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Sunday, May 25, 2008

As I Was Walking Past La Asunción...

...I felt an overwhelming desire to enter the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and confess my sins. As someone who was brought up as an atheist but attended a Methodist school, I'm not used to having these "Tony Blair" moments.

La Asunción - reaching out to the guiltyIt was quite the strangest feeling I've experienced since that helicopter ride back in July 2006 when Andrew Neill flew me and his team to Brussels for a special election campaign edition of 'This Week'. It could be an attack of guilt, stored up over many years of spinning ridiculous political lines and trying to get rich while pretending to be on the side of the poor.

In fact I'm feeling more than a bit guilty writing this post on the Crewe & Nantwich by-election from here in Rafael's internet café on the Calle San Antonio, just down the hill from my apartment in sunny Cómpeta. The main reason for my guilt is that I told Linda I was going on a nature walk in the hills this morning, as before we flew out I'd promised my darling wife that it would be a mercifully politics, internet and email free holiday in Andalucía, booked as recuperation from the London elections before anyone knew these would be followed by a parliamentary by-election.

I didn't want to say anything about the trip when I popped in to publish a quick post on Friday night, because it gets my doppelgänger over-excited. But he seems to have found out anyway and deserted his inoperative web server to travel down to Britain's water sports capital of St. Ives for a spot of surfing with his anarchist swimming friends, plus the usual stupid fake blogging aimed at making me look like a complete twat. Mind you, no-one will believe him this time, because he's claiming to have gone away on Thursday only to come home again right at the start of the Bank Holiday long weekend. D'oh!

What I don't feel remotely guilty about is having deserted the sad and exceedingly dim members of the Crewe and Nantwich CLP on Thursday, leaving them to pound the streets of Crewe to suffer the abuse of the electorate armed only with the campaign lines spun out by their local PR team. I mean to say, anyone stupid enough to put up a third-generation political dynasty candidate who owns a landed estate and is listed in Burke's Peerage and then attack the Tory opponent as a "toff" deserves everything they get. Even I couldn't have managed to spin that one successfully!

Don't get me wrong, of course. I'm 100% in favour of personal attack campaigning - it works and you need to give voters reasons not to vote for your opponents, as well as reasons to vote for you. The world of politics is littered with failed candidates who told the truth. And anyone who knows me knows I believe that attack campaigning should be no-holds-barred. After all, I was one of the pioneers of dirty-tricks spin a decade or so ago, in the days when I plotted to smear LibDem candidates, tried to shaft Ken Livingstone and was known as the Labour Rent Boy.

Moyra Dunwoody - single mum of the yearWhere we made a mistake in Crewe was in not complementing our dirty tricks campaign by playing up Labour's strengths. In the case of Moyra Dunwoody, we allowed the campaign stunt of trying to make her look like the ordinary poor, single mother next-door to take centre stage - the political equivalent to playing the gentry, not the ball.

This made it look like we didn't have much to say about policy, when in fact Moyra had a lot of good ideas about local regeneration. As someone who has recently acquired several acres of exquisite National Park land adjacent to her existing estate with a view to development and regeneration, she is well qualified to advise Crewe residents on their back extensions and dormer windows.

The real reason for the swing against us was that the electorate simply didn't understand the massive benefits that New Labour has brought to them. This wasn't an election decided by the local tactics, it was decided by the national strategic picture. We should have focused much more on Gordon's £2.7bn "slump-busting" give-away. In fact I'd go further. Ordinary people are being screwed economically at the moment. Anyone trying to renew a mortgage at the end of its term is facing a huge hike in interest rates and the necessities of life like groceries and fuel are shooting up in price. In these circumstances I think we were lucky to have got away with pounding the streets of Crewe without getting stoned (mind you, there's less chance of that since Jacqui's Class B re-classification).

What the dour grumpy old Scotsman needs to do is to stop droning on about how good he is at steering the economic ship, and about trusting Labour to steer the ship through troubled waters. The trust will come back when actions we start taking actually make people's material conditions better. In short, we need to step up the level of bribes. Alistair Darling should have a list put together of all the mortgage holders (including myself) whose current agreements are about to terminate, get some PR consultants to analyse the data and work out which ones are floating voters and make sure that they are "helped" financially. In the case of my (about to be former) mortgage lender Northern Rock, the Government actually now owns the bank. So it wouldn't take a genius down at The Treasury to pull some levers imaginatively to help the home-owners concerned by offering them affordable mortgage repayments (nudge-nudge, wink-wink). Mind you, it might take someone a bit smarter than Alistair Darling... but then what a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by having the Chancellor take the blame for Crewe and Nantwich and be replaced!

In moments of madness, beautiful Cómpeta sometimes strangely reminds me of Hackney
I haven't been reading much here - the views are far too spectacular for staying indoors. I've just been sitting on the balcony sun-lounger gazing down on the village and thinking what a wonderful place Cómpeta is. So much nicer than that awful place Crewe with its hordes of ingrates. And so much nicer than Hackney, with its chavs, its gangs and its bloody cyclists, swimmers and spoof bloggers. After holidays like this, I don't know why I ever bother to come home.


Anonymous said...

I there's me thinking you were reducing you carbon footprint with hols in separatist Kernow

Luke Akehurst said...

You don't fool me with that pseudonym. I can speak Azarbaijani.

Anonymous said...

As I have had no response to the following eMail I sent you I thought I would post it here to see if my concerns could be addressed.

Hi Luke,

I am writing as I am concerned that you have used one of my photographs from "Flickr" without asking my permission, linking to or attributing me in any way as the source of the image (as per the terms of my Creative Commons Licence )

The image of mine concerned is

This appears in your Blog at Luke Akehurst's Blog: As I Was Walking Past La Asunción...

You have given it its own URL at which you have named "Cómpeta - makes Stoke Newington look like Chatham Ward"

I would be grateful if you could acknowledge and rectify this oversight and inform me when this has been done.

Many thanks in advance,

Neil O'Halloran
( )



for acceptable forms of linking and attribution under the the terms of the copyright licence)

Luke Akehurst said...

I think it's the wine, myself. Those balmy nights enjoying a bottle or two with other members of the Planning Sub-Commitee, when you look at the lights of Hackney's Town Hall Square and it reminds you in some strange way of the beauty of Cómpeta. Well, it's either alcohol or insanity.

Neil O'Halloran said...

Thank you for addressing this issue and removing my copyrighted work ..... would have been nice to have been informed or to have received an apology though !

Luke Akehurst said...

An apology? An apology? Are you stark raving bonkers? I'm New Labour. When was the last time you got a proper apology from anyone in New Labour? Be content with what you've got, mate. It would have been a f**k sight less if I'd been Gordon Brown or Jacqui Smith.

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