It’s the last day of my ten year old’s Easter holidays and we cycled a mile or so down the road to collect his friend for a play day. Riding back along a relatively quiet side street I heard one BT engineer telling another that Theresa May had called an election for June 8th! At first I assumed he must have got his info from Facebook or some other equally unreliable source, but the first news bulletin on R4 after we got home confirmed that she had indeed pulled a complete 180° turn.
My first reaction was one of utter despondency; after eighteen months of resignations, backstabbing, sniping, negative briefings and attempted coups, the Labour Party is languishing fully 18% behind the Conservatives in the most recent polls so it felt very much like the predictions of Corbyn’s enemies that we would face another generation under Tory rule were about to become true.
However, when I heard the leader of the divided, bowed and apparently beaten Labour Party speak on the One o’clock news, he sounded positively eager to grasp the opportunity to offer the country a choice; a meaningful choice between the diet it’s been force-fed in one form or another ever since Thatcher came to power in 1979, or a better, more inclusive society that takes care of its most vulnerable citizens and is determined to invest in the things that the majority of the population actually care about; things like the NHS, education, building affordable housing, re-nationalising the railways and whatever else he chooses to spell out in his manifesto.
It was also rather amusing to realise just how thoroughly Theresa Thatcher has screwed the right wingers in the PLP. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was first nominated for the leadership after the party’s appalling failure in the 2015 General Election, the most consistent charge raised against him by his innumerable detractors was that he was ‘unelectable’. When their last attempted coup ended in miserable failure and the ‘unelectable’ candidate was duly re-elected, they obviously decided to bide their time and use every possible opportunity – no matter how facile, transparent or spurious – to attack, undermine and whittle away at him, before mounting a fresh leadership challenge in plenty of time for the next scheduled GE in 2020.
Well May just tossed that plan right out the window and the all the self-serving, sanctimonious, hypocritical right-wingers in the PLP who’ve been banging on about the need to unite around a more electable leader to present a solid front, to save the party from oblivion and the country from twenty years of rampant Tory government, suddenly have no choice but to put up and shut up – right here, right now – or to accept that their political careers are likely to end in ignominy a lot sooner than they ever expected.
So a few hours after hearing the shock announcement, I’m actually feeling very positive about the whole situation, in spite of the Labour Party’s current standing in the polls; and I’m sure Jeremy must be looking forward to having an opportunity to offer the electorate a genuine alternative to austerity on June 8th, rather than having to face another three years of conspiring, back-biting and bitching by members of the party that he was elected to lead.
My friend Pat managed to get me 8/1 against Labour winning more seats than the Tories so I put a tenner on it. I’d have liked to have made it a hundred quid but I’m very much a part of the screwed mass (please don’t let the media fool you into thinking you that you should be subdivided into groups like the “squeezed middle” and the “just about managing”; in case you missed the news, it’s not just you and everyone you know who has seen their standard of living steadily drop as a consequence of austerity, it’s the overwhelming majority of the country) so I simply couldn’t afford it! But considering the Blairites in the Labour Party forced me to pay £25 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn – and then denied me a ballot on risible grounds – I thought a little punt at the bookies seemed like a thoroughly worthwhile investment.
Oh and lest you forget (just in case you were seriously thinking it might no be an altogether appalling thing if May won)…