Belfast Telegraph

Why Joey Essex's Liberal Democat gaffe left me feline good about poll

What are all these red lions the Irish parties are going on about? So asked one plaintive Tweeter during this week's Northern Ireland leaders' television debate. His - let's be generous - unfamiliarity with the Ulster brogue appeared to be matched by his lack of knowledge regarding partition, which, having occurred almost 100 years ago, one might have expected most people to have caught up by now.

But, hey, he made me laugh - cruelly, and at his expense, as many of the best private laughs are. And in this unusually bad-tempered election run-up, I have savoured every laugh I've got.

Elections are never powered by harmonious concurrence, or tenderly burgeoning romance, but this one strikes me as having been unusually rancorous when it's come to personal attacks.

Particularly on the increasingly caricatured Nicola Sturgeon (Farage's "Scotch terror") and Ed "not David" Miliband and his momentary awkwardness when eating a sandwich.

But there have been chinks of light-heartedness in the sharply serrated darkness, and, as a news junkie still in treatment, I've been pathetically grateful for all of them.

TV reality star Joey Essex came good when he aired his pre-election views. He was especially taken by the "Liberal Democats", who, in turn, were so charmed by his feline-inspired mishearing of their name, they hinted at changing it online for a day in his honour.

Joey appeared on the BBC's This Week and met up with Ed, Nick and Nigel and found them all to be lovely fellas. Joey's political priority is the NHS as, "I fell off my bike when I was seven and had to have stitches in my lip."

I thought Joey was a unique island of blissful amiable ignorance until I watched Gogglebox and heard a number of the show's couch-sank contingent discussing this baffling new concept "austerity", which everyone kept going on about. Something to do with stairs? That kind of blew my mind.

Ed's last-minute brain blowout - or "inspired idea", if you prefer - to have his pledges literally carved in stones, was another welcome mirth-trigger.

There's no way The Thick of It guys could have bettered this one. Visions of Miliband and Balls struggling to carry huge concrete tablets into the rose garden like bone-weary Druids setting off to Stonehenge, or Henge, as it was presumably called then, were delicious enough.

The casual comment by a party luminary just a few hours later that just because these promises were carved in stone didn't mean they couldn't be broken was the icing on the cake of ludicrosity.

The Tories mocked Ed's desperate attempts to prove he meant what he said. Their plan to pass a law ensuring they stuck to their proposals clearly showed they had no worries about voters trusting their own sincerity.

Rumours that Michael Gove wanted to add a clause about beheading Cameron if he failed to deliver remain unproven.

There was a brilliant moment when it transpired Ed had a following of teenage girls, his very own breed of Directioners (or bobby soxers for our older readers). We must assume the Milifans were turned on by his masterful "Hell yeahs!" (though, actually, well-spoken Oxford grad Ed couldn't quite muster up a slovenly Brando-eque "yeah", and only managed the less-superheroic, but more polite, "yes").

Evidently miffed, Dave rolled up his sleeves and shouted that he too was "pumped", but I got the feeling he meant full of Nightnurse, he looked so knackered.

I also had a few chuckles explaining the conscience clause to English innocents investigating the values of the party who could save the throne for David Cameron. As the old song says, they didn't believe me.

Mr Darcy displays a healthy attitude

We're used to hearing actresses speak about the body fascism which blights their trade, the ridiculous pressure to maintain unhealthy shapes and sizes to get a Hollywood role.

This week, Ripper Street star and one-time Mr Darcy, Matthew Macfadyen, made an excellent point about the current obsession with actors showing off six-packs of the Poldark kind.

Sportsmen, highly trained soldiers - men who are fit and strong - only have six-packs if they go to the gym and focus on getting a six-pack, he said. In terms of historical drama, they're a nonsense.

For Macfadyen they're a sign of vanity and gym slavery, little else. Well said, sir.

Sir Chris is still the gold standard

I spoke to Sir Chris Hoy this week, Britain's most successful Olympian ever. He was, as usual, immensely modest and unpretentious and happy to laugh at his younger self for being an awkward "sweaty-palmed" teenager who got nervous before school dances because he wasn't a huge hit with the girls (hmm, do we believe him?)

Most notable of all, though, was when, asked to pick his greatest moment, the six-time Olympic gold medallist, without hesitation, went for the night he met his wife, Sarra.

He knew, almost at once he said, that she was different to any other girl.

If Carlsberg did husbands ...

Belfast Telegraph

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