On Sunday 3rd May 2015, I was the ConservativeHome Duty Editor. Having compiled our daily newslinks, I had to choose a topic for the morning ToryDiary. The election was only a few days away, so there was plenty of political news, but one story in The Observer seemed impossible to resist:
‘Ed Miliband has commissioned a giant stone inscription bearing Labour’s six election pledges that is set to be installed in the Downing Street Rose Garden if he becomes prime minister. The 8ft 6in-high limestone structure is intended to underline his commitment to keep his promises by having them literally “carved in stone” and visible from the offices inside No 10.’
The idea was jaw-droppingly unhinged. The only thing that troubled me was: was it real? Could even that Labour leadership really be proposing to go all neolithic on Downing Street, on the eve of an election which was supposedly on a knife edge? Might someone be playing a prank? Or was my brain misfiring somehow so early in the morning?
I checked the date: not April Fool’s Day. I checked the link: definitely the real Observer. I checked the byline: an actual political journalist. Just to be sure, I checked his Twitter feed: he had tweeted the story out, so it wasn’t a prank by a peeved intern filing under his name. To paraphrase Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes, the fools really had done it. Shelley’s Ozymandias now came from Islington and had a slightly controversial number of kitchens.
I suspect I wasn’t alone in greeting the story of what was to become famous as ‘The EdStone’ with disbelief. Our readers have honoured the moment by overwhelmingly voting it their Gaffe of the Year – an overwhelming 54.75 per cent selected the limestone folly. So Miliband has a memorial of sorts, even if it wasn’t the one he planned.
In a distant second place, on 19.24 per cent, is Paddy Ashdown’s election night scorn for the exit poll. In third, on 19.5 per cent, is Russell Brand’s endorsement for Labour. In fourth place is the only non-election related candidate: Downing Street’s decision to sack Chris Chope, Cheryl Gilland and Edward Leigh from the Council of Europe, on six per cent.
On an EdStone-related note, 75.8 per cent of our readers voted the General Election their Political Event of the Year, for obvious reasons. 16.8 per cent voted for the second-placed Labour leadership election. The House of Commons Syria vote picked up 3.9 per cent, coming third, and 2.4 per cent backed the Lords’ revolt against tax credit cuts.
A special mention ought to go to the anonymous reader who, when faced with these options, clicked the “Other” box and wrote: “My re-election as a Conservative Councillor.” Many congratulations to you.