Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word … Homer’s odyssey

In times of crisis, scholars through the ages have turned to the great figures of western civilisation for inspiration. Homer, Plato, Aristotle. The enduring hope is that solutions to contemporary crises might be found amidst the works of some of our species greatest minds.

Me? I watch the Simpsons.

For sure, mayor ‘Diamond’ Joe Quimby exhibits a series of repulsive and extraordinary behaviours redolent of both the left and the right of the political spectrum – but the writers of the show never cease to question the wisdom of the Springfield electorate either. When Quimby was booed for forgetting the name of the town he was addressing, he turned on them ‘You people make me sick!’ After the briefest pause, Quimby was reborn, exalted by the same crowd, which, at his suggestion, now hated itself ‘Yeah! Give us hell, Quimby!’ shouted a frothing spectator.

For me and many other Labour MPs, this resembles a Sunday night on Twitter. That said, the greatest political metaphor of our times can now be found in the Simpsons’ archives …

‘Lisa the Vegetarian’ (1995) foresees the current state of the Labour party with an eerie precision. Homer, our protagonist, has taken possession of a suckling pig for his barbecue. For ‘pig’ read: Labour’s 2010-15 leftwards drift. For ‘Homer’ read: those among Labour’s ranks who now believe that electoral success and the pursuit of social democracy now rests upon advancing this leftwards drive.

With the barbecue underway, an appalled Lisa steals the pig, using a ride-on lawnmower to push the grill with the pig attached out of the garden and up a steep slope, whilst Homer and Bart chase after her. When Lisa gets to the top of the slope, the grill starts rolling downhill, building up speed. For ‘Lisa’ read: all those who want Labour to win again, but for the sake of the last fortnight, let’s call Lisa ‘Harriet’. Homer and Bart now chase after the pig, whilst it rolls into a street and through a hedge.

The following exchange summarises the state of the Labour leadership contest in precise detail.

Homer: ‘It’s just a little dirty. It’s still good, it’s still good!’

Homer and Bart keep running after the pig. The pig rolls onto a busy road, miraculously misses every car before splashing into the river.

Homer: ‘It’s just a little slimy. It’s still good, it’s still good!’

The pig floats downstream to a dam where it gets stuck in an overflow channel, blocking it as a result. Water builds up behind the pig until the pressure shoots the pig through the channel, blasting it into the sky. Homer and Bart watch from on top of the dam. At this point, the pig is literally flying.

Homer: ‘It’s just a little airborne. It’s still good, it’s still good!’

Bart: [crestfallen] ‘It’s gone.’

Homer: [even more crestfallen] ‘I know.’

For ‘Bart’ read: the electorate. Between now and 12 September it remains to be seen if the Labour party truly does understand the lessons of Homer’s Odyssey.


Jamie Reed MP is member of parliament for Copeland. He writes The Last Word column on Progress and tweets @jreedmp


Photo: The Simpsons/Fox

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Jamie Reed MP

is member of parliament for Copeland. He is shadow minister for health and writes The Last Word column on Progress


  • The author is right and such a refreshing change to politics has been brought to this campaign by Jeremy Corbyn. This is in contrast to the ‘abuse’ (heart transplants), ‘morons’ (parliamentary supporters of Corbyn). Those for feel they are entitled to victory because past absences of democracy led them to it, would be more constructive if they tried to see that that this leftward drift is believed by many to be the solutions after quite considerably thought and reflection not knee-jerk spontaneity and emotional barbarism.

    There are sound economic arguments for a radical leftward drive as has been found at other times of economic and social crises. It relates to who and how money increased in a financially dominant banking economy. Please do not arrogantly assume left wing economists are simpletons, otherwise we may think that that the authors view arises from their laziness to study is a little economic analysis.

  • If you have to explain every single part of the metaphor maybe it isn’t the greatest one of our times…

    I prefer the following exhange from Whacking Day. Seems applicable to Labour’s approach to the Welfare Bill

    Dad, for the last time, please don’t lower yourself to the level of the mob.

    Lisa, maybe if I’m part of that mob, I can help steer it in wise directions. Now where’s my giant foam cowboy hat and airhorn?

  • The author shouldn’t give up his day job. Oh hang on – he thinks the people that work and fight to get him his £74k per year are stupid. Feel free to find something more aligned to your talents.

  • Incredibly tortured. There must be at least a dozen classic sections from the Simpsons you could have compared to the leadership election, but you managed to miss them all. Well done, I suppose.

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