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Our Man In London

By   /  June 28, 2016  /  18 Comments

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PICTURE HIM. He’s in his late 40s, tall, greying hair elegantly styled. His suit is Italian bespoke, from the immigrant tailor with the studio just around the corner from his favourite pub. His basic salary is safely into six figures (Sterling) and his bonus this year was spectacular. What does he do?

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PICTURE HIM. He’s in his late 40s, tall, greying hair elegantly styled. His suit is Italian bespoke, from the immigrant tailor with the studio just around the corner from his favourite pub. His basic salary is safely into six figures (Sterling) and his bonus this year was spectacular. What does he do? Basically, he answers questions about the future. Where is the market going? Where will oil be in six months’ time? What’s happening to gold? Who’s putting what where? Which commodities are trending up? What’s going down? It’s not his money, of course, but even so, he’s got to be right at least as often as he’s wrong. Fortunately, he wears the pressure every bit as stylishly as he wears his Italian suit.

Not that he’s one of those Old Etonian, Oxbridge toffs like David Cameron or Boris Johnson. No, no. He received his secondary education at the local grammar school and graduated from a respectable red-brick university. Displaying a rare aptitude for student politics, he was swiftly taken up by the leading lights of the University Labour Club. A vacation job in the office of his local Labour MP led him into even higher-powered political circles. Upon graduation a job was waiting for him at Westminster. His boss was only a junior minister outside Cabinet – but widely regarded as a rising star. Our boy rose with him.

He met his wife in the lobby of the House of Commons. She was working for a Tory shadow minister of roughly equal rank to his own. Their backgrounds were remarkably similar – apart from the fact that, in her case, it was the University Conservative Club that had spotted her political talents. “Just think,” she teased, “if Labour had been quicker off the mark we might have been colleagues!” They were married on the country estate of her boss. “Marquees everywhere and Krug by the case! Not bad for a grammar school boy!”

The installation of the Conservative Lib-Dem coalition government in 2010 saw him snapped-up by a major financial institution in the City. His networks were impressive and his understanding of the UK economy even more so. What his new employers most admired about him was the ease with which he carried his many and varied talents. On neither shoulder were there any discernible chips. Gregarious, good-natured, and the proud possessor of one of the finest hip-hop collections in London, even the toffs liked him.

If he really was as good as everyone (including himself) thought he was, however, he should have spotted the enormous risk Cameron was taking when, in 2013, he promised an In/Out binding referendum on EU membership. His wife’s parents had friends who were members of UKIP, and they were worried. “David doesn’t really have a very good grasp of the provincial middle-class mind”, they vouchsafed to their son-in-law. “We don’t think he understands the degree to which he’s putting his future lies into the hands of the English working-class.”

He saw the irony, of course, but 2013 was back in the BC – Before Corbyn – era. “Labour is rock-solid for the EU,” he reassured his wife. “Cameron’s as safe as houses.”

Corbyn was the game-changer. None of our man’s friends in the party saw the old bugger coming. With his beard and his bicycle – and his penchant for defying the Whip – Corbyn was regarded as a rather poor 1980s joke. Like the Scottish National Party, he was not to be taken seriously.

Until he won.

Our man simply could not fathom how Corbyn, like the SNP, had been able to shake Labour to its very foundations. Neither of them grasped the impossibility of their dreams. The old fool and his followers didn’t seem to understand that the world had moved beyond the restorative policies of an ageing Trotskyist from Islington. Like Scotland, he just didn’t have the right sort of resources, or the right sort of friends.

Then along came Cameron’s bloody referendum. Suddenly, it was no longer enough to have the right sort of resources and the right sort of friends. Unaccountably, they no longer seemed to work.

His wife’s people reported that the shires were in open revolt. The dragon’s teeth that, year after year, UKIP had sown among the fields and hedgerows of “Little England” had grown into a veritable Game of Thrones collection of unstoppable fire-breathers. And who was that, sitting astride one of their scaly necks, looking for all the world like Daenerys, Mother of Dragons? Bloody Boris Johnson – that’s who!

Which meant that it was now up to Labour to save the day. Meaning it was up to Corbyn to save the day. Apparently, he knew how to talk to working people. He’d persuade them to get out and vote for “Remain”.

Our man’s wife was sceptical. “Corbyn’s a Londoner, darling, and I’m not sure a Londoner is the right sort of person to persuade your party’s ‘Friends in the North’. Indeed, I’m not sure that Labour any longer has anyone who can speak to the working-class of this country about the things that matter to them.”

Our man wasn’t convinced. Weren’t the polls shifting back towards ‘Remain’? Hadn’t the tragic assassination of Jo Cox reminded the working-class who their real friends were? When his bosses asked him which way the electorate was going to jump, he gave them his most winning smile, and told them not to worry. At the end of the day, the people would know what was good for them.

That advice cost his employers a great deal of money. There’d be no bonus this year to pay for the boys school fees. Never mind, there was always politics. Labour was in dire need of some sound advice. He reached for his cell-phone and scrolled through his contacts until he found the number.

The accent at the other end was pure Oxbridge: “Good Lord, old chap, how long has it been? To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I’m calling about Corbyn. Need any help?”

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18 Comments

  1. Andrea says:

    That was a horror story.

    The Guardian’s John Harris, travelling up and down the country as he does, was giving the alert on the angst of the ‘working class’ as far back as the last election.

    The ‘angry dispossessed’. The indigenous people of England.

    Meanwhile, in Scotland, 1320’s Declaration is again shaking off the dust.

    Interesting times…

  2. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    You should have been a Merchant Ivory screenplay writer Chris

  3. Mike in Auckland says:

    Seems more like “London Burning” now, Corbyn may be out some time this night NZ time, and the Labour Party in the UK broken, so badly, Corbyn may have to opt for starting a new party himself, or see to it that others are kind of thrown out, so a new start can be made.

    Having observed a somewhat weak Mr Corbyn over the campaign for that EU referendum, and now also struggling at times to “lead”, I wonder whether he is the man that can lead the progressive people in the UK (who are they now, how many are they, and are there any left in Scotland?) to an election win and into government.

    It seems radical changes are happening in England and London, and also the rest of the UK, we may see historic changes as a consequence of “Brexit”, that beast nobody expected to take this shape it has taken, and some across the Channel will also have a say in where it all ends.

  4. schwen says:

    “Indeed, I’m not sure that Labour any longer has anyone who can speak to the working-class of this country about the things that matter to them.”

    Rings true in NZ too. Gone are the days when Labour represented what is important to me. Now, they’re chasing issues that don’t matter one iota to the working class. Who cares about the disclosure requirements of foreign trusts? Is it going to help kids learn to read and improve their maths skills? No. Is it going to reduce the crime rate or the number of victims of burglary? No. Is it going to tackle the P epidemic? No. is it going to shorten the hospital waiting lists? No.

    Labour want to change the government for change’s sake. Then what? What are they actually going to do to improve the lot of the ordinary NZer?

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      NAH,

      WE NEED TO GET THE SLIMY KEY, AS A LIAR TOO?

      AS HE IS THE ONE THAT MISLEAD US ALL AND GOT THE ENQUIRY STOPPED IN 2015 AND USED HIS POWER TO AVIOD THE PROBE INTO SOMETHING HE MAY NOT WANT US ALL TO KNOW!!!!!

      SCHWIN DO YOU NOT THINK AN IMPORTANT ENQUIRY THEN WHEN A PM TRIES TO AVOID ENQUIIRIES INTO CORRUPT PRACTICES?

    • Andrew says:

      SCHWEN: Well said!

      This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make here for some time: It’s one thing to want National removed from power but it’s another thing altogether to be capable of offering a viable alternative. Labour has yet to do that.

      Just as Chris outlined, Labour is only listening to the ‘right people’: Wellingtonian political wonks, elitist academics, vacuous media people and miscellaneous arty types.

      The link to the *real* working class has been broken.

      Time to start talking to some *wrong* people!

      An English colleague noted that last year, the Redcar steel mill near Middlesboro closed down because the EU’s new ‘green tax’ made it unviable. This cost 1,700 jobs and probably five times that number of support jobs in the region. So the strong working class Brexit vote from the North East was probably just payback. Ask yourself why the Labour Party didn’t fight the closure. Could it be that none of the Labour party bosses were acquainted with uncouth types who work in steel mills?

    • BlueSky says:

      Sorry gotta disagree. The answer to your questions is actually YES. Why? Where do you think money comes from to pay for the social services you talk about. TAXES. That is why evading them is stealing and you should care. Why the government should care!!! Why it matters!! The government and their mates want you to believe it doesn’t matter.

    • BlueSky says:

      Sorry gotta disagree. The answer to your questions is actually YES. Why? Where do you think money comes from to pay for the social services you talk about. TAXES. That is why evading them is stealing and you should care. Why the government should care!!! Why it matters!! The government and their mates want you to believe it doesn’t matter.

  5. Nick J says:

    Last nights vote of no confidence in Corbyn confirms the last line of yourr article Chris. The end result is that there will be a figbt over the reselection of 174 MPs for any upcoming election. Its icivil war in both major parties.

  6. Nick J says:

    The referendum result has exposed the whole political class. All these MPs on both sides resigning and voting down leaders is symptomatic of their lack of calm in a crisis. It betrays a lack of trust in the electorates decision and shows that they fail the test of representing the electorate in favour of their personal loyalties and interests. It is a disgusting spectacle in the face of a storm. These people are unfit to lead.

  7. Nick J says:

    The referendum result has exposed the whole political class. All these MPs on both sides resigning and voting down leaders is symptomatic of their lack of calm in a crisis. It betrays a lack of trust in the electorates decision and shows that they fail the test of representing the electorate in favour of their personal loyalties and interests. It is a disgusting spectacle in the face of a storm. These people are unfit to lead.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Pity our corrupt little double speak liar MP doesn’t take his walk down the plank also like doing the honourable thing.

      Nah he doesn’t go honourable.

  8. Peter Bradley says:

    JC has to win this fight and I believe he will. He may not be the penultimate leader for the UK Labour party but his most important role right now is to break the right-wing of his party and bring about a genuine transformation of values and vision.
    When will we get our own NZ Jeremy Corbyn? We need one soon. The NZ Labour party is gutless and occupied by the same set of middle-class dinner table politicians as in the UK.

  9. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    If you think Boris Johnson looks anything remotely like Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) you need your glasses checked. If you watched the show, you’d also appreciate their political policy is completely different. I have no idea where the analogy is supposed to come from, unless you mean simply they both “make a grand entrance” – but even then, comparing someone who rides a fire breathing dragon to someone with a wacky haircut and a big mouth is pretty iffy.

  10. WILD KATIPO says:

    Scotland, has always historically seen Europe as their allies against their southern neighbor.

    It should come as no surprise that Scotland voted to ‘ remain’. Particularly their ties with the French against the English goes back century’s . Until that point of the Highland clearances and the breakup of the chief /clan system.

    England , … by contrast , … has always seen itself as aloof from the continent. England , … counted itself as a world leader and creator of the largest Empire in history.

    Do you think for just one moment that those sentiments passed down for generations will die just because we live in the age of post neo liberalism and the IT industry?

    You must be kidding.

    The collective memory of the English navies , the coal miner , the ship builder and the storekeeper is as English as gumboots and Fred Dagg is to New Zealand.

    And yes- even though the middle class traditionally looked down on the working class , – the working class had its own sort of imminent pride in itself – and proved itself time and again in England’s foreign wars fighting on bloody battlefields for the Empire.

    Even Hitler had a well earned respect for the English fighting ‘ Tommies’.

    They don’t go down easily.

    At all.

    Its a credit to that Empire that they assimilated so many of their traditional enemy’s among the Celts … many of the Highland Scots formed regiments in the English army. And were recognized as tough , front-line soldiers. As were the ‘ fighting Irish ‘ regiments. And they served well. The Welsh also sided and won credence with England when England / the UK was under threat.

    So why is it any real wonder that after centuries of this sort of tradition , hard knocks , reconciliation , unity and division that we should expect the English to abandon those traditional mindsets ? Why also is it any wonder that the Scots, – traditionally allied with Europe , should Not vote the way they did? Or the Irish?

    Did the Highland clearances or Bloody Sunday come that cheap ???

    To look into the whys and the wherefores is to study century’s of bloody hard won advancements. And it is here that the real roots of the BREXIT vote lie.

    It would be patronizing and presumptuous to condescend to offer an opinion on this without acknowledging the heartbeat of the people of the Uk , and their shared history …. and demeaning as well.

    It was their vote , it concerned them and them only and the rest of the world would just have to adjust .

    And if the rest of the world trembles because of that vote then that’s our problem. Not theirs. They knew what they were voting for.

    Maybe we should be applauding their democratic choice and the fact that that tough minded , proud and independent population gave the two fingered salute to neo liberalism and the excesses of the austerity programs and ridiculous oppressive regulations imposed on them from a distant so called parliament in Brussels.

    And maybe…just maybe… if we can extricate ourselves from our own presumptuous and self centered concerns … we can appreciate the toughness and potential risks true democracy can truly bring.

    Until then … clamoring about how the vote has landed in a country exactly half a planet away and seeking to decry their democratic vote simply because it affects us economically appears more like we are not the great advocates for democracy that we thought we were.

    The bottom line is : like it or lump it.

    The English voters who voted that way aren’t losing any sleep over it. And they certainly didn’t mind putting the boot into those of the Right or of the Left who got in their way . They knew what they wanted , – and it certainly wasn’t to have some bloated European bureaucracy calling the shots over their sovereign nation.

    Good on them.

    • Nick J says:

      Nice. The past is certainly relevant, we ignore it at our peril.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Fabulous honest wrap there Wild Katapo you put it actually correct 1000%, I should Know, I married a pom 40 years ago and she is a real fighter no worries there, its in there blood as being fighting invasions for eons all those pesky foreigners for centuries.

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