The ADgenda: Levi's jeans

This week's most offensive advert.

It's often exhausting watching adverts. The constant focus on self-improvement wears you down swiftly until you're left contemplating the futility of making that cup of tea because how will that make you sexier/funnier/skinnier/smarter? It's an age old method and we all know it only too well - make the consumer feel inadequate and they will latch onto any quick-fix solution, no matter how silly.

A new way of life is offered by everything from your hifi to your toilet roll. But with all these new ways of living on offer surely the outcome is a society of severely confused individuals with a bad case of identity crisis? Levi's are here though to force their idea of success upon our tiny minds. By buying a pair of their jeans you're not just presenting your bum in its best light - oh no no - you're buying into a whole way of life. Your world view will change for the better - you'll become more spontaneous, more enigmatic, more self-assured, and far better-looking. You'll freefall off tall buildings just for the hell of it, before prancing in the rain all the while maintaining your dead-eye pout. Because you're wearing a pair of Levi's.

Just like the Beat poets of yesteryear a side-effect from this new way of life may well be a touch of mental instability - you'll say. every. word. very. loudly. and. jerkily. because. you. are. edgy. but. also. starting. to. feel. a. bit. paranoid. and. you. are. wearing. Levi's. So as you prowl the streets muttering a string of words that sound clever but are actually utter gibberish while hastily doing up your shirt because, oops, you're so busy embracing your new outlook that you forgot to dress yourself in a decent manner this morning - congratulations, you've turned into that person. The one who passers-by cross the street to avoid.

Levi's advert. Photograph: Getty Images
Getty Images.
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How worried are Labour MPs about losing their seats?

Despite their party's abysmal poll ratings, MPs find cause for optimism on the campaign trail. 

Labour enters the general election with subterranean expectations. A "good result", MPs say, would be to retain 180-200 of their 229 MPs. Some fear a worse result than 1935, when the party won just 154 seats. Rather than falling, the Conservatives' poll lead has risen as the prospect of electing a government concentrates minds (last night's YouGov survey, showing the Tories a mere 16 points ahead, was an exception).

Though Conservative strategists insist they could lose the election, in an attempt to incentivise turnout, their decision to target Labour MPs with majorities as high as 8,000 shows the scale of their ambitions (a Commons majority of circa 150 seats). But as well as despair, there is hope to be found in the opposition's ranks.

Though MPs lament that Jeremy Corbyn is an unavoidable drag on their support, they cite four reasons for optimism. The first is their local reputation, which allows them to differentiate themselves from the national party (some quip that the only leaflets on which Corbyn will feature are Tory ones). The second is that since few voters believe the Labour leader can become Prime Minister, there is less risk attached to voting for the party (a point some MPs make explicit) "The problem with Ed Miliband and the SNP in 2015 was that it was a plausible scenario," a shadow minister told me. "It was quite legitimate for voters to ask us the question we didn't want to answer: 'what would you do in a hung parliament?' If voters have a complaint it's usually about Jeremy but it's not the case that he looks like he can become prime minister."

The third reason is the spectre of an omnipotent Tory government. MPs appeal to voters not to give Theresa May a "free hand" and to ensure there is some semblance of an opposition remains. Finally, MPs believe there is an enduring tribal loyalty to Labour, which will assert itself as polling day approaches. Some liken such voters to sports fans, who support their team through thick and thin, regardless of whether they like the manager. Outgoing MP Michael Dugher (who I interviewed this week) was told by an elderly woman: "Don't worry, love, I will still vote Labour. I vote for you even when you're rubbish."

Ben Bradshaw, the long-serving MP for Exter, who has a majority of 7,183, told me: "We're not anything for granted of course. On the current national polling, the Tories would take Exeter. But having covered five polling districts, although the leadership is undoubtedly a big issue on the doorstep, most people say they'll still vote for me as their local MP and we're not detecting any significant shift away from 2015. Which is slightly puzzling given the chasm in the opinion polls." Bradshaw also promotes himself as "the only non-Tory MP in the south-west outside Bristol": a leaflet shows a blue-splattered map with a lone red dot. The Labour MP warns voters not to be left in a "one-party state". 

As in 2010, Labour may yet retain more seats than its vote share suggests (aided by unchanged boundaries). But the fate of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 - when the party was reduced from 56 MPs to eight - shows that local reputations are worth less than many suppose. Theresa May has succeeded in framing herself as a figure above party interests, who needs a "strong hand" in the Brexit negotiations. At the very moment when a vigorous opposition is needed most, Labour has rarely been weaker. And when the public turn resolutely against a party, even the best men and women are not spared.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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