The Guardian continues to haemorrhage credibility. Every time Polly or Jackie makes an absolutely-last-and-positively-final-ditch defence of Labour, I read it and think, well, that at least is the very pits of absurd desperation, they cannot possibly dig themselves in any deeper than that.
I mean, surely to goodness they must now realise that by carrying on they only make Labour look worse – exposing just how little there is to applaud, how little there is for any Labour supporter to be hopeful about. They damn with faint praise, not by design, but because it’s impossible to do better. They have plunged a borehole right through the rotten flesh for all the world to see and arrived at the unyielding core of reality with nothing to show for it.
Yes, I think all that. It takes a while.
And each time the Graun surprises me. In a sort of danse macabre-style mad celebration of their awful news priorities they’ve just unveiled a “series” entitled Can Labour win?
And someone’s been busy, because though the series is only two days old there are already 23 equally desperate reasons why they can (if only they would follow the Guardian’s sage advice, naturally. I love the way all the commentators, particularly Jack and Poll, talk wistfully about the urgent need for Labour to “push” or “strengthen” various worthy agendas, like age discrimination or domestic violence, as if Labour are not the people who have just been in power for twelve years signally failing to do anything about these and many other things, ohnono that’s some other bunch of bastards, nothing to do with our Labour party).
One of the latest gems to emerge from the Islington bunker is this Young guns who will save the Labour party puffpiece, featuring a number of the more telegenic PPCs from the red corner. You might be thinking this has a familiar ring to it, and you’d be right. It’s not six months since Tatler did something similarly ghastly with the “top Tory totty”, and were rightly and roundly traduced for it by, er, me. And what do the Guardian do? Not only copy, but expressly attribute their inspiration to bloody Tatler magazine! Has the world gone stark raving bonkers? Is there anything, any low lesson of politics or marketing, that the lefty metro-intelligentsia are not willing to scrape off the bottom of the Tory barrel?
Anyway, this really is a video worth watching. It’s terrifying. In a first-past-the-post system where it takes about four times as many votes to elect a Liberal Democrat as a Labour MP, this, my People, is what awaits us. Keep my commentary open in a side-by-side why don’t you?
Some hopeful plinky music and there’s a shot of all the young guns walking towards the camera, Reservoir Dogs style. It looks like a reject shot for the opening titles of The Apprentice. All of a sudden we are transported into the complex intellectual world of Chuka Umunna, he of the persistant “mainstreaming” and unconvincing grasp of liberal priorities at the Convention on Modern Liberty. (He’d now be officially banned from council communications for the former, incidentally.)
“It’s very flattering to be compared to Barack Obama,” he begins. I kid you not. Those are the first words this flowering hope of New Labour speaks to camera. I don’t hear the rest of what he says because I am busy burying my head in a cushion and weeping. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it would be very flattering to be compared to Barack Obama if anyone other than his mum was doing it.
To be absolutely fair to him, I dry my eyes, assume he was asked a leading question, and pop the video back to see if he really does bear any resemblance to the leader of the free world beyond skin colour. Why does he want to become an MP, I wonder?
“As a solicitor you spend your time interpreting the law, but I actually want to change it, and that’s, you know, the bottom line there,” he explains.
And there’s more fractally subtle pearls of wisdom where that came from. Turns out Labour’s A-lister is a philosopher of comparative economics as well:
“I’ve always been massively curious about current and foreign affairs and what makes the world go round and why, you know, you get some people in some parts of the world who have nothing to eat and little water and then other people in countries like this who are doing very well.”
Seriously, he’s ticking all the right boxes for the summer internship. Cowley Street should get him on the phone.
Mercifully for his exhausted mental powers, we cut away to Rushanara Ali. She seems a nice girl – I say girl, this woman’s four years older than I am. She’s a little like me, actually, nice middle class Southerner, bright and personable, but with four more years experience – what will she have made of her life, and what can I learn from her example? What does she have to say for herself? What are her innermost drives, I wonder?
She likes going back to her old school and inspiring the girls there with her political career. She likes drinking tea with her would-be constituents in Bethnal Green and Bow. Yes, that’s all nice. I went to an all-girls school too. Fantastic way to get an education, and I’d recommend it to anyone, as the girls (or gels) thereby turned out tend to be, in my experience, that bit more confident about their place in the world and aware of why they’re doing what they’re doing.
But obviously you can’t win them all, and some people will always drop through any system. Next.
Rachel Reeves is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Leeds West. She is nothing if not a good Yorkshirewoman, and she is not a good Yorkshirewoman. Might be Ilford, by the sound of it. But never mind all that “Are you local?” nonsense – the civil war ended a long time ago. Let’s give her a chance, shall we? So why did she join the Labour party?
“I remember in the ’87 election I was eight years old and people at school were talking about who their parents were voting for and I went home and asked my dad. He put on the six o’clock news and introduced me to Neil Kinnock and said ‘That’s who we vote for’ and ever since then I’ve known that I’ve been Labour.”
Now, to be fair, Rachel is hardly alone in having been brainwashed into accepting a Labour (or Tory) allegiance at an early age. Unlucky them, I suppose. I remember asking my mum the exact same question, and she said they’d generally voted Conservative before but were thinking of changing now, and the best thing was to decide who had the best ideas and vote for them. Shocking notion, eh? I’ve never quite recovered.
Next comes Toby Perkins, who appears to have gatecrashed this video on “young guns”, being of the ripe old age of 38. That’s only four years younger than Clegg. There are probably junior cabinet ministers younger than this. What’s going on? Did they run out of half-decent young people? What is Toby hoping for from his political career?
“You’ve got to go there and actually do something. I don’t intend to just sit in the house of Commons and be lobby fodder,” he says bravely.
And yet you will, Toby, you will. You’ve joined the Labour party. He seems like a good bloke as well – oh, it’s too sad! A tragedy unfolding before my eyes. Let’s move on.
Lilian Greenwood, candidate for Nottingham South, is 42. Yes, they’ve definitely run out of half-decent young people. She’s a bit sinister in a way that at first I can’t quite put my finger on. Does she have a master plan of some sort, perhaps?
“About two years ago I finally decided that it was time to move on and try and find a different way to do something really positive for the women that I’ve been representing – well, not just the women mumble mumble low paid workers in particular.”
Oh what a Freudian slip! Men of Nottingham, head for the forest and take up arms, ere you be gelded! But soft, am I being unfair? Perhaps the slip is due to her having worked for ten years in a women’s refuge and therefore she has formerly represented only women? Nope, she’s a regional official for Unison, with no official women’s portfolio that I can detect. Her blog lists her as a campaigner for women’s rights. But that’s not her job.
This is exactly why I am suspicious of lefty feminism and believe liberalism can fulfil the same aims more cleanly and fairly. No sooner does one allow that it’s a perfectly Good Thing for campaigning women to start unofficial support groups and mutual aid networks for each other than one finds said campaigners merrily transport all their assumptions, jargon and viewpoints into official jobs and contexts that were never designed to accommodate them.
There is literally no point in being an MP if you’re going to treat your constituents even slightly and subconsciously differently on the basis of gender, and that goes for lefty feminists as much as it goes for Tory dinosaurs. Get a grip.
Meanwhile, Shabana Mahmood is hoping to represent Birmingham Ladywood.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it is what I say,” she opines. I was right – it is The Apprentice! Mandela is her political hero, and she thinks he’s a really good hook to get young people interested in politics. Hey, we never thought of that! After all, the fact that it has spent thirty years not working as such a hook and an entire generation has grown up in the great man’s shadow without becoming remotely interested in politics shouldn’t put us off.
Actually, I always feel slightly sorry for youngish politicians when journalists ask them – as they invariably will – about political apathy amongst the young, because their responses are so hopelessly inadequate. And no wonder, because they (charmingly uncognisant of this as they may be) are the weirdos who did get interested. You might as well ask a zebra why it thinks more of the horse family don’t have stripes.
And that’s it, more optimistic plinky music and a couple of moody monochromesque shots of the Six Super Saviours in various noble attitudes in front of a stone parapet.
That, my friends, is what we and the Labour party have got to look forward to. Let’s just remind ourselves of those 2005 voting averages, shall we?
An average of 26,906 votes to elect a Labour MP
An average of 44,373 votes to elect a Tory MP
An average of 96,539 votes to elect a Lib Dem MP
Someone shoot me now.