Anyone listening to Grant Shapps on LBC this afternoon will have noticed he was given a fairly easy ride from a number of the callers phoning-in. Rather than the typical angry voter with an axe to grind, the Tory chairman faced questions of a more old-fashioned, deferential nature.
Tony, from Parsons Green, appeared to want Labour to be put straight on the NHS. He had his doubts whether the Tories really were keen on dismantling the treasured institution, as Ed Miliband would have us believe. How, asked Tony, were Labour getting their sums so wrong?
Then came Sam, in Nottingham. ‘What are the Conservative party doing to cut the amount of tax I’ll pay and help me move towards home ownership?,’ he wondered. And when asked by the presenter whether Grant Shapps’s answer was reassuring, he said it had been, before going on to say that he was worried at the frightful prospect of a Labour government.
By the time the third caller phoned-in it had all become rather one-sided. Will, from Penzance, admitted that he was an activist for Team 2015, the Tories’ impressive doorstep campaign for the general election. Presenter Shelagh Fogarty had had quite enough and politely suggested that things should move swiftly on. ‘How did that one slip through the net?,’ laughed an unbeknown Mr Shapps.
— Lisa (@fenwench) January 6, 2015
As it happens, the Tory machine had been texting its activist database in advance to encourage supporters to pose their party chairman a soft question. ‘Don’t miss the opportunity to phone-in and ask him a question,’ it said.
But, alas, even this impressive stage-management couldn’t keep Mr Shapps away from trouble for the entire duration of the programme. Ben, in Haringey, who was angry about the so-called bedroom tax, declared: ‘This is the cruellest, nastiest government in my lifetime.’ Ah, there’s nothing like good old, spontaneous conversation with real voters, is there?