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U.K. Candidates Stumble Just Days Before General Election


On May 7, the United Kingdom will vote in a general election. The BBC's man on the campaign bus is correspondent Jonny Dymond. He spent the last month covering a contest that has been, he says, close and dull in equal measure until this weekend. He sent these thoughts.

JONNY DYMOND, BYLINE: Sometimes even the most well-scripted campaigns go bad and politicians are damned by their own hand. The leader of the opposition Labour party has suffered terrible torment because he looked so spectacularly odd eating a bacon sandwich the other day. From his facial expression, he appeared to be trying to eat a brontosaurus.

And yesterday it was Prime Minister David Cameron's turn. First thing on a wet Saturday morning, he was to be found addressing the good folk of South London - or at least a small, tame group of invitees from South London. As he explained to a rainbow audience the unbridled joys of multicultural Britain, he employed a sporting analogy and then wished his soccer team, West Ham United, all the best.

Which is all fine but for the fact that the Prime Minister is a self-confessed supporter of another soccer team - Aston Villa - and has been photographed jogging in a politically necessary soccer top emblazoned with Aston Villa's blue and claret colors. True, the other team he'd mentioned, West Ham, shares those colors. But Mr. Cameron did recently and publicly profess his support for Aston Villa, not West Ham. When I asked him to clarify, he said he'd had a brain fade - a reference to a deeply unfortunate interview the leader of the Green party here gave some weeks ago when she entirely failed to remember the arithmetic behind key economic policies.

The first brain fade seemed human, if deeply amateur in a party leader. But the mistake over the soccer team reinforces the suspicions of many that the Prime Minister really isn't one of them. Of course he isn't. He's Prime Minister. He went to Britain's most famous and very expensive school, Eton, then to Oxford and has led a largely gilded life. He admits as much.

But getting it wrong about soccer throws David Cameron into the Mitt Romney league-of-uncomfortable-rich-people-misunderstanding-sport. Few who heard Mitt Romney fumbling on NASCAR, and his pals who owned teams, ever forgot it. And of all the moments in this election campaign, this is the most awkward. And most dangerously for Mr. Cameron, the most memorable.

MARTIN: BBC correspondent Jonny Dymond. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.