Tuesday 21 January 2020

Michael Deacon: 'Muppets and mismatches - and for once it wasn't the party leaders'

Fur flies: A woman in an Elmo costume discusses politics with one of Jeremy Corbyn’s minders. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Fur flies: A woman in an Elmo costume discusses politics with one of Jeremy Corbyn’s minders. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Michael Deacon

Normally, polling day is drab and uneventful. The excitement doesn't begin until the release of the exit poll at 10pm. This time, though, things felt somehow different. Vaguely unreal. Something strange was in the air.

Normally, polling day is drab and uneventful. The excitement doesn't begin until the release of the exit poll at 10pm. This time, though, things felt somehow different. Vaguely unreal. Something strange was in the air.

We'll start with Boris Johnson. From Michael Heseltine to John Major, we already knew some big-name Conservatives weren't going to vote for him. What we didn't know is that one of them would be Mr Johnson himself.

Strictly speaking, though, it was true. Mr Johnson's name was on the ballot paper only in the constituency he was contesting, Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Yesterday, however, he didn't vote there. Instead, unexpectedly, he chose to vote in the constituency in which he spends most of his time as prime minister, Cities of London and Westminster. Which meant he was voting not for himself but for the local Tory candidate, Nickie Aiken.

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Supposedly Mr Johnson voted in Westminster purely for the sake of "convenience".

So said a source, anyway. But you never know.

Perhaps in private, Mr Johnson had doubts about his party's Uxbridge candidate. ("Sorry, folks, but I just can't bring myself to vote for myself. I mean, I've always had a soft spot for myself, and I enjoy a good chuckle at all my little gaffes and scrapes. But I'm just not sure I trust myself. The final straw was when I refused to do that Andrew Neil interview. I was so disappointed in myself. I did everything I could to make myself see sense, but I just wouldn't listen.")

One leader who did go to the trouble of voting for himself was Jeremy Corbyn. But not before he'd had a surreal set-to with an opponent. This one, though, wasn't a Tory or a Lib Dem. It was a children's TV character.

Just as the Labour leader was about to enter his local polling station in Islington North, a woman dressed as Elmo from 'Sesame Street' - a cuddly red Muppet with huge round eyes and a voice like a toddler's - rushed towards him.

Thankfully, Mr Corbyn's minders managed to hold her off. But she wasn't going to go quietly. While Mr Corbyn was attempting to pose for the cameras, she removed her head (or at least Elmo's), and placed it over one of his minders. Cue much squabbling and jostling.

"Guys, can we stop the arguments, please!" snapped Mr Corbyn. "Can we stop the arguments! All right?"

He seemed distinctly irked. Which was odd. I thought he liked Muppets. Look at his shadow cabinet.

Speaking of which: there was an even more curious sight in Hackney, east London. Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, was pictured pounding the streets in unmatched shoes.

It's easy to mock, but personally I sympathise. It's been a long, stressful and very tiring campaign, and we all make mistakes.

Once it's all over, Ms Abbott can at last take a break and put her feet up. Then maybe she'll see what's on them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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