Belfast Telegraph

Galloway was the only one not to become an April Fool

By Tom Moseley

April Fools Day has come and gone, but it's been hard to distinguish spoof from reality this past week.

After damaging headlines on granny taxes and party funding, we were treated to spats over pasties and jerrycans before George Galloway's transformation from 33-1 outsider to Bradford West MP provided a stunning finale.

Perhaps the most surreal moment was when David Cameron's spokesman came into the Press gallery to set out, in as much detail as possible, the Prime Minister's pasty-eating habits.

By this point, Gregg's had become a national institution and any public figure who couldn't remember the last hot snack they bought was dangerously out of touch.

Into this chaotic mess stepped Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, pouring petrol on the flames with his instruction that we should hoard fuel in our garage, should we be rich enough to have one.

Many insiders declared this the worst week for the Coalition to date. But somehow Ed Miliband managed to come out of it with a bloody nose, getting a thumping in a by-election Labour MPs had declared was as good as theirs. Suddenly the smug photocall involving the purchase of sausage rolls looked like just what it was - a cynical piece of political opportunism - and Labour had shipped 10,000 voters since 2010.

By April 1, journalists tasked with writing the traditional far-fetched spoof stories had their work cut out.

How much of this matters? It's hard to think of too many examples of elections being lost because of sausage rolls, and Tony Blair won two more majorities after the fuel strikes of 2000.

The danger for the Government is attracting a reputation for incompetency, and any more slips in the coming weeks will be added to the charge sheet.

Labour, meanwhile, promises to "learn lessons" from Bradford West. But the party's grass roots supporters must be wondering how on earth the party will win a General Election when it can't hold onto a supposedly safe seat after such a horror show from the Government.

The big winners could be the "none of the above" parties, as a YouGov poll after the by-election suggests. Some 17%, the highest total since 2009, said they would vote for a party outside the big three. This, coupled with the Bradford result and a high proportion of people polled who believed British politics was "corrupt", suggests that the public are becoming increasingly suspicious of politicians as a whole.

And it will take more than a trip to Gregg's to sort that out.

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