St. Stephens Green
This week has been a bit weird for me. I watched as Jose Mourinho took the blame for something, paid my credit card the week the bill arrived (not the whole lot, but a big chunk; let’s not go mad), and I found myself stood shoulder to shoulder with Jack Monroe whilst simultaneously disagreeing with her.
Allow me to explain. When I was young my family weren’t rich but both my parents worked and we could afford to rent privately until we got to the top of the council waiting list. So hardly on our uppers. Jack on the other hand has been what I call really poor. Hide behind the sofa every time the doorbell rings poor. Horses in the lift poor. The fact that her story is true is what really makes it fascinating and I recommend you read up on her.
Anyway, nowadays Jack spends a hell of a lot of her time campaigning on issues around poverty, and is, I think it’s fair to say, of a reasonably left leaning persuasion. As you can imagine, her Saturday morning was dominated by news that a few months ago would have seemed like a pipe dream, namely the election of Jeremy Corbyn to Labour party leader. Not only would it mean a set of alternative policies that she could really get behind, but surely such a darling of the left would usher in selection strategies that would signal a quantum leap forward for groups who feel underrepresented at the top of institutes, like women, ethnic minorities etc.? The future looked a lot brighter for all those still astonished that retweets don’t actually transfer into the ballot box, and are still getting over the election result.
By Sunday night she was fucking fuming.
Now here it gets tricky for me. The shadow cabinet has ended up overall to be pretty much a male female stalemate numerically. (Diane Abbott has hung about long enough to snaffle one. It’s been interesting to see people like her accusing resigning Blairites of treachery, when they spent decades sticking the knife into the leadership at every opportunity, but hey ho). In my eyes this is a huge step forward. Jeremy has walked the walk. Or has he? That all depends on semantics it seems.
In any cabinet, shadow or otherwise, not all jobs are pares inter pares, if you’ll pardon the Latin butchery. There is a big four among them. PM, Chancellor, Home and Foreign Secretaries. No matter how much you try and sell being put in charge of Agriculture it really is a step down. Jack was really hoping that half of those jobs were going to be filled by women, and while I get that I think Jeremy genuinely did just pick the best people for the jobs, and I think that if people just did that there would be no more controversy about the diversity of boardrooms, shadow cabinets, or soap opera casts.
Sadly however as I age I am increasingly beginning to think I live in Narnia, and without huge deliberate sweeping gestures, such as the ones Corbyn ducked at the weekend, the march to equality will be painfully slow, and punctuated with pneumatic imbeciles trying to convince me that making a sex tape and appearing nude on instagram is a feminist act, rather than what it is; dressing like a prostitute for money.
(At this point I’d like to put on record my puzzlement that Thatcher isn’t held up as a feminist role model. After all she took on and beat the whitest most male institution in the country and won, while Barbara Windsor was still making Carry On films. I suspect I know why, but it’s always fun to ask I find.)
Anyway, Jack spent a long time after the announcements of roles were made expressing disappointment that someone with such impeccable Socialist credentials as Corbyn had missed the chance to make a statement, and despite the fact it meant I was also agreeing with Owen Jones I had to concur.
But I still say in an age of black presidents and woman prime ministers none of this should be either necessary or thought provoking.
And while I’m on the subject hasn’t Jeremy made in, er. interesting start to his reign. I’m starting to believe that if you frisked him he’d have a dog whistle on him at all times. A rescue dog whistle, obviously.
Not content with promising to nationalise the so called Big 6 energy providers, a move which ignores the fact that firstly only British Gas has any upstream capability and so the open market would control the industry like it does now, and secondly that precious little of the market is actually British owned, he has also decided to go on a one man blanking campaign whereby he ignores all of Murdoch’s outlets.
Now stalking down the street doggedly refusing to engage as a reporter fires questions at you isn’t a good look when you’re on Watchdog and people want to know where their timeshare money has gone or why you’ve fucked up their conservatory and legged it. It implies that you have something to hide. When you are trying to present yourself as the alternative prime minister it frankly looks stupid.
Again, his backers in the labour movement were probably hugely impressed at his show of principle. He is going to get slaughtered anyway, they will tell you, so why bother? Well the problem is that whatever you think of the Sun (and it’s fairly clear where Corbyn sits on this one) any man who is starting nine million votes behind David Cameron should be using every opportunity to put his case across. He doesn’t have to LIKE them, he just has to USE them. All those people cheering when he makes his noble gestures better not blame the nasty media when he gets his arse handed to him in 2020. It’s going to be a thankless slog, but if he’s going to turn round the deficit he is simply going to have to put up with being monstered in the Sun, Mail, and Express, like a boxer marching forward to get in his blows against an opponent with a height and reach advantage.
Not content with deciding to take on the mass media by inaction, his appointment of John McDonnell as shadow Chancellor seems to be a huge fuck you to his haters. The usual suspects have jumped on a quote where he is supposed to have wished for a time machine so he could go back to the eighties and assassinate Thatcher. They’ve also studiously avoided the fact that Tony Blair was so terrified of this left wing firebrand that he offered him a job in his cabinet. It must have been like listening to War Of The Worlds in that meeting.
The reasons that I don’t believe Jeremy is the man to lead Labour are many and varied, but the big one for me is that he’s spent so long being the outsider that unless someone he respects tells him to sell himself (which is different to selling out) he will be left bewildered and defeated because the arguments he’s been having among sympathetic friends won’t be automatically accepted by previous Tory voters. I think they won’t lead him into Number Ten, but rather the back benches as a busted flush, as everyone with any brains points out that no matter how right you think you are sometimes people just don’t want what you’re selling.
He needs to start listening, and quick.