So, another back is stabbed, the latest in a frenzy of dagger-wielding to put Norman Bates to shame. Dave stabs Gove; Gove stabs Dave; Boris stabs Dave; Gove stabs Boris. While Jeremy Corbyn seems as bafflingly bewildered by the exodus of his Shadow Cabinet as his wide-eyed disciples, his bemusement with the viciousness of his fellow MPs underlines how his decades on the backbenches didn’t prepare him for the cruel cut-and-thrust of the frontbenches. Oh, politics is a dirty little business; and anybody unaware of this should either not get involved in it or (better still) know their bloody history.
The taste of power must be intoxicating, judging by the way in which it brings out the worst in everyone who comes within a whisker of it. Political history is littered with the corpses of those who blocked the route to power, so numerous that it would take a thousand posts on here to list the fallen. Deals are discarded, promises are broken, friendships are curtailed, alliances are severed – when power’s irresistible scent infects the nostrils, those under its spell will step over anybody to get their grubby paws on the prize
In the current brutal struggle for the future of the Tory Party, one could cite David Cameron’s justified demotion of Michael Gove following his disastrous spell as Education Secretary as the first blow struck. It incensed Mrs Gove – AKA Mail columnist Sarah Vine (she of the ‘It’s all about me’ Private Eye parody) – who has now been portrayed as the Lady Macbeth figure in this melodrama. Losing a household income of £36,000 overnight was evidently regarded by her as an unforgivable action on the part of the PM, and when hubby publicly opposed Dave’s stance by coming out as a Brexiteer Mrs Gove then apparently provoked the ire of Sam Cam following a series of sly tweets on the subject. Siding with Boris, Gove denied he wanted to be PM. A week on from the Referendum result, and a day on from an ‘accidentally leaked’ email by The Wife to the press, the Lord Chancellor has abruptly performed a U-turn, throwing his hat in the ring for the keys to No.10 and bringing about Boris’ shock withdrawal from the contest.
Corbyn’s refusal to budge as the Labour membership continues to venerate him as the second coming of Ghandi has been reinforced both by the decision of Angela Eagle not to stand against him in a leadership contest and the utter dearth of strong contenders to usurp the invisible man. What this challenge to Jezza has exposed is the threadbare talent Labour can boast in Parliament, something that will drag out the crisis and diminish the party’s standing even further. By contrast, while the Opposition commits hara-kiri, the Tories are simply getting on with it as the unsentimental Tories always do.
There’s the anonymous Stephen Crabb, replacement for IDS as Work and Pensions Secretary, a man who once said homosexuality was a disease that can be cured, and a man who evidently hasn’t quite worked out how to properly grow a beard; he’s making a meal of his non-toff background by referencing his one-parent family council house upbringing – just as David Davis did when he ran for the Tory leadership a decade ago; there’s Andrea Leadsom, another virtual unknown who only became a moderately familiar face when she shared some of the platforms during the Referendum TV debates; and, of course, there’s the token old man/making-up-the-numbers Ken Clarke-type candidate in the shape of ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
There’s no denying, however, that the two front-runners will be the Snooper’s Charter Master Theresa May and the dour little goblin himself. May has played the whole Referendum saga cleverly, keeping out of the limelight and allowing others to exhaust the public’s attention; and the exit of Boris from the stage has adhered to the Tory tradition of the favourite falling at the first hurdle, enabling her to emerge from the traps at the eleventh hour. When announcing her intention to run, May declared there won’t be the anticipated autumn or spring election, giving herself plenty of breathing space as an unelected Prime Minister for almost four years – something that seems fittingly ironic when the country has just voted against being ruled by an elite that the electorate never voted for.
So, the choice for the nation’s next PM will be May – with her humourless headmistress ambience and whiny Mavis from ‘Coronation Street’ vocal inflections – or Gove, with his sixty-year-old man trapped in a twelve-year-old boy’s body/Brains from ‘Thunderbirds’ demeanour. A choice between a matron in kitten heels and another Murdoch crony with a missus spreading the word via the Daily Dacre; and unless you’re a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, it’s a choice you have no say in at all. Yes, it’s good to be back in the bosom of democracy now we’re free from Brussels bureaucrats, isn’t it?
GORDON MURRAY (1921-2016)
The death at the age of 95 of Gordon Murray, creator of the ‘Trumptonshire Trilogy’ of ‘Camberwick Green’, ‘Trumpton’ and ‘Chigley’, was announced today. The first of the trio was initially broadcast in the monochrome days of 1966, though he had the foresight to produce it in colour, which gave the series and its two sequels a longevity that carried it from the late 1960s all the way into the early 1990s as a perennial pre-school treat on lunchtime BBC1. The gentle portrayal of idyllic English village life probably seemed anachronistic even in 1966, yet the charm it effortlessly exuded and the sense of easing the viewer back into a womb-like state of blissful childhood comfort never waned and no doubt accounts for its lengthy shelf-life as a TV fixture.
Although interconnected and often confused with one another, each instalment in the Trumptonshire saga had its own distinctive qualities. ‘Trumpton’ opened every episode with the town hall clock and the two figures striking the bell, whereas ‘Camberwick Green’ opened every episode with the musical box from which that week’s profiled character would emerge. The musical accompaniment – each lead personality in Trumptonshire had their own theme song – featured the vocal talents of ‘Play School’ legend Brian Cant, and everyone for whom these songs constituted the aural backdrop to infancy can remember them.
From the Trumpton Fire Brigade to the troops of Pippin Fort, from Windy Miller to Lord Belborough, and from the drone-like workers at the biscuit factory to PC McGarry, it’s a wonder Gordon Murray’s Little England wasn’t evoked at some point during the recent EU Referendum, so exquisitely does it paint a picture of a nation that never was for a nation that always wanted it. The man who gifted more than one generation of children the kind of children’s programme that, as with the finest works of Oliver Postgate, defied the contemporary view that kids need to be slapped around the head with loud and fast images to prevent their allegedly short attention spans from wandering has left us a legacy that is as rich as any that the written word gave us in the centuries before the medium of television entered the arena. It may have been a product of an era that has now sadly receded into history, but it’s preserved forever – not just on digital disc, but in our heads. God bless, Gordon.
© The Editor