Well, what have we learnt in the first week-and-a-half of 2020 so far? Perhaps – as is generally the trend when a New Year begins – not a lot that we didn’t know already. Years, never mind decades, take time to establish themselves as separate entities to what has preceded them, and with less than a fortnight on the clock the 2020s have naturally given us more of the same, or a newly-bottled version of the over-familiar. Yes, it was undeniably joyous seeing Ricky Gervais roasting a self-important Hollywood aristocracy demanding a pat on the back for wearing the same tux for the entire awards season (thus saving the planet in the process), but this necessary interlude was followed by hysteria over a list of BAFTA nominees that failed to include any women or ‘people of colour’; with an Identity Politics agenda being so crucial to whether or not a movie is worth watching, such an outrage needed a mention if we are to make sure the colour-blind dinner table of Martin Luther King’s dream remains out of bounds.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Woke are fleeing excessive press coverage by making sure they receive excessive press coverage as they flounce off into the taxpayer-subsidised sunset of the Commonwealth; we received shock confirmation that both the US and Iran are run by point-scoring arseholes exercising their machismo by keeping a 40-year-old grudge match going – and woe betide those who get caught in the crossfire, such as the blameless passengers on a commercial flight; evidence suggesting some of Australia’s awful inferno may have been the result of both arsonists and counterproductive ‘green’ policies rather than climate change are being argued over as heartbreaking images of innocent animals suffering continue to flood social media newsfeeds; oh, and attempts to resurrect an opposition to government in UK politics, whilst seemingly back on track at Stormont, are floundering yet again at Westminster.
Yes, the hopefuls making their respective pitches to become Labour Party leader have kick-started their campaigns by merely proving the period of reflection following such a catastrophic electoral annihilation entails learning absolutely nothing from it whatsoever. Rebecca Long-Bailey gives Corbyn 10/10 as a leader, whilst Clive Lewis continues with the ‘all Leave voters were thick racists’ narrative as his launch-pad; both are either too stupid to recognise where their party went wrong or are simply incapable of taking the reasons on board. Emily Thornberry is risking the wrath of the dominant Momentum vote in her bid by daring to suggest Corbyn made mistakes, despite the fact she was telling us all what a great Prime Minister he’d be barely a month ago; and Jess Phillips is doing what Jess Phillips does best – i.e. reminding the world how great Jess Phillips is, though not offering any concrete evidence why, such as in the form of plausible policies.
Maybe it’s no surprise that Keir ‘slimy’ Starmer has leapt ahead as front-runner in this lacklustre contest. As ever, the Starmer chameleon has employed sneaky stealth to progress almost unnoticed, avoiding headline-grabbing statements and courting favour as a ‘safe pair of hands’ by radiating the charisma of an ironing board. I can only assume he’s been able to garner support from both within and without the Labour Party on account of him cleverly avoiding the twin toxic taints of New Labour and Corbynism and therefore giving the impression to those tired of both that he somehow represents the way forward as a bland, faceless ‘moderate’ who can win back all those lost voters. Ignorance of Starmer’s pre-Parliamentary career probably helps.
Lest we forget, Starmer’s insidious (not to say pivotal) role in pushing forward the ‘Believe The Victim’ mantra during his disastrous stint as Director of Public Prosecutions led pretty much directly to the Carl Beech fiasco; though this stage of Starmer’s career is mysteriously absent from his leadership portfolio, he created the climate that enabled Beech to pull the wool over so many eyes. Starmer’s influence helped establish this policy within the nation’s police forces, filtering to the frontline from the top on down, and whilst Carl Beech was the most high-profile example of how fatally flawed this approach is, God only knows how high the numbers behind bars whose cases have yet to be heard beyond the courtroom might be. Not to worry, though; Keir wants to be your Prime Minister.
The whole Beech affair has smoothly slid off Teflon Man Starmer in a way it hasn’t with his departed colleague Tom Watson. It stuck like the jammy residue of a tuck-shop doughnut to Bunter because he’d allowed his ego to seize upon it as a means of propelling his profile into the public consciousness; when Beech was mercifully exposed as a fraudster, Jezza’s deputy suffered the consequences thereafter; something which he had cynically weaponised ended up shooting him in the foot. Watson then had no option but to walk the plank, crushing his obvious ambitions to be Labour leader in the process; however, it is characteristic of the man that he continues to refute accusations of wrongdoing in his post-political existence, seeking forgiveness via TV confessionals ala Michael Barrymore. In denial but in the wilderness, Watson now has to sit back and watch an operator who is far more responsible for Beech and his odious ilk run away with the opening round.
Jezza remains at the helm during this odd interregnum, albeit suddenly rendered utterly powerless at the dispatch box; indeed, Corbyn’s ability to connect with Yoof due to him having the mindset of an eternal gap-year student trapped in a pensioner’s body was something that only worked to a degree in the chamber when the Tories lacked the numbers to neuter him. Now that Parliament has a Government with a majority for the first time in a long time, it would appear normal service has been resumed. The chaos that came to characterise the Commons has completely vanished since business reconvened in the wake of the General Election, and with it has vanished Corbyn’s clout. Imminent legislation being passed onto the Lords with ease is something we’d almost forgotten was possible, yet it is finally happening again.
As his party struggles to cope with resolving the detachment from the electorate that he helped accelerate, poor old Jezza has the hapless demeanour of a past-it comedian in a working-men’s club whose act is being largely ignored by patrons drinking and talking amongst themselves. ‘We are the resistance to Boris Johnson’ was his follow-up gag to ‘We won the argument’; and it’s a pity the ones who really should get the joke are the only ones not laughing. Mind you, unless we simply watch Gervais’s Golden Globes evisceration of Tinsel Town on a loop, there’s not much else to laugh about right now, anyway.
© The Editor