Here’s an interesting thought. Who would have guessed that The Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP] could ever have devised a plan so cunning that even old Baldrick would have dismissed it as a non starter? However, the PLP found themselves with a democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who they did not want and in order to resolve their embarrassing predicament, they hatched a plan. [We will have to wait a few months before we know just how cunning it was.] Corbyn wasn’t one of them, he was ordinary, unambitious, principled and worst of all, he was a genuine “lefty” but, you may ask,what is their problem? The PLP has rallied around “lefties” before, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Aneurin Bevan – all beloved by the party – so what makes Corbyn different? May I suggest that he wasn’t part of the elite, those Labour MPs and Peers who had gone to Oxbridge or Cambridge, flirted with Fabian societies up and down the country and generally, seemed a bit posh. Perhaps not however, whatever the reason, the PLP did not want Jeremy as their leader. Fair enough, the man hasn’t exactly set the house on fire since taking over from Ed Miliband, someone else who failed to ignite Parliament with his debates. However, it’s hardly surprising when Jeremy has both his front bench and back bench MPs sitting behind him in parliament openly siding with his critics and even worse, jeering along with them as he tries to make any serious points. The fact remains that Jeremy who is clearly a brilliant MP, has never been allowed to grow into the role of leader but rather than address this with a bit of intensive training, the PLP want him gone and here is how they plan to remove him. They wait until there is a major political event such as the EU referendum and then they pounce. They put up the person who gained the second lowest number of votes in the 2015 Deputy leadership contest as the prime candidate to replace him and then they wait. Unfortunately, the result of the EU referendum doesn’t go the way the PLP would have liked so they blamed that on Jeremy as well. The guy didn’t stand a chance, did he? However, it then transpires that a rather unknown, slightly questionable [as far as his socialist ideals are concerned], MP called Owen Smith might actually be a better choice than Angela Eagle so Smith now becomes the preferred option for Labour leader.
Who is this Owen Smith and why are not Cooper, Burnham or Kendall putting their names forward? Not that it really matters because by the end of September, Smith will only be remembered as that guy who stood against Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership contest. Personally, I feel that the PLP should have stood by Angela Eagle, not that she would have done any better but she appears to be a much nicer person than Mr Smith, in my opinion. Anyway, back to my first question, who is Owen Smith? Well, he was a former journalist [ I know but it gets worse.] before working for the BBC. He then moved swiftly on to become a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer where he remained for five years before going into politics. Now here’s an interesting fact about Owen’s former employer. Pfizer supplied the NHS with the drug Viagra, along with lots of other drugs. Viagra became so popular that Pfizer opened a factory in the UK solely making the drug which they then supplied at a very high cost to the NHS. There is nothing new about pharmaceutical companies “over-charging” the NHS for their drugs, it’s the post-Thatcher world we live in. However, Pfizer lost their patent rights for Viagra recently which meant that the drug could now be produced by any other company in generic form and offered to the NHS at a fraction of what Pfizer were charging. Whether the generic drugs are as good as the original I wouldn’t know however, Pfizer’s response was not to simply reduce their price but, as with so many Multi-National companies, they opted to close down their UK factory and moved production elsewhere. Of course, under UK rules, companies can do this but is not the role of Capitalism within a democratic society, to create and then share it’s wealth with the whole of society, often called the trickle-down effect? No one is arguing that companies should not profit from their entrepreneurship but when ordinary tax-payers have spent years pouring money into their coffers, I feel that there is an even greater obligation on companies such as Pfizer to be more altruistic. However, all of that is behind Smith as since becoming an MP in 2010 followed by six years of obscurity, he is now challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the position of Labour Party leader.
I joined the Labour Party long before I had ever heard of Jeremy Corbyn but I was duly impressed by his performances during the 2015 election campaign. Ed Miliband had my support previously however, I felt badly let down by him when he resigned immediately after the result of the 2015 General Election had been announced. In my opinion, Ed should have stayed on as leader if only until the party had analysed where things had gone wrong for them and put in place policies that would help them win office at the next attempt. That wasn’t to be though and by September of that year we had a socialist in charge of the party. I say, “in charge” when it was blatantly obvious that no one was in charge but never mind, we remained a party, of sorts! Tony Blair’s “spin doctor”, Alastair Campbell, not surprisingly, has already come out in support of Owen Smith and has somehow imagined that Smith rather than Corbyn, can win round those voters who abandoned Labour last year. I find this view incredible but then, Campbell still insists that his former boss Tony Blair was right to invade Iraq so fair play to him, loyalty is often seen as a virtue no matter how misguided. However, I do find myself in agreement with the journalist when he claims that the major flaw in the PLP’s ABC [anyone but Corbyn] approach is that none of his rivals and this has to include everyone within the PLP, appear able to put together ideas and policies that would get Labour elected again. It’s no good simply saying that Jeremy is unelectable, it’s the party that people vote for at the end of the day. The primary role of any politician, MP or party leader is simply to become popular, after all, the fact that the General Election is nothing more than a popularity contest is borne out by the many calls to make it easier for people to cast their votes. However, what politicians and their advisers fail to realize is that whenever the turn-out to vote is low, it is because what is on offer has failed to grab the people’s imagination. The high turn-out for the EU referendum though, showed the exact opposite. Here was something that people clearly felt very strongly about and I applaud David Cameron for keeping his word and letting the people decide for themselves.
Now that the dust has settled somewhat after the shock of “Brexit” we find ourselves with a new leader of the Conservative Party and our second ever female Prime Minister. Whether I feel happier with a vicar’s daughter who would not hesitate to press the “Red Button” or the daughter of a grocer who believed that we should always attempt to resolve our differences diplomatically before pressing the same button, I’m not sure. However, I am certain that there will be many more twists and turns before, in Teresa May’s words “Brexit means Brexit” but I am relieved that she is not rushing to trigger Article 50. Interestingly, since the UK voted to leave the EU we have not had the plague of locusts or any other disaster that was forecast by the Remain camp. If anything, the economy appears to be picking up, unemployment is falling and investment from outside of the EU is growing. The value of Sterling may have gone down, temporarily, against the Euro and the US Dollar but there is nothing new in this, currencies go up and down all the time and I can remember a time when a euro was only worth around 97 pence. However, regardless of the value of Sterling, we are still getting flac about our decision to vote leave from members of the remain camp and a lot of it is totally unjustified. As a nation we may have voted to leave by less than 52% but in the regions the leave vote was as high as 70% and whilst some people insist on painting the typical leave voter as a moron, the same could easily be said of those wishing to remain in the EU. What remain voters don’t seem to understand is that wishing to divorce from the EU does not mean that we no longer love Europe. Those of us who enjoy travelling to other European countries will continue to do so whilst those who don’t really “get” Europe will remain neutral. I don’t “get” Florida, Turkey or Thailand but I don’t want people to stop travelling there on my account! However, I am upset that a charity which I support, Greenpeace, has come out against the “leavers” but my money can go to another worthwhile cause. As for the novelist, Lisa Hilton who claims that the Brexit vote is “jolly inconvenient” especially as it means her having to rewrite much of the follow up to her erotic thriller Maestra. Surely no one takes these books seriously anyway, so why not just continue as you intended Lisa? Bonking in Paris or any other EU state will be exactly the same whether Britain remains part of the EU or not.
So there we have it. The most unexpected twist in a tale of two countries. The steely Teresa May finally getting to sit in the big chair with that lovable rogue, Boris Johnson by her side, Jeremy Hunt still in place as Minister for Health and a Justice Minister whose only experience of the law so far is to purchase two tickets to the local Policeman’s Ball [allegedly] However, whilst there are bound to be some early gaffs to overcome, my gut feeling informs me that Ms May could become very popular which would make Labour’s job at the next general election so much harder. It would be impossible for Labour with or without Jeremy Corbyn to win an election anytime soon so imagine how hard it would be should the country fall in love with Teresa the same way that they fell for Maggie? I sincerely hope that the Labour Party ensures that this never happens and that Teresa May’s tenure at Number 10 [ No 11 actually] is a pleasant yet brief affair, a bit like those enjoyed by the characters in Lisa Hilton’s novels.