As David Cameron dashes around our septic isle in one last push for votes, he'll be delighted if one of his skivvies brings in a few newspapers for him to read. Up until now, the papers have all been pushing him and his agenda, but they've been just that little bit too subtle. Headlines such as "DAVID CAMERWON" or "CAM THE MAN" or "YES WE CAM" or "DAVID CAMERON IS ACTUALLY THE BLOODY MESSIAH"* might have led readers to think that their paper of choice might have backed the Conservative Party, but apparently that wasn't enough. So today's leave us in no doubt at all.
The Telegraph are, with others, going for the 'bandwagon effect' - the idea that if you present someone as a winner, or the winner-in-waiting, people will want to pile on to associate themselves with success and victory, to pick fleas out of the silverback's fur. Their endorsement is inside, but we've seen this kind of thing throughout the election - presenting the Tory win as a likelihood if not an inevitability, but constantly pushing the idea of a victory. You can see that pretty clearly in this kind of thing:
where the 'Tory win' is taken for granted, and Cameron is presented as the fit, athletic, dynamic personality that he's desperately trying to portray himself as as I write this with his 36-hour publicity stunt so he can avoid tough questions from Radio 5 listeners and Channel 4 News brilliant campaigning marathon that shows what a good egg he really is. Is it coincidence that the Tory presentation dovetails so nicely with the Telegraph's? I don't really think so.
But then that's the most subtle example today. The others have thrown it right out of the window.
I'm pretty sure the Express has used almost exactly this front page before. Let me have a look... ah yes.
So now it's just a question of reinforcement. The Express has told you again, and again, and again, and now it wants you to know that it's telling you the same thing again. While the Telegraph just gives you a wink and a nudge, and points you in what it thinks is the right direction, the Express doesn't trust you. It needs to shout at you and order you to do the right thing; it needs to tell you that Britain needs to be SAVED and that only THIS MAN WITH THE BIG FACE can do it. And it needs to tell you again and again.
The Mail are even less subtle, mind.
Vote DECISIVELY. As if we go into the polling booth and put half a cross because we're not sure. Again, it's that didactic attitude. Readers are juveniles and need to be told what to do IN CAPITAL LETTERS because otherwise they'll just do something stupid like think for themselves, and that would never do. If you don't do what we tell you, Britannia herself will WALK OFF A CLIFF and we're all DOOMED. It's classic Mail territory, but it takes something to be even less subtle than the Express. At least they assumed that their readers might understand 'save Britain' - the Mail has to draw you a picture because it thinks you're too fucking stupid to get even a blunt instrument in the face like that.
I'll do more on the Sun later, because it's dredged up one of its hoariest old chestnuts today, but for now, here's their celebrity endorsement. Sun supremo Rebekah Brookes's ex-husband Ross Kemp was on telly the other night promoting Labour - another one of the awful celeb attachments we've seen during this campaign, which have added nothing and persuaded me of nothing - so today they've wheeled out their own national treasure: Simon Cowell.
I don't know about you, but Simon Cowell wouldn't convince me to do anything. Here's a man who's been on a one-man mission to destroy popular music and turn it into McDonald's; here's a preening fake-toothed smarmer in an overly tight t-shirt manipulating people on TV every Saturday night for the forseeable future. Do I want the creator of Robson & Jerome telling me how to vote? Maybe I'm wrong though, and maybe he's hugely admired and loved by everyone in Britain - maybe Ross Kemp is equally seen as not "that spamheaded bloke off the telly who goes around pretending he's a soldier" but a dignified and respected figure. Maybe I've got this whole thing wrong.
Anyway, it's not just the right-wing papers who've abandoned all subtlety in these final hours, as you can see from the Indy
There's a myth going around at the moment that goes like this: "We were all told this campaign would be won on the internet, but actually it's the mainstream media who are shining." Which is drivel. No-one seriously said this campaign would be won on the web, and if they did, they were insane; this is the first campaign where social media and the web have played a significant minor role, but no-one ever thought it would be the web wot won it. And besides, while the leaders' debates have been a touchstone for the campaign, they've only served to make the dead-tree papers even more obsolete, reduced to a level of telling you that what you saw wasn't what you saw and looking more ridiculous than ever.
No, this isn't the election where the MSM bravely fought off the internet and proved they'd be around forever. It's considerably more complicated than that, and probably for another time to analyse. But what you can say is that for the next day or two, our dead-tree inky friends are more shrill, more obvious and more blunt than they ever have been. They're telling us what to think and how to vote. It's come to that point - and we should bear it in mind in a few weeks' time, when all this is over, and they go back to pretending they don't have agendas, and they're just there to report the facts, and they're asking for our trust. Let's not forget days like this.
* Not all of these are exactly true.