Much to the chagrin of Mike Smithson, Craig Murray was relegated to the ‘also standing’ category (alongside the BNP and Monster Raving Loony Party) during media coverage of the recent Norwich North by-election.
The big broadcasters failed to cover his campaign in detail on the basis that he wasn’t a ‘serious candidate’ and had no record of electoral support in the area. Former BBC journalist Martin Bell‘s candidacy in Tatton South was one of the big stories of the 1997 election and is used as a device to argue that independents like Murray should be given their due.
The same arguments are now being trotted out for Esther Rantzen’s campaign in Luton South. While many reach for a nice mug of Ovaltine to enjoy Craig Murray, others reach for a TV-destorying weighty object when Esther appears on screen. Scrapbook is praying that the Murray rules will apply to Rantzen on the basis that this ‘TV personality and campaigner’ practices smugness at Olympic level.
As contemptible as Luton South MP Margerat Moran’s ‘flipping’ was, it is simply not in the same league as Neil Hamilton‘s cash (in brown envelopes) for parliamentary questions. But the most crucial distinction is that Bell was going head-to-head with Hamilton, who had rejected calls to resign his seat. In contrast, Ian Gibson had already stood down in Norwich North, which meant that Craig Murray was up against squeaky clean ingénues Chloe Smith and Chris Ostrowski. Martin Bell overturned a Conservative majority of over 20,000; Craig Murray lost his deposit.
Similarly, Margaret Moran won’t be contesting Luton South. Rantzen is already shifting the emphasis of her campaign away from expenses towards “vulnerable children, the disabled and the mentally ill”. In May 2010 – a year since the expenses scandal broke – the imagination of the general public will be captured by the prospect of a Conservative landslide rather than a carpet bagging self-publicist who “didn’t know anything about Luton except that it had an airport which you got to from King’s Cross”.
Her admission last week that she can’t win is hopefully the final nail in the coffin:
Some people have taken great glee in saying I won’t win. Do they think I’m completely deluded? I mean, of course I won’t win. I don’t have a flying chance.
But it can be argued that Esther has already got what she wanted, a resurgence of interest in, erm, herself:
I’ve been caught in a maelstrom of media interviews and the telephone at home in Hampstead, north London, has been ringing non-stop.
The ‘satirical song in the 80s genre’ was a regular feature of Victor Lewis-Smith’s criminally underrated TV Offal. Targets included David Attenborough, Dale Winton, Loyd Grossman, Carol Vorderman, Chris Evans and ‘talking horse’ Esther Rantzen:
“But now we must stop ‘cos our lawyer says that Esther will sue!”