Evening Call: Clash of the male egos

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn spent today filming bizarre videos ahead of tonight’s debate.

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Three months? Fifteen years? A decade? All of these would be entirely reasonable guesses if somebody asked you to estimate how far we are into the election campaign. The correct answer, though, completely bafflingly, would be “just under two weeks”.

It is, by any measure, dragging on quite a bit now, but things are about to get interesting (maybe). Tonight will see the most (only) exciting moment of the last fortnight: the first of the televised debates, a head-to-head – much to the annoyance of Jo Swinson – between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

The debate – which I am sure our usual Evening Call writer, Jonn, will definitely be far too busy doing lots of other exciting annual leave things to watch – is hosted by ITV’s News at Ten presenter, Julie Etchingham, and will air on that channel at 8pm.

Completely unable as he is to talk for any extended period of time without either offending or confusing – often both – large swathes of the population, it is widely assumed that Johnson will not come out on top.  

This feeling is not helped by the fact that Johnson has always performed badly in previous debates – for both the London mayoral and Tory leadership contests – and Stephen explains all the reasons why the Prime Minister may again come unstuck here.

Yet it seems Corbyn is not taking any chances; he’s bringing his A-game, and he’s making sure Johnson knows it. Earlier today, the Labour leader visited a barbershop, where he got some poor aide to film him getting his beard trimmed, complete with a blue and white striped cape draped around his shoulders.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quick trim before the first TV debate of the #GE2019. You can watch it tonight at 8pm on ITV. #RealChange

A post shared by Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) on

The video, captioned “Quick trim before the first TV debate of the #GE2019,” was posted to Corbyn’s Instagram, and had big “your dad’s taken up wrestling and tonight’s his first big fight” vibes.

Johnson, as ever, took this one step further by visiting a boxing club just outside Manchester. This was because, as he said, he “loves” the sport, and had nothing to do with wanting to be filmed prancing around a ring swinging punches in a pair of gloves emblazoned with “Get Brexit Done”.

It’s nice that they’re both handling this so well!!!

If you haven’t been put off by today’s alarming displays of fragile masculinity, the former adviser to Gordon Brown, Theo Bertram, has detailed what you should be looking out for in tonight’s debate. “Although the leaders will have spent a lot of time preparing their answers, it is their composure that creates the strongest impression upon viewers,” he writes.

Good day for:

Marie Kondo. Having risen to fame with her best-selling books and subsequent Netflix spin-off show that advocate decluttering your home, Kondo is now recommending you fill it back up again.

The Japanese tidying guru, who preaches getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy, has launched an online shop. Among the 100 products on sale are a $86 candle, a $96 ladle, and a $145 bowl.

All the bare necessities!

Bad day for:

South Dakota, which has spent $495,000 of taxpayers’ money on a very questionable campaign to tackle addiction to methamphetamine. A range of posters feature people from all different walks of life, from elderly women to young American football players, each proudly proclaiming: “I’m on Meth”.

In a Facebook Live video, the state’s governor Kristi Noem explained: “What it's talking about is that each one of us, no matter who we are, that we're on the case of meth.”

Unfortunately for Noem, as many, many people on the internet pointed out, the campaign looks quite a lot more like a range of South Dakotans celebrating their favourite past time.

Quote of the day:

“This sort of fake news is surprising to me. This isn't the only one of the very fake news stories.” Jo Swinson on LBC, denying she ever killed any squirrels – and, unfortunately for her, thereby turning a murder hoax into an actual story.

Everybody’s talking about:

Prince Andrew, still. Unfortunately for the Palace, but also entirely understandably, the scandal is showing no sign of disappearing anytime soon, and is still dominating the front pages three days on from the royal’s car crash Newsnight interview.   

As more of Epstein’s victims come forward to urge the royal to speak with the FBI, the Daily Mail reports that at least five multi-million pound businesses and two universities have now severed ties with Prince Andrew – with more considering doing so.

Everybody should be talking about:

Hong Kong. As the tension and violence between police and protestors escalate, at least 100 remain barricaded inside one of the territory’s universities.

“Students again threw petrol bombs, built makeshift catapults on the terraced roofs of the university to launch petrol bombs and rocks at police lines,” wrote Antony Dapiran, reporting on the ground. “Police responded by drenching the protesters with pepper water from water cannons, as well as tear gas and other projectiles.”

Housekeeping:

With Jasper at a very conveniently timed dentist appointment, I’m filling in for Jonn today, as, as I mentioned, he’s very busy fending off heaps of invitations, and definitely won’t be spending tonight live-tweeting the election debate!!

Questions? Comments? Abuse? Tell me.

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Indra is the New Statesman’s senior sub-editor.

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