Patrick George: “Labour Party: comedy or tragedy?”

We are now several weeks into the Labour Party’s am-dram production of Jez Miserables and the question is starting to emerge over whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy. We’ve just finished the opening act which saw Angela Eagle take flight, stumble over empty air and promptly crash into a Welsh wind turbine and now we’re onto the second act twist where Corbyn admits that he is Owen Smith’s father.

NO! It’s not possible!

Honestly, I may sound like I’m being glib (because I am) but it is incredibly hard to take this contest seriously when neither candidate seems that keen on having it. Corbyn was content to sit back on his allotment but was dragged back when Hilary Benn decided to tell him his runner beans were shit, and Owen Smith has the appearance of a child handed daddy’s suit and told to run for leader. At least Ed Miliband carved his campaign promises in stone: Owen Smith would struggle to mould them out of play doh.

It’s amazing theatre though, the moderates have decided to place their hand firmly on the scales and they’re still going to lose. They had their pick of 172 MPs who had no confidence in Corbyn and still managed to find the most lightweight of them all. “Anyone would be a better leader than Corbyn”, I am often told but this doesn’t stop me wondering why, when they had such titans as Dan Jarvis and Chuka Umunna garnishing their resume, they chose a small child trapped in a field of rakes?

“Given Corbyn’s reputation for not playing aggressive politics, it seems kind of his opponent to do the wounding for him”

It’s getting hard to laugh when I have to watch Owen Smith stride forward purposefully, filled with noble purpose and immediately take a rake to the face. BLAT! Oooooh that wasn’t that normal! BLAT! Ouch, straight back on his heels! BLAT! Oh dear, he couldn’t have prevented that one… I hate to get into conspiracy theories but is Owen Smith a plant? Given Corbyn’s reputation for not playing aggressive politics, it seems kind of his opponent to do the wounding for him.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, its reassuring to know that Labour’s very own Don Quixote, Tom Watson, has found a windmill to tilt at. Yes, Tom is finally back from Glasto and like most festival goers he has a problem with the trots. It turns out that there have been thousands of hidden Trotskyists scattered across the nation just waiting for their moment. I found them in my bushes the other week – urban trots tend to scavenge from the bins for clippings on Marxism to build their nests.

Of course, Tom had proof of this particular red scare in the form of a list of instructions to Momentum members on how to take over their branches. That said, it might have been more convincing had it not referred to moderates as “those sensible types”. It’s rare in a factional debate that you admit your opponent is the sensible one – tends to undermine your argument. You may also note that the tone, “types” in particular, seems a little outdated. Which might be because the instructions aren’t from Momentum, they’re from Michael Crick’s book on the Militant Tendency in the 80s. An extract that had been dug up by Progress and then used to try and discredit the Left. In fairness to Tom, we’ve all done this. I once discovered proof of a conspiracy to turn all the world into salmon that turned out to just be my shopping list.

“There was that weird moment where Smith seemed to channel the ghost of Gordon Brown”

The idea of an organised revolt is an appealing one though. Despite their claims towards competence the “anybody but Corbyn” campaign (I loathe to call it Smith because it won’t stop when he steps on the final rake) are slowly proving to be, well, not very competent. There were the aforementioned incidents of accidental sexism, homophobia and less accidental Islamophobia, there was the Smith website that still had the placeholder text on most the pages and there was that weird moment where Smith seemed to channel the ghost of Gordon Brown (He’s not actually dead -Ed.) and just say “I agree with Jez”. Well Owen, if you agree with him then why are you challenging him? Well? BLAT!

Patrick George

Image: Funk Dooby via Flickr

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