Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Saga Of Jeremy Cantgovern

SCENE: Little Humpingham Town Hall.

The residents of Little Humpingham have gathered to elect a new Mayor.  The audience watch expectantly as the Chairman invites the candidates - VIOLET SENSIBLE, HENRY SAVAGE, TARQUIN TITTERING-BERK and JEREMY CANTGOVERN - to make their closing arguments.  At the back of the room, two local JOURNALISTS look on.

CHAIRMAN:  Ladies and gentlemen, your final statements, please.

VIOLET SENSIBLE:  We should immediately close the nursery, fire the postman and blow up the donkey sanctuary.

HENRY SAVAGE:  Let's invade our neighbours in Dogdickington village and beat them with hockey sticks.  It's for their own good and it's the only language they understand.

TARQUIN TITTERING-BERK:  We need to be realistic.  I think we should all be racist.  Not racist in a bad way, but racist in a very reasonable way.  Reasonably racist.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Well, I think that we should be nice.  We should all be nice in a faffing, ineffectual, slapstick kind of manner.  We should also be weird and get bizarrely annoyed about matters that are ultimately fairly unimportant.

(Polite applause) 

FIRST JOURNALIST:  They'll never elect Cantgovern.  He's a dinosaur.  He doesn't even like hitting people with hockey sticks.

SECOND JOURNALIST:  He'd be a disaster.  If they elect him, we'll almost certainly catch Anthrax until we die.

CHAIRMAN:  Thank you.  And now we will take a vote...

(The audience vote). 

CHAIRMAN:  There...  Well, the votes have been counted and I can announce that Jeremy Cantgovern has won by ninety-eight votes to zero for any other candidate.  I hereby declare that Jeremy Cantgovern is the new Mayor of Little Humpingham.

(Polite applause) 



CHAIRMAN:  Mr Cantgovern, you have the floor.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Thank, you Mr Chairman.  Can I just start by saying that now is the time -

SENSIBLE:  Boo!  You suck, Cantgovern!  Boo!

SAVAGE:  You're shit!  You can't lead!  You're a lightweight!

TITTERING-BERK:  Resign, resign!  Have you no shame, sir?  Have you no shame, even now?

(The CHAIRMAN bangs his gavel and calls the meeting to order) 

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Mr Cantgovern, I would thank you to tone down your remarks.  This is no place for that kind of intemperate rhetoric.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Apologies, Mr Chairman.  As I was saying, I think that now is the time to take immediate action to tackle child poverty in the village, perhaps through the medium of interpretive dance.

SENSIBLE:  That's an awful idea!  You're a moron!  You stink like pissy cabbage!

SAVAGE:  The man's a liability.  He must go.

TITTERING-BERK:  What a retard.  I hope he dies.

(An AUDIENCE MEMBER stands up)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Why don't you let Mr Cantgovern speak?  I want to hear what he has to say.

SENSIBLE: (Aghast)  Mob rule!

SAVAGE:  Unbelievable fascism!

TITTERING-BERK:  This blatant intimidation is unacceptable!  Call off your thugs, Cantgovern!

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Mr Cantgovern, please try to control your supporters.  We can't have hooligans terrorising us with their foul language.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Yes, please calm down everyone.  If you must show disapproval, please don't shout.  I suggest that you click your fingers instead.  It's less aggressive, and also quite fun.  (Clicks fingers)

SENSIBLE:  Incredible!  He's egging them on!

SAVAGE:  Shocking, unbelievable conduct.  The man's a psychopath.

TITTERING-BERK:  And he's racist.

(The audience - Sharp intake of breath) 

FIRST JOURNALIST:  That proves it.  Cantgovern is the new Mussolini.


CHAIRMAN:  I'm sorry Mr Tittering-Berk, I'm not sure that I heard you correctly.  Did you just say that Mr Cantgovern is racist?

TITTERING-BERK:  He's tremendously racist, and not in a good way, either.  In a bad way.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  This is an outrageous slur.  I abhor racism in all its forms.

SENSIBLE:  Yes, but do you condemn it?  Do you denounce it?

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  I utterly condemn racism.  I denounce it.

SAVAGE:  He's a liar.  Just look at him, you can smell the fucking racism.  And the evil.

TITTERING-BERK:  How much to you despise racism?  Do you despise it times a hundred?


JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  I despise racism times a thousand.   No, actually, I despise it times infinity.

(Shouts, fainting) 

TITTERING-BERK:  Put your hands on your head and say that.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  (Puts hands on head)  I despise racism times infinity.

SENSIBLE:  Hop on one leg and say you despise it.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  (Trying and failing to hop with hands on head)  I despise... Look, I'm sorry, my knees...

(Gasps, screams from the audience)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Oh my God, he's a Nazi.


(A young boy runs into the room and hands the CHAIRMAN a note) 

CHAIRMAN:  (Bashes gavel)  Apologies everyone, I'm afraid I've just received some rather bad news from Mr Cameron, the bank manager.  He says that he's very sorry, but he's burned the bank down...  All of our money... Utterly destroyed...  We are doomed... All going to starve.  Sorry again.

SAVAGE:  This is your fault, Cantgovern.  You're a fucking liability, mate.

SENSIBLE:  Resign, for the love of God, resign before you ruin us all!

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  But this isn't my fault.  It wasn't me that burned down the bank.  I wanted to abolish the bank and replace it with a wholefoods shop.

FIRST JOURNALIST:  Why won't he just shut up and go away?  God, I hate him.


(Uproar in the Town Hall.  The CHAIRMAN brings the meeting to order). 

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Well, given Mr Cantgovern's appalling behaviour, it's clear that we need to have a new election for Mayor.  Candidates, would you please give us your opening statements.

SENSIBLE:  We should immediately blow up the postman, close the nursery and fire the donkey sanctuary.

SAVAGE:  Let's invade Dogdickington and beat the residents with crowbars.

TITTERING-BERK:  I think we should all be racist, and not in a reasonable way, but in a bad way.  Badly racist.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Well, I think we should be nice to everyone... except the other candidates.

(Sharp intake of breath)

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  In fact, I think we should be quite rude to the other candidates.  In a comically faffing and ineffectual manner.




Igor Belanov said...

I'd have wet myself laughing if it wasn't so sad.

organic cheeseboard said...

Yes, this is good. Though it's possibly a bit kind to Corbyn all the same - he's led in a really pisspoor manner and despite the press being hostile has seemingly decided that they don't matter at all. Had he kept a couple of papers onside - by e.g. not appointing Seumas Milne - he might have stood more of a chance.

I've nowhere else for this to go since my mates aren't interested in my lefty ramblings, so here goes:

Though as above I think Corbyn is a very poor leader, his supposedly 'poor performance' in the EU campaign is clearly a smokescreen for a coup that was always likely to happen. And again I think it's worth looking at the actions of non-Corbynites in 'Remain', and their attempts, as last year, to blame everything that goes badly on someone else.

In particular, I'm thinking about Will Straw. Back in 2015, Straw, supposedly a star of young(ish) Labour, ran for a seat in Lancashire. He didn't win it, and in fact didn't even increase his party's vote, and at the time blamed Labour's failure, under Ed Miliband, to be sufficiently tough on immigration and benefits as the reason for this.

He then got the job running the Remain campaign, though I'm not quite sure how, given that his track record is of losing a fairly winnable seat and, er, working for think tanks. So you'd think he has to take a fair share of responsibility for the disaster that was that campaign whose core message was 'trust David Cameron and George Osborne, for they know everything'. It seems they'd not done any research, prior to deciding on this strategy, on how it would play among swing referendum voters, and that Straw, like Harriet Harman last summer, simply assumed that the Tories were masters of strategy and campaigning - thus they just did the same hits again, which played well in the GE, but these aren't the same swing voters as then. Remain also had no idea how to counter a Leave campaign that was ALWAYS going to focus on immigration, not least because Cameron was himself guilty of race-baiting consistently throughout his leadership of the Tories, as recently as mid-May.

So there's Will Straw, thinking the Tories have all the answers, and having seemingly personally learned nothing from campaigning on immigration.

And once the dust had settled on the disaster of that campaign and the referendum result, and his campaign star, David Cameron, has resigned, his legacy in tatters following a disaster of a campaign where he ducked any confrontation, what happens? Straw blames Jeremy Corbyn, who was beforehand universally regarded as someone nobody will listen to, and who (I think correctly, despite the result) steered clear of endorsing Cameron and Osborne, was wary of being too anti-immigration, and who Straw is attacking largely because - er - his office didn't get talking points out quickly enough. Catastophe! Nothing like e.g. the culpability of David Cameron, who asked to be the star of the show, then ducked out of debates, refused to sanction attack ads, and who called the fucking pointless referendum in the first place. All of this - ALL of it - is a result of Cameron's preposterous arrogance.

I can't think why Straw, who fully trusted in Cameron's brilliance, blamed Corbyn.

Igor Belanov said...

"Though it's possibly a bit kind to Corbyn all the same - he's led in a really pisspoor manner and despite the press being hostile has seemingly decided that they don't matter at all. Had he kept a couple of papers onside - by e.g. not appointing Seumas Milne - he might have stood more of a chance."

Let's be fair. Corbyn went for the job because he was the only one of the depleted group of Labour Left MPs who had not been for the job before, was willing to be put forward, and was not an unknown who had only just been elected in 2015. One of the major reasons he won was that he represents the antithesis of both careerism and bland acquiescence in the status quo, and probably BECAUSE of his lack of forcefulness and ego seemed to be the ideal man to take the party back to the members. In all likelihood he envisaged carrying through a few party reforms and encouraging a greater backbone against austerity, then stepping down before the 2020 election.

Given the sustained level of deranged opposition from the media and the PLP, it is difficult to see how he could have led the party any more successfully. He was doomed from the start. Bad decsions, like the appointment of Milne, have been relatively few, and made no difference. If he had caved in to the PLP and accepted their agenda, they would still have wanted him out as an example to Left-wingers in future, and his support amongst the membership would have been alienated. If he had adopted a more confrontational policy towards the PLP this crisis would have come even earlier.

Left-wingers need to realise that the Labour Party is unreformable. No one else will make a better effort than Corbyn. Either this crisis causes it to split, in which case both wings can function in their desired ways, or the Left will miserably cave in and become the bag-carriers for the party's elite, as they have done so often in the past.

gastro george said...

Corbyn's press strategy has been, shall we say, novel. It seems to be to ignore them altogether, on the basis that he's going to be shafted by them anyway, so why give them the time of day. Given that he's being shafted on a daily basis by, I hesitate to say by of all newspapers, the Graun, who you might think would be the most sympathetic, that's not an unreasonable attitude.

The problem is that it misses the point that newspapers have columns to fill and, if you're not going to fill it with something, then somebody else will. And that's more likely to be your opponents.

You'd like to think that there was a different strategy possible here. To try to deliver some kind of forceful media campaign without taking any shit from them. But what do I know. They may have tried that and it's been ignored anyway.

Igor Belanov said...

TBH, Gastro George, I largely agree with you.

I said at the point of Corbyn's election that the last thing he should do was apologise for himself and his views. He started almost immediately with the ridiculous fuss about not singing the National Anthem at St Pauls'. I thought at the time that the best thing to do would be simply to state that he was a republican and it would be hypocritical for him to do so. It has gone on to his dress sense, accusations of anti-Semitism, through to stage now where he can't say or do anything without the media and the PLP demand an apology.

He could have avoided the bunker strategy by adopting a more aggressive agenda, though this would have brought matters to a head more quickly. My biggest criticism of him would be that the sort of mess we're in at the moment was utterly predictable, yet it doesn't look like his team or his party supporters were really prepared for it.

Phil said...

The (latest) anti-semitism thing was really deplorable, and a classic example of the "say it with your hands on your head" approach (I note that this post was published before the launch event took place).

Corbyn says [not verbatim but close] "Jews should no more be blamed for the actions of the Israeli government [i.e. a Jewish state] than Muslims should be blamed for the actions of various self-styled Islamic states and movements", and immediately gets accused of equating Israel to IS - partly thanks to a misleading 140-character rendering of what he said which got halfway round the world before, etc. Firstly, it's staringly obvious that he's saying anti-semitism is not OK - and you'd think this would be the main news, however clumsy his expression might be. Secondly, he's saying (to unpack it a bit more) "anti-semitism is not OK if you hate Israel, any more than Islamophobia is OK if you hate IS" - so it's quite specifically a message (or, as Sarah Ditum put it on Twitter, a 'sop') to anti-Zionists on the Left. Who are, of course, precisely the people who need to hear this message. But none of this got heard. It was probably unnecessary & may have been unwise to bring any 'self-styled Islamic states' into the discussion, but I think what really did for him was simply acknowledging that there is such a thing as anti-Zionism, and suggesting it might be legitimate on the Left (as long as it doesn't turn into anti-semitism). Which to me is as unproblematic as a very unproblematic thing, but what do I know - I basically took a break from politics during New Labour, so I'm sure my attitudes haven't kept up.

But there was, of course, more: cue Ruth Smeeth MP being attacked disgracefully by somebody from Momentum using (in her words) 'traditional anti-semitic slurs'. Again, there was a good half hour - which is about a week in Twitter years - between the complaint getting out and a third-party account appearing, in which time speculation ran a bit wild. It turns out that
- Marc Wadsworth passed out a flyer from 'Momentum Black Connections' but recognised Smeeth and didn't give her a copy
- the guy from the Daily Telegraph let her look at his copy
- in the Q&A, Wadsworth said [verbatim] "I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP so you can see who is working hand in hand."
- Smeeth said "How dare you!" and walked out
Now Wadsworth was obviously being a dick - hijacking the meeting to make a petty attack on a political enemy. But "traditional anti-semitic slurs"? Show me in the text, as my supervisor used to say. And suggest what form of words Wadsworth would (on this logic) have used if he hadn't been engaging in anti-semitic abuse.

One of the arguments used by the people who've been denouncing Labour anti-semitism is that, since MacPherson, a 'racist incident' is officially defined as an incident that appears racist to the victim or any other person - so why aren't we also willing to define as anti-semitic an incident that the victim (or any other person) believes to be anti-semitic? The logic is hard to fault, and frankly I think it shows the weakness of the MacPherson definition. An over-expansive definition must have seen like a good corrective measure post-Lawrence, but over-expansive is still what it is - and, I'm afraid, open to abuse.

Anonymous said...

"An over-expansive definition .... is ..... open to abuse."

Indeed. It will become impossible to discuss many sensitive issues because somebody will be offended just because something is mentioned. "Politics isn't a comfort zone" as Tony Blair might have said and there are plenty of uncomfortable issues that need discussing.


flyingrodent said...

Though it's possibly a bit kind to Corbyn all the same - he's led in a really pisspoor manner and despite the press being hostile has seemingly decided that they don't matter at all.

Yes, it probably is. I don't think many people actually expected JC to perform well in the role - mainly, I think his election was a stern and much-needed reminder to the parliamentary party that they're supposed to oppose the Tories - but I imagine everyone's been a bit taken aback by his general uselessness. If I had to sum that up in a sentence, it'd be this: You're running a political party mate, not just a Twitter account.

Saying that though, Jez looks like a saint and a tactical genius, compared with his detractors, who started off slapstick and now look like possibly the most appalling bunch of idiots in Parliament. Which is quite an achievement in itself.

So we're now at the stage where MPs openly state that they're trying to get rid of Corbyn and the hacks openly state that they're trying to get rid of Corbyn, and they're plainly working together to get rid of Corbyn. And yet any time that anyone mentions the plain and obvious truth that the MPs and the hacks are working to get rid of Corbyn, the MPs and the hacks take a fit of the vapours and start screaming about conspiracy theories.

It's beyond a joke, utterly contemptable and an outright insult to everybody's intelligence. Personally, I'd pay for the privilege of voting to see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich like a berk again, but I'm very much torn between that and really, really wanting to see all of the parliamentary Labour Party fall on their arses. Almost all of them have been absolute cocks about this, and they've done it in a way that makes it clear that they don't even think they have to work hard at it, because they think we're all stupid enough to just accept whatever half-arsed nonsense they chuck at us.

Igor Belanov said...

One of the points about Corbyn is that he is popular as a kind of 'anti-leader'. The fact that he hasn't really set an agenda and that he lacks ego and ambition mean that he is perfect as a figurehead for the Labour membership and the wider Left. They know he is on their side and he has no ulterior motives, and that is enough for now.

If the membership wins this battle and establishes a genuinely democratic party, I expect Corbyn will step aside for someone else and lie down for a rest.

gastro george said...

@Igor - I always thought that he might do that say a year before the 2020 election. He knows he's a bit old for a general election campaign by then.

organic cheeseboard said...

On this, I see that our old mate Ollie Kamm has retweeted his reasons, first provided 'a year ago' according to him, for the 'uselessness' of Corbyn. Worth looking at the whole thing:

1) Ed Miliband lost because of his 'lack of imagination' and 'conservatism' (um, what?)
2) Jeremy Corbyn is instinctively conservative (kind of depends on your definition of conservative I think)
3) Jeremy Corbyn regards anyone from outside the far left as an enemy. The reason for this is that he turned down an interview with the Jewish Chronicle once he found out that Oliver Kamm would be the interviewer. (Kamm IS, of course, an outright enemy of Corbyn and of anyone vaguely left-wing in general, and Corbyn was entirely right to avoid talking to the nasty, mean-spirited hatchet-man)
4) 'His entire political life has been spent in the cocoon' (no sense of what this 'cocoon' is - presumably of 'the left'? and Kamm of course has in no way spent his own life in a 'cocoon' despite his career path being Oxford to City of London finance to journalism-with-no-help-from-family-connections-honest)
5) his policies (and Kamm here admits that there aren't many of these) will produce economic scarcity and a collapse in real incomes, because of (I kid you not) Venezuela.

And that's it. Now some of JC's critics, inside and outside the PLP, might agree on e.g. his lack of willingness to engage with people beyond the 'far left', but other than that, this is just ad hominem bollocks.

And that's been the problem from last year til now with criticism of Corbyn. Clearly (at least to me) the major issues are his lack of leadership ability and his shit media relations, but to listen to Kamm and everyone else he's the fucking antichrist - and Kamm doesn't even mention 'electability', even that of Ed Miliband.

As I think Dsquared has said in better fashion on here, did Kamm et al ever stop to wonder why these kinds of over the top diatribes didn't work? Did they ever consider that their beloved right-wing economics and bomb-everything foreign policy might not actually be easily translated to a Labour leadership election? Nope, because they clearly know better. Kamm hasn't been proven right - in fact Tory leadership candidates are now embracing Corbynomics, as they should.

organic cheeseboard said...

And more Kamm today:

Corbyn is plainly incapable of appearing in public without discrediting himself & party.


I'm a journalist. I write opinion columns & books. These are my opinions of Corbyn, shared by the voters.

I mean really. 'The voters'? and when he's called out on the fact that some voters like Corbyn, he says "You're making a pretty fundamental statistical error there." I'm pretty sure that a lot of people who vote think Corbn isn't up to the job, but I'm equally sure that a lot of voters also don't believe that he's incapable of going out in public without discrediting himself.

Of course these self-important, rude exchanges are praised for their 'cool' by Jeremy Duns et al.

Igor Belanov said...

After the last ten years of UK politics (and particularly the last year) it is surprising that there are still so many people who have the gall to claim that they know what the voters think.

I was at a pro-Corbyn demonstration on Saturday morning, so I know there are SOME people who think in a similar way to me. However, all the signs seem to indicate that there are something like 57 varieties of political opinion around at the moment.

Given this situation I have a suggestion. Instead of certain people claiming that only people and parties they have decided are 'electable' (ie. congenial to the political establishment) should contest elections, why don't we let people with close alignments of opinion form parties or movements and let them articulate their views, and let everyone vote on the ones they prefer. We might call it 'democracy'.

organic cheeseboard said...

Normally I have no time at all for Rafael Behr but this is a decent piece, largely because for once he doesn't blame everything on Corbyn (in fact the only thing that's really directed at Labour is something that non-Corbynites are equally culpable for). Also because it gives me the chance to say 'I told you so' re: Will Straw, who is the main source here and very obviously went along with everything the Tories suggested because Tories = winners, this despite his supposed in-depth understanding of the Very Real Concerns etc etc.

organic cheeseboard said...

My favourite bit of that is:

The team discussed the possibility of launching a whole new campaign. It would be called “Progressives for In”, complete with its own branding and battle bus – a way to jolt the media into reporting the views of Lib Dems, Greens, and Scottish Nationalists, as well as Labour figures. But the logistics were too difficult.

I don't think it was just logistics that caused the problem there mate.

gastro george said...

Hmm, not so sure about the Behr piece. It sounds a bit like a Blairites wet dream if only they weren't so shit and had a different electorate.

It also feels curiously sub edited so that the Corbyn stuff gets more prominence at the front - because Corbyn presumably.

flyingrodent said...

Cheeseboard: Can't say I agreed about the Behr article - I thought it was mostly dreck and excuses, and have said so in a new post.

I think there's a pretty heavy push on from big chunks of parliament and the press to take responsibility for being part of an out of touch elite of 48% of the damn population, rather than for being shit in all manner of other ways. I think it's very convenient for them to do that.

organic cheeseboard said...

Hm maybe I need to reread it - I was just happy to see something that didn't blame Corbyn. In fact from it it seems pretty clear that Remain wanted very little to do with Labour at all. And I agree on most of the other post btw. I guess I was reading between the lines about Cameron and Osborne's fundamental arrogance and ineptitude too.

Darius Jedburgh said...

On the other hand