negotiating alongside the new EDL chairman with Amin raises the question of just what, if anything, their "deradicalising" of aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon amounted to. Quilliam hasn't as yet commented on their protégé's latest attention grabbing exploits, oddly.
They have though welcomed Theresa May's speech on how a majority Conservative government would deal with extremism, which seems to amount in practice to more schemes like those provided by Amin's Curzon firm with a further blurring of the lines between what's considered to be Islamic conservatism as opposed to extremism. Purists, i.e. people like me will also take issue with how on the one hand we must be robust in our promotion of "British values", those intrinsically British virtues such as participation in and acceptance of democracy (presumably meaning 35% of eligible voters are extremists based on the 2010 turnout) and respect for minorities (no further comment necessary), and at the same time deny extremists who aren't quite extreme enough to fall foul of anti-terrorist legislation their right to freedom of speech by extending banning orders.
Then there's how despite British values being so universal and unquestionable they also need to be promoted by a "positive" campaign. Like the superb Britain is great one presumably, and not like the one telling Romanians and Bulgarians how awful it is here. You could also question the commitment of governments past and present to the self-same values now deemed to be non-negotiable, such as respect for the rule of law, not utmost on the agenda of Iain Duncan Smith, or equality, which is so wide a concept as to mean something different to almost everyone. When British citizens are imprisoned for making offensive jokes or posting riot "events" on Facebook you also have to wonder just which definition of freedom of speech it is we're deeming to be a "British value". Not the American one, that's for definite, despite this seeming to be the first step towards an American-style drilling into kids of just how exceptional their country and its values are. Seeing as May also ended the speech with a you're either with us or you're with the extremists flourish, last employed by a certain former president, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds.
Not that it makes much odds as there isn't going to be a majority Conservative government, therefore rendering the entire speech all but completely pointless. Here's what you could of won: a prime minister who doesn't, repeat doesn't believe he was born to rule, a prospective MP who would have got away with it if wasn't for the meddling EDL, and a home secretary who fought against Michael Gove's "draining of the swamp" only to then decide it needed dredging after all. What fools we all must be.