What’s the point? I mean, really: what’s the point?
Columnists throughout the country are spending this week sharing pearls of wisdom, explaining to their political masters where they’ve gone wrong in 2015, warning of the opportunities and pitfalls that lie before them in the New Year and explaining how they can be in a better position a year from now than they are today.
If I were a member of a remotely functional party or, for example, a serious party that wanted more than anything to displace the party of government, then maybe such efforts might be worthwhile. I might expect a leading Shadow Cabinet member or thoughtful back bencher to scroll through the various online didacticisms and glean the occasional idea or even inspiration from among them.
Unfortunately, I’m a member of the Labour Party.
But it’s Christmas (thank goodness I’m writing for the Telegraph, so I don’t have to use non-offensive euphemisms like “the holidays” or “the festive season” or even – God forbid – “Yuletide”) and at this time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, we should expect, or at least hope for, miracles.
Perhaps when Jeremy goes to sleep on Christmas Eve (why is it that among our political leaders, he’s the only one I can envisage wearing an actual night cap and gown and holding a candle as he peers through the gloom on his way to bed?) he will be confronted by the ghost of Michael Foot, who will then warn him that in order to avoid his own fate, Corbyn will be visited by three ghosts.
“Can’t they all come at once and get it over with?” Jeremy will ask Foot, grumpily. “I’ve had a hard few months and I need my sleep.”
“Probably,” Foot will reply.
And sure enough, when the clock strikes one, Jeremy will look nervously through the curtains of his four-poster and meet the Ghost of Labour Past. He’ll be taken on a whirlwind tour of Labour’s recent history: how Jeremy supported Tony Benn’s campaign for the deputy leadership of the party and opposed the expulsion of Militant, the horror of the 1983 defeat tempered only by the certainty that none of it was the fault of the Left and, after all, at least eight million voted for true socialism. He will see, as if for the first time, his own election as an MP, his first conversation with a Labour whip telling him “It’s very important you respect and obey the party whip!” (“I don’t recall that bit,” he’ll inform the spirit at his side).
And then he’ll grimace as he’s shown the election of Tony Blair and the subsequent election victories, the introduction of the minimum wage, tax credits, SureStart centres, record increases in health spending, trade union recognition rights, the Iraq war, the Child Trust Fund, civil partnerships, the hunting ban, massive reductions in child and pensioner poverty, the Northern Ireland peace process…
“Do you recall all this?” the spirit will ask.
“Of course I recall Iraq!” Jeremy replies.
Deposited back in his bedroom, the Ghost of Labour Present will reveal himself and show Jeremy the party’s true spirit. There may or may not be a musical accompaniment to this part; Jeremy will not join in.
Unseen and unheard, Jeremy will visit the homes of the poorest in the land, people whose tax credits have been cut, who have been sanctioned for turning up five minutes late at a JobCentre interview, people who survive on zero hours contracts. “What do you conclude from this?” the jolly spirit will ask. “That we need to get rid of Trident as soon as possible,” Jeremy will reply.
And so to the last, most terrifying apparition of Christmas Eve night: the Ghost of Labour Yet To Come. The hideous, faceless spectre will show Jeremy a meeting of Labour Party members in a draughty church hall. More than 50 activists are gathered to discuss policy. “A good turnout for a local branch,” says Jeremy hopefully.
“This is annual conference,” replies the spirit.
“Show me some tenderness!” Jeremy will urge the spirit. The scene dissolves and Jeremy and the spirit are standing outside Committee Room 14 in the House of Commons. “Ah yes, the PLP will be meeting tonight,” Jeremy says and pushes the door open. Six depressed-looking men and women are sitting glaring at each other in hatred.
“We must be early. It hasn’t started yet.”
“Yes it has,” says the spirit.
And suddenly Jeremy and his companion are in a graveyard, surrounded by mist, the engraving on the nearby headstone obscured by a dismal covering of snow.
“Who lies in that grave, spirit?” pleads Jeremy.
The spirit merely points the way to the gravestone, inviting Jeremy to read it himself. He kneels down, terrified of what he will find.
“HERE LIES THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY, 1900-2020”
Wretched, Jeremy covers his face with his hands… and when he looks up, he’s back in his own flat. It’s a beautiful, bright morning.
He opens the window and looks down to see Owen Jones below. “You, boy! What day is it?”
“Why, it’s Christmas Day, Jeremy! God save you!”
Hmm, ponders Jeremy. He knows what he must now do. The lesson the spirits taught him is clear: he’s been right in absolutely everything he’s ever said and done.
So anyway, as I said: what’s the point?
This article was originally published in the Daily Telegraph.