How dare you decide how to vote for yourselves. Don't you know it's the Daily Mail's job to tell you how to vote, and for you to say "Thank you very much sir" and pop into the polling booth on their instructions? What were you thinking, imagining that you might have a free choice when it came to choosing a party for the general election?
You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Today's Mail attacks Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats as fiercely as possible. You may remember from the other day, people polled by YouGov claimed they had been asked questions slanted against the Liberal Democrats, involving suspicious donations and problems with expenses. And now the Mail, entirely coincidentally I'm sure, is using exactly the same anti-Lib Dem message in its editorial:
And, because of a brilliant propaganda coup, the LibDems have painted themselves as the clean, honest party with a fresh, untarnished leader in Mr Clegg.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As this paper reveals today, Mr Clegg and many of his MPs have been some of the worst expenses offenders. LibDem donors have been tainted by criminality.
And the party that promises to return integrity to Parliament is itself stuffed to the rafters with lobbyists and ex-lobbyists like Mr Clegg, many of whom worked for firms promoting policies that are antipathetic to the LibDems' now declared beliefs.
Was the YouGov private poll a way of finding out a good message to attack Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, which has now been passed on by the Conservatives to their favoured newspapers? Or did the Mail come to this strand of attack independently? It matters not. What matters is the level of attack at the Liberal Democrats from the Mail - today there are now nine separate pieces attacking a vote for the Lib Dems.
I think there are a few things going on here. Firstly, it's that the values of the Liberal Democrats - joining the euro, for example - run counter to the values of the Daily Mail, which has often told ghost stories about the Brussels bureaucrats who are controlling us from afar. Secondly, they may be seen by the Conservative Party as the best launchpad for an attack strategy against the Lib Dems, to try and slap Mail readers who would dare vote Lib Dem around the face and make them realise that if they do want to get rid of Gordon Brown, they must do it the Tory way.
Finally, and importantly, they will look like a bunch of mugs if they have nailed their colours to the campaign of David Cameron and the Conservative Party, and voters ignore them. The other day former Sun editor David Yelland wrote in the Guardian that power for the Lib Dems would mean Rupert Murdoch was 'locked out' of British politics - the same day, Murdoch's Sun launched a blistering attack on Nick Clegg, coincidentally enough. I dare say it's the same for the Mail.
These newspapers want to be associated with the winners, not the also-rans. They want their brands to get a little bit of stardust from being positioned next to the powerful; they don't want to be seen to have backed the wrong horse or jumped on the wrong train. People do seem to have taken David Cameron's constant message of 'voting for change', but a lot of them don't seem to be wanting change from him. That is their right, as voters in a democracy.
Newspapers who say "No, you must do what we tell you" run the risk of being exposed as being not quite as influential as they thought they were, and looking out of touch with the public, and their readers. But we'll see. A torrent of attacks on Nick Clegg might have the desired effect; it might simply give him even more credibility and present him as an even more desirable candidate. If him getting more power and influence might upset the tabloids, a lot of people might think that's a jolly good thing.
And still it amuses me to see the Mail pretending, in the midst of this concerted assault on the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg, that they're claiming they're the objective reporters, while the evil BBC are the biased ones:
Indeed, the idea is taking such strong root that the BBC, with risible lack of objectivity, has begun to refer blithely to such a scenario as a 'balanced Parliament' - a description that could not possibly be further from the truth.
That is why, with polling day barely two weeks away, the Mail urges its readers to wake up and get real: Yes, the political classes deserve our contempt, but do we really want a hung Parliament with the paralysis, indecision and political chicanery that this will involve?
A 'risible lack of objectivity'. Beautiful. Whereas the Mail's infantile mudslinging at Clegg is objective? How about their dog whistles about Nick Clegg's supposed lack of 'Britishness' the other day? Was that objective, or was that pretty sinister?
Maybe people should vote how they want to vote, and there's nothing the papers can, or should, do to try and stop them. Maybe a hung parliament wouldn't be the end of the world, and every other democracy on the planet can grow up and cope with it. Maybe by ramping up the intensity of their attacks, the old media are showing their declining power, their lack of influence, their inability to keep in touch with the public mood. But how dare we decide how to vote. How dare we.