There are some things we come to expect with elections, and dodgy statistics are one of them. And not in the manifestos, either. Already a couple of friends in the Labour Party, in widely differing constituencies, have reported the emergence of everyone’s least favourite bit of election paraphernalia, the Liberal Democrat Bar Chart. I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of these – the Lib Dem candidate’s glossy leaflet will invariably have a colourful bar chart purporting to demonstrate that Only The Lib Dems Can Win Here. It will then be cunningly marketed to wavering Labour/Tory/Green/whatever voters who might be bamboozled into lending the Lib Dems a tactical vote.
As a hardy perennial, it ranks right up there alongside the poll the Daily Record always publishes about a week into the campaign, invariably showing Labour miles ahead of the SNP (regardless of what the likely results may be) and accompanied by furious editorialising to the effect that “Only Labour can win! The SNP are dead in the water!! Vote Labour!!!” As with the Lib Dem Bar Chart, this is aimed much more at influencing opinion than reflecting it. And when it comes to the LDBC, so often is this deployed and with such egregious use of statistics that I’m amazed they’ve never been done by Trading Standards.
You may have gathered that I’m none too sold on the Lib Dems. Although they’ve been having their spring conference this weekend, the idea of turning on News 24 to listen to inspirational addresses from Mr Nicholas Clegg, Ms Lynne Featherstone and Dr Death Evan Harris has proved eminently resistable, although Vince Cable’s lugubrious Yorkshire undertaker routine is not uncongenial. Cranmer takes the jaundiced view, and I largely agree with His Grace.
No, I mention the Lib Dems because of their colourful new candidate for Gravesham, one Ms Anna Arrowsmith. As you may have learnt from your morning news-paper, Ms Arrowsmith is a prolific director of blue movies. Under her Anna Span pseudonym, she has knocked out an extensive back catalogue of what she describes as women-friendly porn. Whether she has succeeded in her task, or whether her films are any good, I cannot inform you, as I must regretfully own up to never having seen any of the Anna Span œuvre. All I can say is that she’s managed to make a living at it. Still, the female-friendly tag might make her a bit more palatable to feminists, who might have got a little hot under the collar if, say, Ben Dover suddenly became a candidate.
So what does Ms Arrowsmith have to say for herself? I suspected she might have been intrigued on hearing Mr Clegg talking about hung parliamentary members, but sadly, she says she was motivated by the expenses scandal. Indeed, she comes across in this interview as being quite sensible:
How seriously will the voters take Ms Arrowsmith, 38, on the election trail? She wants to be respected for her business and campaigning record but knows that her career will present a problem for some. “There will be some people who will never like porn,” she says. “People approach sex in different ways. For some people it is only an emotional act. For others it is a variety of different acts. Some people will never accept that. They are probably the same people who never had a one-night stand. There will be some people who are conservative and very anti-porn. I think on the whole these days people are far more liberal.”
What about the Liberals? Aren’t some of them going to be affronted by a pornographer in their midst? “I don’t think so. On the whole they are a sexually liberated bunch.”
You know, when Peter Hitchens blames Britain’s troubles on “sixties liberals”, I always think he’s being a bit harsh on poor old Jo Grimond. This metrosexual attitude is a very long way removed from the old-fashioned Nonconformist Liberals you used to find in places like Cornwall or Cardiganshire, people who would have thought Clement Freud was a bit racy. Although I suppose the exploits of Mark Oaten and Lembit Öpik may have softened up the Lib Dem ranks a little bit.
Fed up with seeing porn films that focused on women pleasuring men she has carved a niche making films in which a third of shots show the woman, a third the man and a third the couple together. She says that the films she makes are humorous and that there is no airbrushing.
Nearly half her customers are women, she says: “Women definitely need this.”
And it is further reported that Ms Arrowsmith has recently won a battle with the BBFC that allowed her to depict squirting on screen. (If you don’t know what that is, you probably don’t want to know.) Sadly, bar charts notwithstanding, Gravesham is a Labour-Tory marginal where the Lib Dems have no chance of winning. Putting her into Parliament would be nearly as good as having Tuppy Owens as an MP – and, while I wouldn’t necessarily want Tuppy Owens to be dictating policy, there is such a thing as having a voice of conscience that needs to be heard. One may object that the Italians have already been down this road, with la Cicciolina having been elected as far back as 1987, but Cicciolina can hardly be held to blame for the rise of Berlusconi.
No, for those of us who like a bit of grotesquerie, it seems unlikely that the Lib Dems are about to become the second incarnation of Miss Whiplash’s Corrective Party. Mr Clegg and his chums just don’t have the flair and imagination for such a thing. However, Ms Arrowsmith has succeeded in briefly making the Lib Dems look slightly interesting. That in itself is no mean achievement. And the best we can do over here is Mike Nesbitt and Fearghal McKinney? How dull are we?