Monthly Archives: September 2015
Won and Lost
A distant acquaintance bet good money on a Corbyn victory, back in the days when he was a distant outsider at very long odds. She now stands to celebrate.
Thought experiment: suppose she had instead bet, at huge odds, on his becoming Prime Minister in 2020. And let’s also suppose it was a substantial bet. Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, and she wins a million. Far-fetched, OK, but not too far-fetched to be the basis of a story.
What kind of a story? Rags to riches? Not really – this is Blighty. Even if it hadn’t already been done, slumdog millionaire fits better in a country where the rags half of the story is genuinely all-too-plausible. But as a “what if” comedy, it has lots of potential. Or indeed, an episodic sitcom: each week a different attempt to benefit from her riches is tried and thwarted.
Well, our scenario is a very socialist Prime Minister. He bears a passing resemblance to Mr Corbyn, but could also take inspiration from other populist socialists, and from the imaginations of our scriptwriters. As a socialist, he’s in the business of taking millions from millionaires. Maybe (at least for the benefit of our plot) even doubly so those whose millions are demonstrably unearned. Our lucky winner has suddenly found herself on the wrong side of the Class War, and turns out to be worse off than she had been before winning the million. Oh dear.
Could a populist lefty nut get elected? Well, there are precedents. Hugo Chavez was repeatedly re-elected in Venezuela, though he may have been boosted by Uncle Sam’s botched attempts to interfere. On a slightly similar note, we’ve just seen (Comedian) Jimmy Morales top the presidential polls in Guatemala to go one up on Beppe Grillo’s achievement in Italy. In the UK we have a range of populists standing in spite of the main political parties, and some of them have won not inconsiderable posts up to and including London Mayor. And Corbyn’s new deputy Tom Watson may prove a formidable force.
Looking at electorates, we’re just p***ed off with the status quo. And now half of us are too young to remember how bad things really were in the pre-Thatcher socialist UK, and are being fed alluring messages about a mythical golden age. However far-fetched it may or may not be, Corbyn PM is at the very least good for comedy scenaria and thought experiments.
And (sorry, different story) we even have George Osborne trying to help. His recent announcement of a major development programme for the submarine base at Faslane is surely an attempt to hand Scottish parliamentary seats back from the Scots Nats to Corbyn’s Labour. Osbourne rather fancies an opposition that’s busy tearing itself apart, as opposed to a united party with a strong claim to speak for Scotland. And the Faslane project will serve to focus Scots voters’ attention on an issue where Corbyn is strongly at one with the SNP and the only UK chance to reverse Osborne’s decision (vote for him to stop it), yet much of whose party takes the opposite view (vote for him to keep it).
Bizarre and interesting times.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Once upon a time, there was an archetype. The young lad who leaves his home and braves all to seek his fortune. We could call him Dick Whittington.
Today there are millions (or should that be billions?) with dreams of betterment. For many in the poorer parts of the world, one such dream is of the streets of Europe or America, paved with gold. No doubt a few will make their fortunes, while many will be disappointed. Many will risk life and limb in the pursuit of a Dick Whittington dream. Our meeja and public opinion will swing between being swamped by immigrants and being outraged by their plight.
What should we in destination-countries do? I have no intention of addressing issues of immigration policy here, but one thing is clear: we should not be sending out misleading signals, leading people on with a deception. Even when it’s also self-deception. If we’re not going to welcome the millions, we should send out the signal loud and clear and without ambiguity. And above all, we should be consistent, not chop and change policy on the whims of meeja and public opinion.
Yesterday’s scenes of refugees reaching a true fairytale conclusion to their long ordeal is no doubt a happy one for the individuals concerned. But it begs the question: how many million impoverished Africans who may have idly dreamed of seeking their fortune in Europe, just saw yesterday’s scenes and made their minds up to set out on a perilous quest? Unless we welcome them all (which of course we can’t – not even those who survive and make it as far as pick-up points such as those off the Libyan coast), we’ve just perpetrated a cruel deception on them. For a change, our own Prime Minister appears to be behaving better than what either our meeja or some of our European colleagues are trying to pressure him into.