Yesterday it was me who was hung over - a few too many beers while avoiding the election debate (and the 'arseoisie') while on a night out in Bristol. But a look at today's front pages makes me think it's our friends in the inky press who are hung over. The stories are lame, unappetising, bland. Dry white toast news. They overdid it a bit the other day in the Get Clegg frenzy, and now the dead-tree screamsheets are licking their wounds, nursing a headache and feeling pretty sorry for themselves.
So much has been said already about the astonishing events of Thursday. But read Tabloid Watch for a good summary, and this article by Kevin Marsh from the BBC College of Journalism, who compares and contrasts the tabloid frenzy with the built-in fairness rules of broadcast:
I am writing this after reading most of this morning's election press online and while watching party news conferences and interviews on live and continuous TV - I cannot reconcile the two.
They are glimpses of different universes.
I think the problem, the terrifying problem for the dead-tree press and the 'Murdochracy', is that this election has been electrified by the television debates in a way that no-one could see coming; the expectations were that smooth operator David Cameron would blow everyone away, but it hasn't quite worked out like that. So now the press are reduced to trying to tell you that what you saw on television wasn't what you saw: yesterday David Cameron's cheerleaders on the news-stands claimed he had clearly won the second debate, despite viewers not seeing it that way. Who do I believe, my own eyes, or what someone else is telling me I saw with my own eyes? Newspapers have been reduced to someone standing in front of you while you're watching a film or a football match, telling you what to think about it; all you want to do is shoo them out of the way - you can see for yourself.
Today, then, in the wake of all that, and seeing that a four-pronged attack on the Lib Dem leader failed to produce a significant dent to his popularity, the papers have crawled back into their kennels. The Daily Mail has written so much about Lib Dems recently that even their own readers are starting to wonder if he's the messiah; today they go back to an old classic, and a time-honoured bogeyman: the wheelie bin.
There is a 'Cameron in surge past Clegg' attempt on the right-hand side*, but largely this front page is about bins. Let's get panicked about teh evilz of recycling, and it's a shoddy shambles of a campaign that they've been cranking on about for an awfully long time (see 'Bin there done that', 'Oh fucking grow up' and 'It's wheelie bin a shit campaign' for the backstory). You could be forgiven for thinking, as this blogger did, that there are more important issues in the world than wheelie bins, but not if you're the Mail. When in doubt, go for the bins! If making Clegg the bogeyman didn't work, then bring back one you know and love: the horrors of having to sort out your rubbish and wheel bins out to the kerb! Wasn't it better when we had massive dustbins to lug around, or you could just chuck your bin bags all over the place and get them ripped up by foxes? Those were the days!
And, yet again, from the newspaper which criticised Clegg (in 2002) for saying that the British had some kind of obsession with the Second World War, is a massive advertisement for a Second World War 13-DVD set. Obsessed much?
Though it still can't resist a bit of a scare story about how a hung parliament will cost 'you' £5,000 (it won't, you'll be utterly unsurprised to hear). It's very downbeat though, almost waving the white flag for their chosen candidates. That massive front page the other day about a rather unexciting expenses story on Clegg which had been blown up and puffed up well beyond what it actually was seems such a long time ago already. This is more gloomy, reflective, still trying to scare you away from a Conservative overall majority, of course, but starting to wonder if that's really going to happen, preparing themselves and their readers for the possibility of Tory defeat, or at the very least a lack of Tory convincing success. Which for me makes the 'relax... it's going to be a beautiful day' all the more delightful a juxtaposition. But that is a long, long way away and I am sure that a lot of things may change.
The Express, meanwhile, have abandoned politics altogether and have gone for the ashpocalypse.
The trouble is, what are readers going to think about that front-page headline? Are they going to think: "Yesterday you told me that David Cameron had won the TV debate, when most people I'm talking to, even among Conservative Party supporters, think he didn't win it. So why am I meant to believe this stuff today?" - or are we meant to think that Express readers are credulous ninnies thinking "Oh, OK Mr Express, whatever you say!" - who knows.
The Sun, meanwhile, has turned its fire from Lib Dem to Labour. Having failed to sink the Clegg battleship, they're now trying to blow Gordon Brown out of the water. Oh, the irony, the irony, of the DON'T STOP DECEIVIN' headline, on the Sun of all places; the double irony of attacking someone else for printing lies; the triple irony of attacking someone for saying that printing lies is OK. Maybe it isn't a headline at all, but the Sun sub-editors misunderstood the memo they'd been sent.
It's the Mirror I feel for most in all of this really. They've had to try and convince their readers that Gordon Brown has been performing best in the TV debates, when even the staunchest of Labour supporters must have suspected that wasn't really the case. They've also got to try and reconcile the fact that their chosen candidate is being abandoned by many people on the political left for someone else. No wonder they can't be bothered to keep that pantomime going this weekend, preferring instead to tell you that, in a television programme, something will happen, and it will be on TV. Thank goodness for that exclusive! Of course, they could well be judging - accurately perhaps - that many readers are fed up with the election now, and simply want the vote to happen as soon as possible. Even so, you could have hoped there might have been some kind of news-style story to present, instead of a "Wuurghgghh, telly" effort. No...? No, apparently not. Sigh.
So are they running out of steam, or are we? Have they decided that we've made up our minds and there's no point in trying to influence us any more? Or are they redoubling their efforts for fresh salvoes to be launched in the direction of their opponents next week? I would imagine it's probably the latter - but the good news is I'm on holiday next week, and I intend to have no contact with newspapers, or television, or anything. Which makes me very lucky, and means you're going to have to suffer, I'm afraid.
* I don't think they're referring to the poll on their website which was pulled down when it showed Nick Clegg winning, then reinstated with a sudden and mysterious lead for David Cameron, but you never know.