The Last Word: Metaphorically speaking
Long-suffering readers will be familiar with my affection for the Simpsons, in particular the political genius that is Mayor ‘Diamond’ Joe Quimby.
During these wild times in the Labour party, the mind can occasionally drift to Quimby’s office. For the benefit of my more literalist Twitter followers, that’s a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech which makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristics. Now I’ve written this down, I can link to it every time I receive a 140-character threat.
To be fair, I’m talking about people who, on the whole, believe that electricity is magic, that the moon landings were faked, and that we need to answer ‘the Jewish question’.
Life imitating art
Leaving aside the asinine imbecility of Quimby’s office, right now our efforts to place ourselves in a position where we are able to win the general election in 2020 resemble Homer’s attempt to jump Springfield Gorge on a skateboard (‘Bart the Daredevil’, season 2, episode 8, 1990). As our protagonist soars above the gorge he breathlessly exclaims ‘I’m gonna make it … I’m king of the world …’ before losing momentum and plummeting to the ground. Another one for the literalists there; Homer lost momemtum.
As he bounces from the jagged rocks, Homer becomes increasingly injured with each fall. A helicopter winches Homer out, slamming his head against the side of the gorge several times in the process before he is loaded into a waiting ambulance, which immediately crashes into a tree as it starts to leave for the hospital. The stretcher carrying Homer rolls out of the back, and Homer once again crashes to the canyon floor, hitting every tree and rock protruding from the cliff face as he descends.
It’s this scene that most accurately describes life in the Labour party right now. The fear, the pain and for some – like an overweight middle-aged man who believes he can jump a canyon on a child’s skateboard – the baseless optimism in the face of all available evidence.
It goes something like this: sovereignty of the Falkalnd Islands [bump], raising money for the Stop the War Coalition [crunch], campaigning against party policy alongside CND [smash]. Finding ourselves in the back of the ambulance, it sets off, and instantly crashes as we roll out backwards. Gerry Downing [smash], Mark Serwotka’s deselection joy [crunch], Ken Livingstone [smash, crunch, smash]. You get the picture.
Send out the clowns
Yet it isn’t funny. Ultimately the horrendous self-inflicted mistakes of the last six months have not been about politics per se. The disasters have not been caused by a left-right split but by a particular political culture coupled with profound incompetence. This isn’t a comedy of errors, but a comedy of horrors. It has to stop now.
The Labour party is the greatest vehicle for social progress that our country has ever known and is ever likely to see. It exists to serve the people of this country, to build a better society and to ensure that everyone in our country benefits from the success of our national efforts. Our country is being hollowed out, our people are being let down. It’s time to disavow the politics of the sixth-form and get back to business.
Photo: The Simpsons
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.
Jamie Reed, Labour