Friday, October 2, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Corbyn's Nuclear Family Begins Its Fission

Monday 28th September
The Labour Party Conference is in full swing, with the New Politics operating in the last space to have been created by the old order. As Corbynistas throng about in fervent glee, the newly ousted moderates sit there being very convivial outwardly, but plotting behind closed doors.
The trouble for them is that Corbyn has a huge mandate within all aspects of the party, and if he can translate that to the wider electorate then their age is truly gone.
Corbyn’s problem is that if he stands up and sings The Red Flag, and proposes policies according to that spirit straight away, then that nebulous judge of all things – Middle England – will run to the Tories faster than Sepp Blatter supporters to anyone other than Sepp Blatter.
So, today it’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s turn, where he tries to toe the line between new age radical and reasonable economic thinker. He does well by acknowledging the dilemma, but then destroys that by describing the New New (Old) Labour approach as “aggressive”. From a man who was recently accused of supporting insurrection on the streets, it was a choice of words almost designed to worry the unconverted.

Tuesday 29th September
Finally, Jeremy Corbyn gets his first proper chance to make his pitch to the nation as he delivers his speech to the Labour Party Conference. So, he faced a choice between talking to the public or trotting out the same hustings pitch he’s used to incredible if parochial success for three months now.
Well, struggling to achieve unity in the party, he chose the latter, and attempted to win over doubters in the party by the tactic of Quantative Standing Ovations. The resulting speech wearied delegates knees and hands, but was often like listening to that seminal greatest hits album Now, That’s What I Call Len McCluskey’s Internal Monologue, but With the Rude Bits Censored for Live Broadcast.
The broad response was, therefore, a three-way split: those who were going to love it, loved it; those who were going to dislike it, disliked it; and those who were undecided, remain undecided.
Given that, it feels like there is very little to add. Apart from the fact that, though this was the first set-piece of the New Politics, it has now transpired that large sections of it were written four years ago for Ed Miliband, but the former leader rejected it.
That’s Corbyn for you. He’s the totem for all things spurned by Labour Leaders Past.

Wednesday 30th September
That should have been that for Corbyn. However, he just keeps the media circus on the road.
Yesterday he restated his opposition to the Trident nuclear deterrent in his speech, and was asked about it this morning on the Today Programme, where he revealed that, were he Prime Minister, he would never push the nuclear button.
This makes Labour’s policy debate on the issue pretty irrelevant. It’s basically become about whether they’d like to spend billions on buying an elephant for Prime Minister Corbyn to have in his room.
Labour frontbenchers have offered a range of reactions to this. At one extreme, the ever-verbally-cautious Andy Burnham went for disagreement, whilst at the other end, Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle criticised her leader, describing his words as “not helpful”.
Meanwhile, David Cameron is breathing a sigh of relief that no-one’s had the nous to ask him “When would you press the button?”, whereupon we could all rehearse the scene from Yes, Prime Minister, where it is revealed bit by bit that no Prime Minister ever would.
Apart from Boris maybe. He seems like the sort who’d do it with gusto.

Thursday 1st October
Let’s check in with the Americans, because the trees of the Republican Presidential Primary are yielding very strange fruit.
Runaway leader and satirists’ wet dream, Donald Trump, has been at it again, and by “it” I mean “casual, mindless racism”.
Let’s be clear: it isn’t racist to take a strong stance on immigration. However, it’s pretty racist to say that all Mexicans coming to America are “rapists”, and to renege on a pledge to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees because it might bring a 200,000 strong army from ISIS to America is pretty racist, totally sensationalist and, most evidently of all, utterly innumerate.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States.

Friday 2nd October
And so the week draws to a close with the Labour Leader drawing heat for his wish to abolish Britain’s nuclear defences, an industry in the North collapsing and resulting in numerous redundancies, and all manner of tension between Russia and America over military operations in an Arabic country.
So, basically, this weekend the entire globe is indulging in some kind of grotesque 80s nostalgia party. Welcome to the New Politics.

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