This general election campaign is being conducted in two separate spheres.
There is the gritty ground war conducted on the streets of a thousand housing estates, on the rain-slicked steps of millions of households, on high streets and in factories, offices and call centres.
And there is the air war played out on radio, television and on social media, with newspapers playing a less significant role than in previous elections.
Nevertheless, Rupert Murdoch’s intrepid investigators have discovered a “hard-left extremist network” at the heart of the Labour Party, a sinister web of extensive contacts that stretches “from Marxist intellectuals to militant groups and illegal terror organisations.”
The Sun’s spare-time sleuths sent us on a fool’s errand to discover that near 500 clandestine connections link the party — via an alphabet soup of tiny sects so obscure as to have escaped the gravitational pull of real-life politics — to a rogue’s gallery of incomprehensible French post-modernist intellectuals and the decidedly unintellectual and grungy fringes of anarchism.
We make a mistake if we underestimate the political importance of newspaper ownership.
When the Sun runs this fantasy feature — supposedly concocted by an ad hoc group of “concerned” SAS special operations veterans — that disreputable title barely acknowledges the dodgy provenance of its transparently faked contents before removing it from further public gaze.
It is not necessary for this or that confection to stand up to scrutiny. It is mood music designed to run interference on the recognition of real-life problems that demand real-life solutions.
The role of the big business print media is to set up stories so that the broadcast media can then construct a narrative that needs no validation save the incontestable fact that someone is talking about it.
Thus we had a made-up story put out by a Tory spin doctor that a punch was thrown when hapless Matt Hancock, the Tory Health Secretary, visited Leeds General Infirmary to clean up the mess after Boris Johnson’s on-screen meltdown.
A whole bunch of media types, including supposedly impartial figures from our flagship public service broadcaster, promoted the fake news without bothering to validate it or find another source.
The function of this clumsy diversion was to bury the evidence of Johnson’s startling lack of human empathy when the PM was shown a picture of a child suffering from pneumonia and forced to sleep on the hospital floor owing to a shortage of beds.
We see a similar operation under way following Jeremy Corbyn’s exposure of the inclusion of the NHS in trade talks with the US.
Somehow we are expected to believe that the publication of a British government document is part of a Russian plot.
Simultaneously a government mouthpiece says it is a non-story by virtue of having appeared elsewhere.
The trick is to invite us to believe either of two completely contradictory explanations or both.
Meanwhile the election campaign is played out where people live and work.
The Tories got badly burned last time round when they made up their countrywide human deficit by bussing Young Tories from one target seat to another.
This time their youthful cadre is much diminished through a series of sexual harassment scandals and consequently, the party is compelled to spend several fortunes on a social media advertising war.
Labour’s trump card in this election is its big membership base and large activist core. This means Labour has been able to make real human contact with millions while its impressive social media operation has the strategic advantage that the party’s manifesto offers real-life solutions.
The choice really is between money and people.
This article appeared in the Morning Star, Wednesday 11th December 2019.