Here we go, right back to the 1970s with Mr Corbyn

Monday 21 September 2015

Credit: Twitter/@Daily_Express

Now come on. You can't say it hasn't been a fabulously entertaining week in politics.

There's a new show in town: Corbyn's Theatre of the Absurd, and boy, has it exceeded expectations.

Six weeks ago I predicted here that the inevitable and catastrophic Corbyn leadership had its positive side - it was likely to be darkly funny, and so it has proved. Labour's new Master of Ceremonies has taken to the podium to host his own version of 1970s TV hit The Good Old Days, and quaint turns from the past are now tumbling across the stage for our delectation and delight.

Let's start with the show opener, "My Ol' Mate McDonnell". Yes, it's our new shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who once rolled 'em in the aisles with his double act with "Red Ken" Livingstone at the GLC decades ago. Remember McDonnell's closing number, "Going Bankrupt" and how Ken eventually had to fire him from the County Hall cannon?

Today, the big gag is that Britain's potential next Chancellor wants to "ferment" (er, he means "foment" but let's not be picky) "the overthrow of capitalism". It's hilarious - Corbyn's appointed a rabid anti-capitalist to run the economy! The irony is priceless.

Less funny - actually not funny at all - is McDonnell's call for IRA terrorists to be honoured for bravery. So what medal, exactly, should the Omagh bombers be awarded for courageously killing all those families doing their Saturday morning shopping? And who should pin it on them? The Queen?

Then there's new act Kerry McCarthy, shadow environment secretary, which takes in Britain's farming industry. Kerry has strong views on this. A vegan, she hasn't touched meat for 20 years and says farming "causes immense suffering to animals". She has condemned the burden placed on the NHS by people who eat meat and dairy products and says farmers cause world hunger by using crops to feed livestock rather than people.

I'm sure UK farmers will see the joke. Unlike Corbyn's supporters, who have seen the Dear Leader's much-vaunted reputation for straight talking melt away this week under the white heat of actual power. It has been one excruciating episode after another, beginning with what Sky News dubbed "The Walk of Silence" in the early hours of Monday.

It was deeply weird. Journalists asked polite questions about the first tranche of shadow cabinet appointments (no women) but as Corbyn stalked down the sodium-lit pavements he uttered not a sound, just glared furiously ahead. "Why won't you talk to us, Jeremy?" a mystified reporter asked after several minutes of increasingly embarrassing silence. "Didn't you expect us to ask you questions now you're leader?"

Finally, spotting an approaching friend, Corbyn bleated: "There's people bothering me!" He sounded like a resentful teenager.

Since then we've had his refusal to sing the national anthem at the Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary service (thus ensuring the event was all about Corbyn rather than The Few). Again, the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition cut a juvenile figure; the stroppy sixth-former making an empty gesture of defiance during morning assembly.

Labour enforcers were mortified. Within 24 hours they said that in future, their man would join in. But Corbyn couldn't bring himself to say so during subsequent TV interviews. He was evasive; he'd "play a full part". Uh? Meaning? ITV News asked him several times to confirm he'd sing the anthem and was fobbed off with an increasingly passive-aggressive: "Let's see. All right? ALL RIGHT?"

Hah. Bah, humbug. So much for the new politics, then. He's just like the rest of them. Dodges questions he doesn't like.

Meanwhile the new-look PMQs, where Corbyn parroted guileless questions from the public, was hopeless. It resembled a boring local radio phone-in. Not my phrase - Labour MPs whispered it on the back benches.

Would Corbyn use his "Peoples' Questions" technique at the UN if he ever makes Prime Minister?

"Mr Putin... Sara from Luton would like to know if your intentions in the Ukraine really are purely non-expansionist... they are? Thank you for that... now, Brian from Plymouth wants to ask about your nuclear weapons programme. Should he feel threatened by it?" Dear God. They'd have him for breakfast.

Read more of Richard and Judy's columns for the Daily Express here.
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