Is there any situation imaginable that wouldn’t be made worse by the sudden appearance of Tony Blair? “A war crimes tribunal in the Hague?” Nice try, caller, but I did say “imaginable”. And, sadly, “public reading of the blistering conclusions of the Chilcot report” seems destined to fail on similar grounds.
Personally, if I were leaping from the upper storey of a burning building and had to choose whether to land in a blanket held by Tony and his cronies or in a tankful of piranha, I’d opt for the Fishfood Belly-Flop every time. But, with support mushrooming for Jeremy Corbyn’s wacky Communist pipe-dream that the economy should be run fairly, these are desperate days for Labour’s “Let’s Elect an Unprincipled Automaton” wing. So suddenly, with timing as subtle as a sackful of rivets, there was Tony on our TV screens, all teeth, smarm and shamelessness, his tan reinforced by years of basking in the toasty warmth of Satan’s farts, burbling on at £200 a second about how easy it is to succeed in politics if you don’t give a rat’s ass about collateral damage.
“If your heart’s with Corbyn, get a heart transplant,” quipped Tony, confident that no one would be daft enough to ask him to be a donor. But, in truth, the heart had already been ripped out of any party members who’d naively thought politics was about helping people rather than tactical pissing about, as they watched 184 of their MPs abstain on the Tories’ Welfare Bill and then pour scorn and bile on the 48 colleagues who actually bothered to do their job.
Of course, in the spirit-sapping world of Labour linguistics, nothing’s ever that straightforward. “We voted against the Bill, that’s clear!” pontificated Ian Murray to the BBC Scotland audience, without challenge from his thumb-sucking interviewer. What he really meant was that they’d voted for their own lily-livered amendment that said, “Wow, George, we think your Welfare Bill is totes economic wizardry, but we’re a bit worried about plunging children into poverty, since we’d prefer them to be dipped in it smoothly, kind of like a cheese fondue.” When it came to the vote their supporters actually cared about, they simply shoved their hands in their pockets and mumbled, “Whatever.”
For Ian, it was a signature piece of clever-dick politics, no doubt earning a high-five from incompetent career-destroying spin guru John McTernan. These days, with the endorphin rush of truth surging round the Internet, it’s impossible to cloak Labour’s disintegration entirely. But, for doe-eyed branch office wannabes Kez ’n’ Ken, any tattered Wet Wipe shoring up the party’s credibility in Scotland is welcome. After all, who wants their pretendy wee leadership contest ending up as a 0-0 draw and having to be settled on penalties?
Acting leader Harriet Harman, who should simply have “DISAPPOINTMENT” tattooed on her forehead and be done with it, was more upfront about the party’s objectives. The lesson of the election, she insisted, was that there were a lot of Tory voters out there, so that was clearly the market to target. To hell with the 9,347,304 people who’d voted Labour (an 8.6% increase over 2010, even after being marmalised in Scotland). From now on, the way forward was to pander relentlessly to the Tories!
Now, capitulation is an interesting political strategy, and I suppose it gives your policy wonks a break from straining their pointy heads about social justice. However, I’m not sure it’s as effective in practice as it sounds over Chardonnay and canapés at a Notting Hill soirée. A fat lot of good it did Ed Balls when he let it slip before the election that he didn’t have a Scooby what he’d do differently from Osborne. And, if voters can’t escape having their lives made miserable, wouldn’t they prefer to be shafted by experts rather than by some shambolic tribute act?
“We need strong leadership,” opined Andy Burnham, the morning after going through such contortions over the Welfare Bill that he’d ended up with one foot jammed firmly in his mouth and the other back-heeling him in the arse. It seems that Andy has a massive problem with vacillation, although he's not fully aware of it because he thinks it’s a jag you have before going on holiday. As for gravitas, he thinks that’s a salmon delicacy from Scandinavia.
“It’s a complete mess,” acknowledged Yvette Cooper, searching her hard drive for her “concerned face” app while sticking resolutely to her game plan (it is just a game plan, isn’t it?) of saying nothing whatsoever about what she’d do to fix it. Yvette’s long been recognised as the most accomplished politician in her household, but with the children growing up fast and Tiddles the cat showing signs of promise, who knows how long that’ll last?
“People don’t trust us with their money and they don’t trust us on welfare,” observed Liz Kendall, although one suspects her answer to the problem is for people to have less of both. Once a “pointless answer” on a TV quiz show, Liz is now fulfilling the same role in the leadership election. Unless, of course, Labour members have a burning desire to be yanked catastrophically off course by Priti Patel’s more right-wing twin.
As party stalwarts’ eyes drift glumly from Monday night’s reputational wreckage to the three “mainstream” candidates aiming to preside over the party's 2020 gubbing, it’s easy to understand why they might fancy giving Jeremy Corbyn a shot. He clearly has a soul rather than a motherboard, he energises people rather than making them want to beat their heads in with a spanner, he embodies lasting values rather than fly-by-night focus group fads, and if Keir Hardie walked into the room he could look him in the eye without his soul shrivelling up like a bin bag in a furnace.
There may also be some, if they haven’t already turned their shredded party membership cards into cat litter, who hope that at age 66, with his career mostly behind him and nothing to lose, Corbyn will have a crack at challenging Labour’s lumpen acceptance of austerity. That would make for an interesting tussle. I’m no economist, though in a fading light I could just about pass for Paul Krugman, but a dogma that constantly shovels cash at the wealthy while squeezing the poorest and destroying public services does look suspiciously like a heist to me.
But that very hope points to the reason Corbyn will never be allowed to lead: he’ll bugger up too many vested interests. Project Fear’s familiar drone is already audible in the background: he’ll be a disaster, no-one will work with him, if you elect him we’ll organise a preposterous coup and dump him in a skip, the Queen won’t have him in the Privy Council, ooh he’s got a beard and probably sandals, we’ll be forced into farm collectives and gulags, Labour will be out of power until the Klingons invade from Kepler 452b, we’ll all de-evolve into cavemen or (worse) nationalists…
I don’t know what sort of leader Corbyn would make. We’ve never seen him in any front-bench post, so he might be a brilliant innovator, or he might be fifty shades of rubbish. But, boy, has it been fun watching the multi-coloured Tory establishment bricking it this week, and anticipating the mayhem to come. For that, Jeremy, however your campaign pans out, much thanks.
And remember, if it goes completely pear-shaped for you and those of like mind, Nicola and Team 56 will always be up for a Progressive Alliance…