20 December 2018
Diary of a Corbynista
Unicorns, trolls and fables
by Don Urquhart
The Corbynista Advent Calendar has a melancholy theme behind Window 13.
While we continue to agonise over our European connections there is surely one area where we are all in it together and will continue to be for some time.
Back in October The Week ran an exposé on arms sales to Saudi Arabia from the European Union and today The Telegraph reported that 85,000 Yemeni children have died of starvation since 2016. Sad to say they represent The Spirit of Christmas Present.
Christmas is a time for fairy stories and events in the world today put me in mind of one of the greatest. I met up with Debbie, a person who is not short of an opinion or two. To stay friends she had me agree not to talk about Brexit then launched into the subject in a manner totally inconsistent with Labour Party policy. What struck me most was that she clearly felt sympathy for Theresa May in her predicament. Then on my way home I picked up the Evening Standard with Osborne’s gloating headline:
May’s Hell week gets even worse.
Inside is the story of her fruitless visit to the EU summit and her contretemps with Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Brothers Grimm tell a tale of a young lady who keeps kicking her problems down the road until in desperation she seeks out a wizened alien creature to beg relief from her misery. After an incredibly complex set of negotiations she completes the deal by discovering her adversary’s name which is Rumplestiltskin and it is he who sits behind Window 14 of the Advent Calendar.
Apparently Theresa was bullied by the EU bureaucrats again yesterday. I was reminded of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, where the hero triumphs over the brutal Harry Flashman, the original hard boarder. He is behind Window 15.
I rarely post on Facebook but lurk a bit and noticed recently an anodyne message from Emma Whysall, our local Labour candidate. There were 20 or so responses from various people apparently all with a similar message about the iniquity of socialism in general and Corbyn in particular. Normally I pursue a policy of not feeding the trolls but on this occasion I submitted:
The trolls are out in force.
A week or so later came the response:
It’s coming to something when you can’t express an honest opinion without being insulted. Typical of a Corbyn supporter.
Far from wishing to insult this person I install him behind Window 16 as the greatest ever troll, he who had the temerity to take on the Billy Goats Gruff:
I’m a troll, fol-dee-rol and I’ll eat you for supper.
The think-tank Compass has enlisted many of the great and good to sign a letter to the Guardian proposing a Citizens Assembly to help resolve Brexit. Here’s an extract:
A forum led by the public, not by politicians. People talking and listening to each other, not shouting and arguing on or offline, to find common ground. Not superseding MPs by judging the outcome, but offering recommendations on how Brexit should be decided, to help break this deadlock and start to heal the nation’s bitter divisions.
Sucker though I am for new ideas (I even have a smart telephone) I struggle to see how this would resolve Brexit. Finding 500 randomly selected people, accommodating and feeding them, when many should be at work has to be a lengthy and expensive process. Will it include rough sleepers, people struggling to survive, fascists, anarchists, people with big careers and better things to do thank you?
Anyone who has managed a carrot knows that the key to getting the answer you want is how you set the agenda e.g. how are we going to deal with the issue of this wife you’ve been beating? The think-tank professionals will be comfortable with this task but they cannot help projecting their own views when setting and managing an agenda.
For resolving issues like Brexit we have a democratically elected House of Commons and there is a process, however poorly it sometimes operates.
For me the Citizens Assembly idea is instead of democracy. Do it by all means but don’t expect the funding to come out of the public purse in a time of austerity.
One of the silver linings of Brexit is that we have gorgeous fabled creatures roaming the land. For me the Citizens Assembly is a particularly plump and lovely unicorn and I have it rampant behind Window 17.
Straining the perforations of Window 18 of the Corbynista Advent Calendar is the Brexit elephant in the room.
I have always resisted the argument that we weren’t given the facts at the time of the EU referendum. But once the dust had settled and negotiations started it was clear that the most difficult area to agree would be the Irish border. And every time progress is announced it is kicked down the road.
Thinking back I cannot recall the Irish border as a significant issue before the referendum. Yesterday I watched again the 2 hour BBC debate held a few days before the vote. This had Johnson, Stuart and Leadsom on the one side, Khan, O’Grady and Davidson on the other. There were questions from the audience. But at no point was there any mention of the Irish border or the Good Friday Agreement.
Sammy Wilson is a highly articulate MP of the Democratic Unionist Party.
At a “Leave Means Leave” rally yesterday he told campaigners:
The Irish government and the EU Commission sat down and contrived the biggest con trick they could think of: a border in Ireland.
Could be or perhaps we are in danger of reigniting the Troubles.
At any event Mr Wilson reminds me of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the delightful Aesop fable which might turn up in our stockings. And so he lurks behind Window 19.