Sunday, 1 May 2022

25 Years On

Raise a glass on this Silver Jubilee of the election of John McDonnell to Parliament. Meanwhile, here in Lanchester, the 19-year-old Labour Sub-agent secured an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in a traditionally Conservative ward. The Labour Party has never forgiven me, and it never will.

It was 25 years ago today that anyone last became, rather than remained, Prime Minister by leading a party to an overall majority in the House of Commons. We think of corruption as something that only happens abroad; when it happens in Britain, then we call it "sleaze". But we do at least have a word for it. We do not even have a word for what anywhere else we would call a coup, so often does it occur in our own country. Those who need such consolation are permitted to pretend to themselves that it is something to do with the Queen.

Tony Blair won three essentially uncontested General Elections, and on every occasion he, a public schoolboy, defeated a state educated Leader of the Conservative Party. Anyone from a state school last led a party to an overall majority 30 years ago last month. Thirty. And look which party it was. In 2001, that party was beaten to a pulp by a Labour campaign that frankly presented William Hague's accent as a disqualification from the Premiership, or from being regarded as a serious figure at all. Blair's Heir repeated the trick in 2010, successfully, against a man who already was Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson has no such advantage over Keir Starmer, but he does not need it. Again I say that electioneering is not work, unless you happened to have one of a tiny number of political party staff positions that did indeed have that in the job description and usually in the job title. It is no more the paid work of a Member of Parliament than it is the paid work of any other active member of a political party.

That Durham Miners' Hall booze-up was simply not a work event. Moreover, it was 20 miles from Hartlepool, where there was a by-election, but where there was not a Radisson Blu. Keep those union affiliation fees coming in. Not only was that hotel serving food to guests late into the evening, but, in accordance with the law at the time, it was open only to business travellers, which these were not.

"Blair won three times," his remaining cultists chant, as if that vindicated him either internationally or domestically. They do take that view of Margaret Thatcher, although her still numerous cultists need to be asked whether they took it of Blair. But what would the Blairites say if Johnson, whom they despised to the marrow of their bones, were also to win three General Elections? Never bet against him.

After all, while Angela Rayner has her faults, those who bang on about her youth at the birth of her eldest child never ask themselves at what age Johnson first made a girl pregnant. 16, if that, no doubt. She will have had an abortion, because in that situation, that is what posh girls do. One only has to say this out loud for it to be obvious. Yet it does Johnson no harm. If anything, quite the reverse.