Saturday, September 16, 2006

Short of a barbie

Election to government is really just the first step in a slow march to the self-destruct button. Labour has survived quite a few suicide bombers within its ranks over the years but none more determined than Clare Short. First it was her dramatic resignation as International Development Secretary at the start of the war on Iraq and then the accusations that M15 were bugging the UN. Of course they were Clare. It’s what they do. Have you not seen Spooks then?

Now she’s determined to go out with the mother of all barbies, announcing that she will campaign for a hung parliament. Perhaps she will offer the use of one of her lovely scarves for the lynching. In her present incendiary mood who knows what she might be capable of. Think back to the dying days of the Tory government and the human sacrifice that went on there. Car crash politics with sex scandals (David Mellor and Tim Yeo), money scandals (Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith) and the nightmare of Jeffrey Archer – the original raw prawn - whose list of transgressions is longer than the London phone book.

It’s true that Labour can’t quite muster a cast of this calibre, well they could but all the parts would have to be played by John Prescott. For a government to be sunk by just being crap would appear unsporting. We should be grateful to Clare Short for at least attempting to make a stab at drama. I am unclear however, how exactly to vote for a hung parliament. Would I perhaps pop a little piece of rope in with my ballot paper?

Short always seemed like a solid, salt of the earth kind of woman to me, the type who’d wear an emerald green gabardine blazer with a large gold lizard running up the lapel. She now finds herself ‘profoundly ashamed’ of the government she has represented for nearly ten years accusing it of incompetence, arrogance and lack of principle. Presumably she includes herself in this conspiracy to defraud the public of decent government.

Immanuel Kant said, ‘An intelligent child who is brought up with a mad child can go mad.’ Is the pressure of being in government so intense that everyone goes balmy eventually, even the ones who started out with impeccable ideals? Think of Charles ‘Grizzly’ Clarke and his mauling of Gordon ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Brown last week. Why are these rebels just waking up now to what has been obvious to the rest of us for at least five years? This Labour government is a big, big disappointment.

So let us consider just for moment what the Short solution would involve. She’s proposing a three party system with no overall control and concludes,

‘British politics would change profoundly. Parliament, and in turn the people, would have to be listened to, cabinet government would return, the error-prone arrogance of Number 10 would end, and we would have a chance of creating a new politics, a more civilised country and a more honourable role in the world.’

And suckling pigs might fly off the spit Clare. In actuality what we’d be looking at is a time share in Downing Street and a rota for cleaning the barbeque. Anyone who’s ever lived in a share house will know that this is a formula for salmonella.

When you reach the stage of thinking that your own party could do with a spell in opposition to sharpen up its political utensils, you need to hang up your long-handled fork. Meanwhile the guests at New Labour’s ten year anniversary barbeque seem to be forming an orderly queue to self grill. As one by one, senior Labourites launch themselves onto skewers all we can do is say ‘chuck another shrimp on the barbie and pass the jerk sauce please mate.’

Wonderful art by Dan Levin

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