The (now) late Jonathan Miller, when appearing in the seminal satirical revue ‘Beyond the Fringe’ in the early 60s, refuted assumptions he was a Jew. ‘I’m not actually a Jew,’ he declared. ‘I’m just a bit Jew-ish.’ That the multitalented Dr Miller should pass away whilst anti-Semitism continues to hog headlines at the expense of the Labour Party is, I guess, just one of those serendipitous things; but as far as timing goes, it’s pretty good. By the time I got round to watching Andrew Neil’s grilling of Mr Corbyn on the iPlayer earlier today, I’d already been given advance previews of what to expect courtesy of Twitter. To be honest, I quickly became as bored with it as a viewing experience as Jezza appeared to be in his role of interviewee. Even after four years as Leader of the Opposition, he still doesn’t look comfortable in an environment he should be used to in 2019. Stick him on a stage before a crowd protesting about something or other and he’s in his element, of course; but that’s traditionally a treat for backbenchers unaccustomed to being noticed; he should have grown out of that by now.
I don’t think I can ever recall a party in government so ready for the taking being so let off the hook by an opposition. The eccentric charm that got Boris by for a good few years, even enabling him to be twice elected Mayor of London, evaporated as soon as Theresa May made him Foreign Secretary and exposed him as a character entirely unsuited for high office; like most, I suspect that was the then-PM’s plan. But what must Mrs May have felt when her own shortcomings were to play their part in promoting him to her job within three years? One could reasonably argue she was as wrong in that post as her successor, yet here we are – on the hustings with a Prime Minister disliked and distrusted by the majority of the electorate, and he’s comfortably ahead in the polls.
Whilst not quite approaching the level of intense, vitriolic hatred in voters that the Trump/Clinton clash of 2016 provoked, the choice of Boris or Jezza – and, let’s face it, the keys to No.10 won’t be falling into the hands of anyone else – is in its own way as dispiriting an advert for the political process as we’ve ever seen in this country. The usual scaremongering on the part of right-wing tabloids in relation to what Corbyn would do if elected is familiar enough; indeed, looking back just four short years ago (yes, hard to believe that’s all 2015 was), it seems baffling now that a moderate like Ed Miliband was being sold in some quarters as a virtual Dave Spart figure. Corbyn’s past is far more of an open goal for those who delight in such things, yet even that isn’t the main cause of the despondency his candidacy inspires.
There have been past General Elections in which an unpopular PM seemed pretty much odds-on to lose office and the contender appeared highly likely to sweep to victory. 1997 is a good (relatively recent) example; I imagine many voters voted for Blair that year because they genuinely believed in both him and his party as an instrument of long-overdue change – and that includes Middle England Tories and Essex Man. Outside of the devoted faithful, however, it’s hard to believe that anyone will feel the same in 2019 about the current Labour Party and its incumbent leader. So many who do vote Labour this time round will probably do so either out of an unshakable antipathy towards the Tories or because they view Labour as the lesser of two evils. It’s hardly a unique situation, but to vote for a party not because you believe in them, but because they’re not quite as shit as the alternative, is almost enough to prompt one into abstention.
It’s difficult to picture what more the Conservative Party could possibly do to alienate voters and have them booted out of office by Friday 13th December. The blunders of Rees-Mogg and Cleverly when the campaign had barely kicked-off, the unbecoming (as Prince Andrew would say) attitude of Dominic Raab towards the parents of the young man killed by a runaway citing diplomatic immunity, ongoing accusations of institutionalised Islamophobia, the appalling state of the NHS, the broken promises over housing, the increasing influence of the ERG, Gove appropriating Stormzy lyrics – and then Boris ‘Get Brexit Done’ Johnson himself. I mean, what more ammunition does the Labour Party require to slaughter the Tories? And yet, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong – the prospect of Lady Nugee, McDonnell, Abbott and Starmer in positions of power is a frightening one indeed, let alone a dithering glove-puppet like Corbyn with the hand of Seamus Milne up his arse as Prime Minister. But such is the choice awaiting the electorate. Although we’re apparently barely a month away from a completely new decade, the 2010s hasn’t really felt like one – and we’ve been governed by the Tories for all-but five months of this so-called decade. They’ve had ample opportunity to prove things can only get better and have blown it. Their sole legacy is the issue beginning with B that we’re all thoroughly sick to the back teeth of. Nice one, Dave.
I guess, as with the already-present divisions Brexit spectacularly dragged into the spotlight, anti-Semitic sentiments in the Labour Party didn’t just appear overnight. And the leadership has had plenty of time to deal with it, so it can’t complain when the Tories and their media sponsors use it as a weapon against the opposition due to the failure or – maybe more accurately – the disinclination to expunge it once and for all. Again, not much more than four years ago, the party was led by the son of one of its formidable Jewish intellectuals; the Jewish tradition within Labour was something as intrinsic to the party as the Home Counties, blue-rinsed brigade was to the Conservatives. Yet, four years of his successor at the helm and we have the remarkable intervention of the Chief Rabbi calling him and the party out.
All of which doesn’t bode well for whatever kind of future we’ve got to look forward to in the new decade to come. At this moment in time, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a depressing continuation of where we are now, but even worse. The possibility of a Hung Parliament seemed more likely before Jo Swinson bombed on ‘Question Time’ last week, but few can see either a Tory or Labour landslide deciding this Election – and after nine ineffective years in office, the Conservative Party will be (and should be) grateful for any kind of majority the opposition is prepared to hand them.
© The Editor
PS: RIP Clive James too. They’re dropping like bloody flies today.