Andrew Marr’s diary: Why this is such a tooth-grindingly awful election

Plus: The conquest of London by money, and the triumph of Matisse

11 April 2015

9:00 AM

11 April 2015

9:00 AM

So far, what an infuriating election campaign. We have the most extraordinary array of digital, paper and broadcasting media at our fingertips — excellent political columnists, shrewd and experienced number-crunchers, vivid bloggers and dedicated fact-checkers. There has never been a general election in which the interested voter has had access to so much carefully assembled and up-to-the-minute data. And it’s unpredictable, and it matters: the recovery on a knife edge, the future of the UK, our future in Europe — all that. It ought to be thrilling. So why is the campaign proving so tooth-grindingly awful? Simply because the parties have chosen to refuse to tell us what we need to know. There’s this thing called the deficit (you may have heard about it). It’s sitting there like a great stinking ordure in the middle of public life. If it isn’t shovelled away over the next five years, we are all going to spend ever more on debt interest. To deal with it, big taxes have to go up — I don’t mean just the mansion tax, but taxes that hit most of us — or very large and extremely painful cuts in public spending must be made; or some combination of both. We know this. It’s the uncomfortable truth bracketing the entire campaign. So — which taxes, when? Which cuts, where?

Before the campaign started, we were getting somewhere: I could interview Cameron or Osborne and make some progress in finding out where cuts would be made. When pressed, Ed Balls was starting to talk about which projects he might scrap, and about tough decisions in unprotected departmental budgets. Now? All that has closed down completely. The Tories seem to have forgotten that the Autumn Statement ever happened. They now want to spend huge extra amounts of money on the NHS; Labour has ruled out almost all tax rises for most voters. And the other parties want to spend more and certainly don’t want to talk about taxation. The deficit? Apparently if it’s left alone it’s just going to melt away. Huddled-down, risk-averse politicians from all the main parties have decided to treat us like credulous children.

Gaah! And it’s not as if timidity is doing much for Labour or the Tories. They are both still stuck, frozen in the polls. The SNP insurgency, which is starting to feel like a national revolution in Scotland, looks set to be the fundamental story of the election. ’s hardly Nicola Sturgeon’s fault: she’s simply saying what she’s said for years, clearly and enthusiastically. No, if the main parties are being elbowed aside that’s their fault and nobody else’s. It isn’t too late to change tack, is it? Either that, or we’re going to have to pray for more bacon sandwiches, punches, and David Cameron going mad with the lettuce heart in his lovely kitchen.

My children have an automatic put-down for overprivileged complaints — whinges about Waitrose parking, or whatever. They say: ‘#firstworldproblems’. And for the rest of the country, I imagine, there can be few more irritating things than Londoners complaining about the wall of foreign money crashing across us. But as London morphs into dozens of square miles of asset management, ordinary life is throttled. In Primrose Hill, we had two small business parks, crammed with local, high-employment businesses. Both are being turned into luxury housing to be sold off-plan in the Far East. Our pubs have gone the same way. All around me, small shops and cafés are going out of business because you can’t sell sandwiches to investors sitting in Shanghai. #Firstworldproblems, indeed. But London is being destroyed.

Never mind, there’s still lots to enjoy as the warm weather finally arrives. To raise funds for the local library, we’ve got a brilliant little scheme: people living all around are being encouraged to draw, paint or photograph one another, to produce a kind of visual tapestry of the community. I have been drawn in chalks and have been told to sally out and sketch a dog-walker, a concierge, a punk poet and a shop owner. It’s a brilliant way of putting people from different backgrounds in touch with one another, and it should provide a timely antidote to the belief that north London is entirely occupied by millionaire Marxist intellectuals. At any rate, I haven’t been asked to draw one of them yet.

In Paris recently, I went to the reopened Musée Picasso, a wonderful storehouse. But, in the context of the great debate about 20th-century painting — Picasso or Matisse? — I found myself staggered by the quantity of anger and hatred in room after room of Picassos. When finally, on the top floor, we found some Matisses, they blew the Picassos away. Almost nobody now tries to draw or paint like Picasso. Almost everybody wants to paint or draw like Matisse. Debate over.

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  • Brimstone52

    As you suggest Andrew, one can have the most effective messengers and pundits with the iPads etc at the ready, but if the raw material is lacking there’s not much any one can do.

    I noticed you didn’t mention the one party which highlighting and discussing issues though. I wonder why.

    As long as the two main parties carry on as they are then the small business problems you mention in your local area will not only get worse but will spread to other parts of London and the country.

    Absent property owners / holiday cottage owners have been causing problems for local economies for many years. There are solutions, but all too often government goes in the wrong direction. Instead of giving a Council Tax discount for such properties, there should be a substantial loading.

    • Tom M

      “….Instead of giving a Council Tax discount for such properties, there should be a substantial loading…..”
      That is social engineering. Council tax is to pay for local services and nothing else. It is not to skew the property market to change who lives where as pleases the local council.

      • Brimstone52

        “Who lives where” is the point. The people who own holiday cottages or buy property as an investment with no intention of living in it don’t live there.

        • post_x_it

          Exactly, and therefore don’t use local services as much as a permanent resident would. Hence the discount.

          • Brimstone52

            Whilst depriving a local person of somewhere to live in their own area and pushing up the price of housing.

          • Tom M

            Whilst I may sympathise with the local resident’s predicament what exactly has that got to do with how much you pay to have your bins emptied?

  • Sean Grainger

    The phrase , you may have heard about it , perfectly States the arrogance of the BBC and why the Iicence fee should be scrapped.

  • Patricia

    “All around me, small shops and cafés are going out of business because you can’t sell sandwiches to investors sitting in Shanghai. #Firstworldproblems, indeed. But London is being destroyed.”
    You have only just noticed, Mr Marr ?

  • Frank

    Funny how none of this political trivialisation is anything to do with the journalists who over the last 10 years have reduced all intelligent political debate in the UK to a series of breathless micro dramas over nothing.

  • Bert

    Too much air time to fill, particularly from the massed outlets of the BBC for whom objectivity seems to mean glossing over Labours collosal and criminal ineptitude.

  • John Carins

    It’s awful because the media has shut down debate and deliberately ignored UKIP. They are running scared of the PC brigade and UKIP’s ability to tackle issues at the root causes.

  • JonBW

    As Alan Shearer once said to Glenn Hoddle: “Have you ever thought it might be you?”.

    Is it worth considering that our self-satisfied media, with its preoccupation with ‘analysis’ that usually isn’t analysis at all, its obsession with superficiality and trivia and (in the particular case of the Beeb) its obvious bias towards a centre-left ‘consensus’ may actually be shaping our politics?

    Perhaps if we had less coverage from the broadcast media and if it focussed on real factual reporting, the analysis could be left to those who do it well (the broadsheets) and we’d have a more engaging and relevant election.

    Oh, and the cynicism of the BBC about politicians and politics may also be detrimental to our democracy.

    • We desperately need a UK Fox News. Our media is grossly distorted and skewed to the left as some (Paxman, Marr, Sissons, Humphries) have acknowledged. Rather than forcing died in the wool left wing news editors and program commissioners to feign ‘balance’, let them do what their conscience dictates, but let’s have a counterweight. Then there will be real debate. The extent to which Fox has managed to set the agenda in the US, simply by reporting on matters that the rest of the media wants to pretend doesn’t exist, is astonishing

      • Robbydot1

        Agreed. All the broadcast and the vast majority of print media is very left wing whilst the country generally is not.

        • tolpuddle1

          “The vast majority of print media is very left wing”

          Yeah, you mean the Times, Telegraph, Mail, Express and Sun.

          Try learning arithmetic.

          • You left out The Independent, Huffington Post, the Financial Times, The Economist, anything produced by the BBC, and virtually all broadcast media (there is no need to restrict our vision to print media). And that’s only what I know of in England, never mind the rest of Britain and the Western world.

          • Barba Rossa

            All of them ..anti SNP

          • blandings

            Wouldn’t think they’d care one way or the other – i don’t

          • Bertie

            Eh the Times and Express Right wing? Are you sure.
            Telegraph and Mail yes, Sun flicks both ways depending on who Murdoch gets the most leverage over.

            Left wing papers, Guardian, Mirror, Independent, Observer, Daily Star. FT centre Left.

            Looks very much as the original poster claimed – more Left Wing papers than Right. Not forgetting the most biased media of all, the state broadcaster. Left wing without question.

            Perhaps you should learn arithmetic yourself instead of being making a fool out of yourself

            HTH 🙂

          • tolpuddle1

            Times (Murdoch) and Express – yes, right-wing, very sure.

            Sun is only pro-Labour when Labour is safely right of centre, as it was under Blair.

            Financial Times – a few liberal opinions, but the Capitalist paper par excellence.

            Observer – a Sunday paper, so Sunday Express, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday. must be considered in the opposite camp.

          • Bertie

            Being owned by Murdoch means nothing.Just read the editorials, or the main articles. The Times is Centre Left,and there’s simply no way the Observer isnt left wing.Under any circumstances.

            FT is definitely Left wing, despite its business pages focusing on capitalism – clearly you’ve never wondered why it was called the Pink paper(and that’s not the colour of its pages btw!) It’s news reporting is overwhelming Left inclined.

            The only true Right Wing papers are the Telegraph,and the Mail.Sometimes Sun, 3

            On the Left, Guardian,Mirror, Observer, Independent(An oxymoron as it is anything but independent) , Daily Star

            Do you read the Express – cant say I have.

            But it’s all irrelevant when the STATE BROADCASTER, the BBC, is as Left Wing as the Guardian.

            Says it all – media is liberal/left biased. Of that there is no doubt.,

          • tolpuddle1

            From where you stand, monsieur, everything looks left-wing; and by your standards, is.

          • Bertie

            So how do you respond to Amandastarspangled?

            “You left out The Independent, Huffington Post, the Financial Times, The Economist, anything produced by the BBC, and virtually all broadcast media (there is no need to restrict our vision to print media). And that’s only what I know of in England, never mind the rest of Britain and the Western world.”

            Spot on. Beeb is a notoriously biased. Cant even get a balanced audience for Question Time.

      • tolpuddle1

        No, what we desperately need is a British Syriza.

        Something genuinely Left, not Ed M’s mumbling and fence-sitting.

        • lol, you’re a funny guy

          • tolpuddle1

            Glad you’re laughing, even though I’m not joking.

            Syriza are a bit milk-and-water, though – agreed

          • It’s the fact that you aren’t joking that makes it so funny.

        • redsquirrel

          you have the greens.

          • tolpuddle1

            They’re merely green shoots of recovery at the moment, though.

        • wudyermucuss

          We need more far left policies which got us/them into a mess in the first place?

          I’m amazed there’s no right wing news channel in the UK,it’s bizarre.

          • tolpuddle1

            You mean the far left policies of the German bankers who lent them the money ? And of Goldman Sachs who fiddled the figures to get Greece into the Eurozone ?

            No UK right-wing news channel ? – would be bizarre; IF the Brits were fruitcakes, loonies and teapots like the Americans.

          • wudyermucuss

            No,I meant retiring at 50,30 hour week,huge overspending etc,policies which are clearly unsustainable.
            You use racism and derogatory terminology of mental illness to argue against having a right wing news channel?
            I don’t know whether to recommend your promotion to our great leader or send you to the east for re-education.
            Have your bags packed and ready just in case.

          • tolpuddle1

            Don’t be so absurd as to play the race card, then the PC-language card, against me. Next, you’ll be telling me you’re the editor of the Guardian.

            Huge and clearly unsustainable overspending ? Yes, you’re right – the public have overspent hugely and are massively in debt.

            Capitalism requires them to – clearly it’s unsustainable.

            The last 3 lines of your post belong in the realms of fantasy, of wishful thinking, and don’t require a response.

          • wudyermucuss

            Race card?Where?

            You used derogatory mental health insults instead of debate.

            I’m glad you agree there has been massively unsustainable overspending,which the far left SNP/Lab/Green axis of imbecility are straining to repeat.

            You use insult,refuse debate,and lack sense of humour.You are a classic leftist ideologue.

      • John M

        We don’t need a UK Fox News. It is staffed by zealots, nutters and racists. Our political discourse will not be improved by hiring people like Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, Neil Cavuto or Sean Hannity.

    • Mc

      You’re asking the impossible from the BBC. They’re never going to have any integrity.

    • evad666

      The BBC should be hilarious to see as Labour loose their N. England redoubts.

  • Peter Stroud

    Sketch a Marxist millionaire: get off quick, and sketch Ed Miliband,

  • davidofkent

    ‘My children have an automatic put-down for overprivileged complaints — whinges about Waitrose parking, or whatever.’

    If you or your children think that shopping at Waitress is only for the over-privileged, you all need to ‘get out more’. The reason that this General Election campaign is so awful is that the UK is broke and politicians are trying to bribe voters with money that they not only do not have but will not materialise with any of the policies on ‘taxing other people’ that the Parties so love. Furthermore, you TV presenters make things worse by giving these snake oil sellers so much air time. Most of what the politicians say is sheer guff and most of the electorate know it.

  • MountainousIpswich

    Hi Andrew. When you mentioned to Hattie Harman over Ed Miliband avoiding Inheritance Tax the other day, she responded by saying that Ed Miliband had not committed any ‘tax evasion’. No one had suggested he had. But he is very guilty of tax avoidance while attacking any and everyone else for it. Why didn’t you challenge Harman on this sleight of hand trickery of language and allow her to wriggle off the hook?

    Maybe asking questions like that and holding politicians (especially Labour – whose lies know no bounds) to account, then perhaps this election would not be so tooth grindingly boring. Make them defend and argue for every promise they are making and show up their hypocrisies.

    Oh, and you don’t look well on tv. Make sure you’re looking after yourself.

    • Mc

      It’s about time the likes of the BBC simply refuse to air any interview where a politician refuses to answer the question or lies. But of course the BBC doesn’t have any integrity to refuse to act as propagandists.

  • Mc

    Sounds like Marr’s children are as vacuous and self-satisfied as he is, wittering on about Social Justice Warrior posturings such as privilege and #firstworldproblems

    • porcelaincheekbones

      SJWs are poison and take over all forms of culture like a cancer.

    • And as Leftist — failing to realize that their ‘solution’ is actually what caused the problem in the first place! You can always count on Lefties to make any situation worse and then to blame everyone else for the result.

      • Joe Williams

        Andrew Marr had a chilling ‘solution’ to those with the audacity to question the wisdom of mass immigration & enforced multiculturalism. ( Guardian. Feb. 1999)
        ‘…the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce & repress…I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain ‘natural’ beliefs for long enough & you can almost kill them off.’
        Straight out of the NKVD handbook.

        • What a charmer.

          • blandings

            How are you doing youngster?
            Maybe I offended you.
            I apologise if I did.
            I rarely apologise.
            I’m feeling mellow.

          • Of course you didn’t, though the selection was a bit baffling and I could see that it wasn’t going to pair with the wine I was drinking. Glad you’re a mellow fellow, G.

          • blandings

            We’ll leave it at that

          • Till next time we meet, or hasta la vista (’till the [next] sighting’.

          • This is a song I heard in a car taxi in my early 20s, on the way to meet my very racy boyfriend (yes, it was just as well, given my future). Youth is appalling but at least in youth one’s illusions still look like the real thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-ikfwXOtqE

            Oh, and this is He, the haunter of my dreams for years, though for him I do not exist (he was surprised that his English girl however did end up ‘starspangled’):

  • evad666

    Why save Primrose Hill its so obviously hideously white.

  • Chamber Pot

    Why ? Because the ‘ Establishment ‘ consensus parties and the tame mass media is so self obsessed, and so divorced from the concerns of ordinary citizens that they have effectively disappeared up their own bottoms.

  • porcelaincheekbones

    Why should we save dredges like Soho, or uppity places like Primrose Hill, when those same people let the East End go to Third World Hell?

    • ilPugliese

      It was always a form of hell.

  • tomgreaves

    Election, what election? We all know that the middle of the road dullards will still be at the wheel of the establishment when Brenda nods her approval at her new government. New government my Khyber-pass. Shifting deck chairs won’t save the sinking ship. Marr is wrong: it’s not that no one tells him how they intend paying down the debt: they don’t know, never will know and couldn’t possible know because they have no interest whatsoever in what happens when they have retired to their country estate. The long and painful fall and decline of Britain is now well underway, and nothing can be done about it while the democracy supports the kind of shallow minded career politicians that are tolerated. They are all about getting what they can while they parade themselves, both to themselves and to others, as caring. Mr Marr, if you really believe what you say then get seriously serious when you interview these career politicians and give the lie to their lies.

  • Manfredo Felice

    “But as London morphs into dozens of square miles of asset management,
    ordinary life is throttled… London is being destroyed.”

    So, um…move somewhere else.

    • Is that your answer to anyone that loves his home and doesn’t want to leave it? It’s not mine!

  • Anyway, glad to hear that Matisse (whom I tended to gravitate to in my Matisse & Picasso class in university) is winning out over the old Communist and male chauvinist pig.

  • Richard Baranov

    ” excellent political columnists, shrewd and experienced number-crunchers, vivid bloggers and dedicated fact-checkers.”
    You are surely joking are you not? None of the above are in the slightest bit interested in the truth or even in having a reputation for being honourable in what they do. The lot of you are completely cavalier with the truth, cavalier with numbers and cavalier with facts. The rest of us, as a result, have to spend hours sifting dross and garbage on the internet in order to get at the truth, and, in almost every case, it is the direct opposite from what you characters claim. I care not a jot for Primrose Hill whilst you people routinely corrupt the body politic and the media and bring this country low.

  • Andrew Marr et al is part of the problem.

  • John M

    I’m sorry that you find the election boring Andrew. Perhaps you need to get another job which actually interests you.

    But I am going to add my voice to others on here and express my disattisfaction with you. You are one of the few people genuinely in a position to hold politician’s feet to the fire and yet your Sunday interviews remain far too quick to change subject as soon as a guest refuses to answer a question, and don’t ask the frankly awkward questions which need to be asked.

    Andrew Neil is far more forensic, but who the hell watches The Daily Politics? You are part of the problem Mr Marr. You fail to push these people to reveal the obvious limitations of thier prepared announcements. You play thier game with them, producing not political interviews but little pantomimes pretending to to challenging.

    As John Stewart once remarked to Tucker Carson “People like you are hurting democracy, you’re hurting our country, please… stop…” Please – do stop if you are bored so a journalist with a set of guts who’s willing to challenge the sound bites can take your place. I’m sure you’ve done enough to get your knighthood by now.

  • Clotsworth

    seems like only yesterday this clueless bbc apparatchik was fully engaged in the defamatory Project Fear campaign, proclaiming ever so sagely that the Yes campaign was based on nothing more than ( a nonexistent ) hatred of England conducted by bullies and thugs

    The man is a a smug stooge of the corporate dissimulators manoeuvering this dying state from democracy to abject, cowering meaninglessness and vassalage .

    So very bbc ; patronising, contemptuous of the intelligence of his victims, the bbc protection racket paying mugs , a degree in the arts giving them absolute, unquestionable certainty in everything pseudo scientific or quasi religious.

    From climate change global warming and the settled evil of that by-product of all animal life and precursor of plant life, carbon dioxide…(still in fact inexorably falling in relative concentration or partial pressure since the end of the last ice age ) but which nonetheless, in the Age of Project Fear, constitutes a very handy index of stupidity for the new religion.

    Andrew Marr is the epitome of that creed of self righteous, backward believers in anything apart from their own kingdom, the sky is falling fearmongers and haters of all manifestation of individual freedom , whose triumph will be to deliver us into thier world of fear and such lack of self belief that rule by the would be corporate superstate will become unchallangable fact.

    It is them or us, either we rid ourselves of these cancers of the human spirit that inevitably come from power without responsibility or accountability and which are consuming our civilisation,the bbc and EU, or succumb to the Andrew Marrs, to die in their world of self serving, unbending corporate dictatorship, of cupidity and superstitious fear of our own shadows.

    Vote SNP