I used to love the TV programme, “The Thick of it” written by the brilliant Armando Iannucci and featuring an infinite number of great British character actors including Peter Capaldi as the incongruously supportive spin doctor, Malcom Tucker and Rebecca Front as the constantly undermined Prime Minister. I wasn’t so struck by the film of the series where they took the Parliamentary miscreants off to the White House as I found it to be too close to reality whereas in the UK based episodes you thought that it was simply a spoof on “Yes Minister”. I wasn’t happy to see Tucker “done over” by his American equivalent despite loathing the man. It may well have been a work of fiction but it raised the question, do the Americans really hold us in such contempt and if so, what does it say about our “special relationship”? Whatever the truth is, our newspapers have really been in the thick of it since the beginning of January reporting on one political “omnishambles” after another and like the rain, there’s little sign of it easing off.
The biggest news story started on Boxing Day with the floods, which resulted in a bunch of politicians coming up North for a few hours whilst they dropped in on a few flooded areas. David Cameron chose to visit York but stayed close to the council offices, away from the plebs who were busy trying to salvage what they could from their flooded homes and businesses. Dave was comfortably positioned for the TV cameras with a few army guys around him, a position he really loves as it allows him to make full use of his serious face without fearing it might come into contact with a flying egg or two. Nevertheless, the locals standing about a hundred yards away from the TV cameras still managed to get their voices heard and they didn’t sound too happy. Elsewhere, Liz Truss (Environment Secretary) made a reasonable fist of being the sacrificial lamb and put herself about much more enthusiastically than the PM did. For those who don’t know her, Ms Truss is one of the leading lights of the present government, a career politician who did actually have a career prior to becoming an MP in 2010. She stood twice (unsuccessfully) for safe Labour seats then flirted briefly with the LibDems before finally realising that her “left-leaning parents” had somehow given birth to a Tory and has not looked back since. Some of her admirers or should that read critics? have labelled her the next Margaret Thatcher which I feel is pretty mean considering that she spent most of Christmas and the New Year out in the pouring rain whilst most of her colleagues would have been indoors quaffing bottle after bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape totally unaware of what Liz was going through up North. Nevertheless, Liz soldiered on, even appearing on camera without wearing make-up which I thought was incredibly brave of her. However, before you begin to suspect that I have a soft spot for the woman, think again. Liz Truss, regardless of how capable a person she is, remains a fully paid up member of the “Let’s privatise everything” “Poor people are only poor because they are both feckless and idle.” “People in the North dislike us so let’s allow more economic migrants [ i.e. Cheap, unprotected Labourers] to enter the country and take their jobs”. “Let’s make every school an academy run by business people rather than educationalists.” “People are still becoming ill therefore the NHS isn’t working so let’s get rid of it.” etc. etc. brigade.
Eventually, Jeremy Corbyn arrived in York having missed an earlier train because he’d been out of the country on holiday. Better late than never, as they say. Jez however, made a beeline for those flooded streets which David Cameron had chosen not to walk down and actually engaged with local people affected by the floods. According to what we saw on Yorkshire telly, it looked as if Jeremy’s visit went well although, to be honest it was hard to tell as I’m sure that many residents would have mistaken Mr Corbyn for the man from the water board come to turn the supply off. However, the man that should have been visiting York, Sir Phillip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency, was relaxing “at home” with his family thousands of miles away in Barbados. To be fair though, Phil had left a number where he could be contacted in the event of an emergency. Obviously, I’m not qualified to say exactly when a freak event threatening peoples lives counts as an emergency but the floods were so bad that they completely filled our newspapers, radio and television news programmes with endless horror stories for weeks. So many people were affected including members of my own family that it was as if nothing else was going on in the world. Isis could have abandoned Syria and been half way through the channel tunnel for all we cared. North Korea could have launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike on their illustrious neighbours, China, or, the Labour Party could have opted out of politics altogether and decided to set up a Llama farm in North Wales. However, I’m pleased to say that none of that happened, not even the Llama farm which, I believe, was a missed opportunity as we could all do with a few more llamas and a few less politicians. Nevertheless,it wasn’t long before the newspaper hacks could leave those miserable flood stories behind and get back to what they enjoyed doing most of all, slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. Oh yes, we were now into January and despite the floods still creating misery for many parts of Britain, Parliament was back from its’ hols and there was much journalistic mischief to be had. And coincidently, so was Sir Phillip Dilley, not that there would be any press roguery at his expense, oh no.
If you were a journalist you would have been really put out by the terrible weather that arrived shortly before Christmas Day 2015. It would have distracted you from writing those stories about forthcoming eruptions, blood letting and decapitations within the Parliamentary Labour Party. All of which was due to begin just as soon as their members had managed to drag their arses back into work following the Christmas break. Ever since Hilary Benn had stabbed Jeremy Corbyn in the front by making an impassioned speech demanding we bomb ISIS in Syria only days after telling a national newspaper that that was definitely the wrong thing to do, the journos have been talking about Corbyn’s “Revenge reshuffle”. The atmosphere within the House of Commons was so tense, it was just like in the movie “High Noon” with Gary Cooper playing Jeremy Corbyn and Grace Kelly as Diane Abbot. I bet that if they had re-released the theme song, Do not forsake me oh my darling …. it would have been the Christmas number one instead of that thing the nurses did. Anyway, I digress. High noon came on Monday, 4th of January but rather than an almighty shoot-out between Jez and that gang of right-wing blackguards determined to run him out of town or worse, only a few shots were fired and they each missed their targets. However, a couple of stray bullets ricocheted off a bronze bust of Tony Blair that was being used as a door stop in the whip’s office and wounded the shadow culture secretary, Michael Dugher and his pal, Pat McFadden the shadow Europe minister who were then forced to retire to the back benches. Whether either of them will ever return to the front benches in order to resume their constant sniping and undermining of the party leader, only time will tell. However, both Dugher and McFadden will be heartened by the news that their colleagues on the right of the party, Kevan Jones, Jonathan Reynolds and Stephen Doughty have since resigned in protest over the way Jeremy treated Mick and Pat. Jones, the (now ex) shadow defence minister, is on record complaining that Labour was being run in a “very top-down manner” and that the reshuffle had neither been straightforward or honest. I can only assume that Kevan has no experience of how large organisations are usually run ( from the Top down) and much preferred the more transparent, open door policies of the Blair, Brown and Campbell triad aided and abetted by that genial party host, Peter Mandelson.
Four days on and Corbyn’s ker-shuffle (Bless you!) is over with hardly a bloodstain on the carpet. In fact, more people resigned than were sacked which some might say was a better result than anyone could have wished for. Personally, I’m just terribly annoyed with Labour, a party that I’ve always supported apart from when I joined the SDP in 1981 for a couple of years respite from the omnishambles that was Labour in the late seventies/early eighties. However, I will always be socialist and therefore sympathetic to the Labour movement. I remember being in a private meeting with the late Roy Jenkins in 1981 and asking him to explain where socialism fit within the policies of the SDP ( the Social Democratic Party ) only to be told, most eloquently, that the party aimed to be socially democratic not socialist. Now, if Roy had mentioned that before I went out canvassing for him up and down the cobbled streets of Lancashire where it has been known for Yorkshiremen to simply disappear, never to be seen again, I wouldn’t have bothered. As it was I stayed on a while longer, buoyed by the fact that David Owen wanted the party to be socialist until finally, neither myself or Lord Owen could stomach another lecture from Roy Jenkins or Shirley Williams as to why the SDP should merge with The Liberal Party. There are a lot of people in the Labour Party who still can’t forgive Lord Owen for leaving them to help form the SDP whereas I could simply rejoin the party without anyone ever knowing that I’d left. How unfair is that? Had Lord Owen been less serious about life and politics generally (let’s face it, we are talking about a qualified doctor who refused to work outside of the NHS which places him in a very small, rather serious minority) he could have ended up presenting television programmes like that nice Michael Portillo. As it is, David Owen continues to support the Labour party financially whilst sitting as an independent in the House of Lords where he remains an effective, socialist voice of reason.
The thing that really angers me about Labour post 2015, is that whilst the party failed to be elected to government last May, it was granted the honour of becoming the official opposition party and yet, the PLP couldn’t give a toss. It’s as if they had decided long before the result of the general election was announced that if the public did not vote them into office then they were just going to sit down in a corner and sulk. My cat does this whenever I have to tell her off but it’s not as if she has to stand up in Parliament and rubbish the Prime Minister every Wednesday. However, on my cat’s performance to date, she would get her claws into Cameron a lot more effectively than Mr Corbyn has done so far and she wouldn’t stop there, she’d be all over that Tory front bench like a rash. It has been over six months now though and the PLP is still sulking and skulking like a bunch of naughty St. Trinians schoolgirls secretly deciding who’s turn it is next to place the whoopee cushion on Jeremy’s chair. It’s absolutely criminal to allow talented individuals such as Caroline Flint, Yvette Cooper, Stella Creasy and the “Tory” one, Liz Kendall to mooch about in Westminster, writing ‘Corbyn’s a wanker’ on the loo walls (allegedly) and basically doing bugger all when they should be out campaigning for a fairer, nicer Britain. Jeremy Corbyn is far too nice a person himself to go up to any one of these naughty schoolgirls ( masquerading as MPs) and say, “Would any of you girls care to join me in a debate”- “No”- “Well, you know where I am if you change your minds”. However, you can be absolutely sure that when the debates over the EU and Trident come up, they will all be there speaking out in support of whatever David Cameron thinks is best for the country. It won’t matter to them that the Labour Party / Movement has always been against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and would have brought about (pre Blair) a unilateral agreement to disarm those we already had if they could have relied upon Tory support both in and out of office. It won’t matter to them that a growing number of MPs on all sides of the house have reached the conclusion that Britain would be better off exiting the EU. All that appears to matter to the PLP is what Jeremy Corbyn and his close supporters want and whatever it is, they will rail against it. They obviously hate Jeremy, they hate his beard, they hate his dress sense although I must admit that it’s not the greatest but given time and a wad of M&S vouchers he should come right in the end. However, most of all they hate the fact that an overwhelming number of Labour Party members voted for Jeremy to be leader of the Labour Party instead of one of them. Please get over it girls and boys, there’s a lot of work to be done this year if you want to regain any credibility as an opposition party but if you can’t be bothered then let somebody else have the job.