Neil Jopson takes a semi-humorous look at the last twelve months and argues that the joke may be about to wear thin.
Ever since last year’s General Election campaign, political life has seemingly morphed into a series of Monty Python sketches. Immediately after the result came in, all those people who acted as though Corbyn’s Labour had actually won power reminded me of the cult members in Life of Brian, declaring their very own Brian to be the Messiah, chasing him around the country with adulation bordering on insanity. Who could ever forget the sight and sounds of Glastonbury, where the audience bayed like the crowds outside Brian’s bedroom. They even invented their own hymn to the welcome this Second Coming of the Messiah, it was oh-oh-awful. It would not have been out of place for an old woman to have appeared on stage and declare, “He’s not the Prime Minister, he’s a very naughty boy!” A 68-year-old boy? Yes, one who, for all his alleged integrity, gives the impression of having stayed happily in moody adolescence for his entire life. Not only keeping to the socialist beliefs he held as a 17-year-old, but also refusing to accept any of the overwhelming evidence that his ideas are not only wrong but dangerous. In fact, the last few weeks lend support to the ‘naughty’ accolade (maybe he would regard claims of his naughtiness it as high praise, a middle finger to the system of capitalist oppression). How about the naughty claims that he met with Cold War spies? No doubt he feels he behaved a bit like a cheeky but well-liked schoolboy, sneaking out of Parliament to smoke a forbidden fag around the back of the bike shed with the enemies of the UK. What a wheeze! He’s a lad! He’s well up for a laugh and he means well! Yet, even though there is no evidence that he betrayed his country, surely we have gone past the stage of naughty and onto dangerous? “Yes,” he might say when caught by the headteacher, “I met with a spy, but I didn’t inhale!” I don’t think any headteacher would accept that as an excuse.
How about the Pythonesque cult members themselves? The Corbynista’s. Momentum. A modern cult for modern people. No one expected the Spanish Inquisition, just as no one expected Momentum. They scream and shout a lot, unaware that their chauvinism, bully tactics, and brutal identity politics make them look like a middle-class parody of the Militant Tendency of the 1970’s and 80’s. The strangest sight is the behaviour of those who consider themselves to be ‘liberals’ on most matters. Suddenly, shouting down opponents and calling them every name under the sun is acceptable if it leads to a progressive and enlightened socialist government under Corbyn.
Despite the noise, polls show a stubborn refusal to give Corbyn’s Labour the lead one might expect from a party opposing a government mired in negotiations to release us from the claws of Europe. Instead, the most recent ones show the Tories opening up a slight lead. After Labour’s announcement that it is going to ignore the result of the Referendum, and aim for Brexit in Name Only, I expect that lead to continue to open up in the north, though how much it will damage Labour is difficult to predict.
Could it be that most of the country can see past the false Messiah with the twinkly beard? After voting for Britain to leave the Pythonesque pit of the EU, the British people are unlikely to accept replacing the cult of Europhilia with Momentum.
It is doubtful Corbyn will ever be the Prime Minister. But if he makes it across the threshold into Number 10, it will be due to Tory Remainers, so bitter with the result of the Referendum that they would rather see a Corbyn government than a free and thriving UK. It that happens, I can think of no better time to sing the closing song to Life of Brian, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. After all, the Python sketch will be drawing to a close, and a much darker tragedy beginning.