One of my favourite sections of broadsheet newspapers is their ‘letters to the editor’ because – whilst broadly-speaking the breadth of news covered in each of them is similar and given that the following statement does not apply every day – reading the personal contributions of readers who by definition have not only formed and opinion but have then actually taken the trouble to share it is eternally fascinating, irrespective of whether they are commenting upon the news, someone else’s personal opinion previously given, or have simply decided to bring to the notice of the wider world some item of trivia or observation.
For the most part, condescension is something of which to be wary. I can never quite supress a smile whenever I read in one of said ‘letters’ columns yet another strident ‘Britain is going to the dogs’ reaction to some political development of the moment, usually accompanied by a list of suggested draconian right-wing measures supposedly guaranteed to solve said crisis … and then, as my gaze drifts down the page to the ‘signature’, as often as not discover that the author is writing from a domicile retreat somewhere in Normandy, Provence or the South of France.
In the context of the current Labour Party leadership election, I’m not quite sure where, along the spectrum of reaction, the statement ‘You couldn’t make it up’ belongs – not least because, plainly, you could. Nevertheless, the bewildering disarray to which the party of Keir Hardie, Aneurin Bevan, Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson et al. is now reduced is extraordinary.
Hitherto I have refrained from commenting upon it because, almost upon a daily basis since the contest was first announced by acting Leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman, Britain’s media has been bombarding us with a snowstorm of latest developments which stand as monuments to confusion and madness on their own and certainly require no ‘logs chucked on the fire’ from me in order to add a suitable entertainment quotient.
We’ve had the spectacle of (as I understand it), MPs of all wings of the Labour Party voting for – and/or giving up their own nominations to allow – Jeremy Corbyn into the contest as a (supposedly well-intentioned) means of ensuring that a ‘debate of all the viewpoints’ takes place.
Then one of the unlikely Mr Corbyn becoming some sort of populist Napoleonic ‘messiah’ figure and attracting ever-growing support from everyone from Trots and Marxists to anarchists, Tories, Green Party adherents and the sort of people who exist as trolls and hackers on the internet who just like to cock a snoop at authority in whatever form it takes.
Then the discovery that the latest ‘leadership election system’, introduced under the regime of Ed Miliband, is about as watertight and sensible as the sieve in which Edward Lear’s The Jumblies went to sea.
Accusation and counter-accusation.
Depending upon where you’re coming from, it’s either a shining example of true democracy in action or, alternatively, it has allowed people not only outside the Labour Party but actually opposed to everything it stands for to bugger-up not only the contest but – in the medium term – potentially destroy the chances of Labour ever regaining power.
Separately, there are claims that true Labour supporters have been refused membership of the Labour Party – others that practically the whole of Tory Central Office has signed up. The Party is apparrently even now conducting an rigorous examination of all recent membership applications to weed out the ‘suspect’ ones … from whichever quarter they might have come.
Most recently we have Andy Burnham, in my view the least impressive candidate upon the shortlist, not only writing a letter to the Party’s general secretary demanding that very thing again but also threatening a legal challenge to the result (that is, presumably, if and as Jeremy Corbyn – and not Andy Burnham himself – wins).
Those old sayings about not being able to organise a whelk stall, or alternatively a piss-up in a brewery, come readily to mind.
All the other parties represented in the House of Commons must be rubbing their hand with glee – oh, sorry, there’s only one of them left (the Tory Party) these days, isn’t there?
And all they have to do is … er … nothing.
They can just sit back in their red leather chairs, pour themselves another coffee and brandy, and settle in to watch the Labour Party seemingly committing political hari-kari, week by bloody week, inch by bloody inch.