When Jeremy Corbyn spoke in Parliament yesterday, it came in the wake of the stodgy Queen’s speech, when the 91 year old monarch, hopefully the last of her line, read the Government’s program in front of an assemblage of peers dressed like so many Santa Clauses without the jolly little hats.
The speech was a lackluster display of hackneyed reforms, fizzled legislation, and dead ideas that will be swept away in a wave come the next election. What was remarkable in the speech, Jeremy noted, in a passionate and dominating performance across from the teetering Prime Minister afterwards, was what it did not contain.
No word was spoken of eliminating the winter fuel allowance, none on getting rid of the triple lock on pensions, nothing on legalizing barbaric fox hunting, and, while the so-called Queen did talk of a state visit with the Spanish King & Queen, rien on the question of Donald Trump having the gold carpet rolled out for him. In February 1.8 million people signed a petition against giving the U.S. president what they view as the honour of a state visit. And during the election May’s insufficient criticism, and refusal to condemn outright Trump’s travel ban, were liabilities. May, and her political fellow travellers, have an eye on a more Atlanticist trade configuration in light of the diminished European relationship Brexit promises.
Jeremy, wryly echoing the now hilarity-inducing Conservative election slogan, called his Labour party the “strong and stable” choice to govern the country. He made clear, through explicit statement, that his party should not be considered just an opposition but a government in waiting.
And it felt like that indeed. Corbyn displayed a keen savagery and a powerful confidence, he was playful in his attacks but his outrage was pure, and he always made it clear that this whole politics thing isn’t a game.
The opening speech and its second were full of the same slick lines from the same slick players, the landlord and water interest investor Richard Benyon, and the former University Challenge winner and often historian Kwasi Kwarteng. Corbyn promised Benyon he would nationalize the water utilities and slap regulations on his apartment buildings. He referenced a book the prolific Kwarteng contributed to in 2011 called “After the Coalition,” leaving unsaid explicitly why that’s funny now.
While Kwarteng spoke a fly landed on him.
Jeremy spoke awhile, covered in jeers the whole time, with the clever schoolboy Jacob Rees-Mogg trying out a line about how long ago the leader of the opposition said “in conclusion,” and the entire assembly on the other side of aisle baying like dogs.
Right out of the gate he punctured the collegial mood Benyon and Kwarteng tried to create with their attempts at wit, saying that the tragic fire at Grenfell tower need not have happened.
And he’s right. Jeremy is accused often of being a weak parliamentary speaker because he doesn’t pull off the linguistic flourishes people like the Speaker excel at. But he speaks in a more important political tongue, one where rhetoric is deployed to make demands that improve the material conditions of working class people. Where Boris Johnson, though he won’t say it, wants to be Prime Minister to live out his Churchillian fantasies, Jeremy actually wants to help people. Incidentally, Boris had a satisfyingly poor performance with his erstwhile interlocutor Eddie Mair after the debate, so those fantasies of his may never come true. Disappointing for the ambitious me, who always likes seeing journalists go far (both the fascist Mussolini, and the socialist Corbyn for a local paper for a minute in his youth practiced journalism; back in his reporting days Mussolini was the editor of the socialist daily Avanti!) but just grand for the political me who’s grown a bit weary of Boris’ act. So when Jeremy ditches the primacy of the jokes (though it must be said that the barbs he directed at the Tory benches were a genuine pleasure to watch) and tells the floor that the nation needs sprinklers in its apartments blocks, the toffs may snort through their nose and laugh like diseased hyenas, but the working people of Britain know the score.
And this is why an election must be called immediately. I heard a fellow online make the joke that Vince Cable, the probable next Liberal Democratic party leader, is 74 today, and come the next election he will be 74 (apologies to whoever made it for the lack of credit, I can’t recall where I saw it). It’s a good joke, but leaves us with a question; why can’t the British people call an election themselves? Democracies need to adjust themselves to an idea that Mélenchon trumpeted in his bid for the presidency, and which his assembly group will pursue. That is the right to recall. How is it democratic for a government to be formed when the polling indicates to us that the people have changed their minds about who they want to represent them? In many cases the Tories only won seats because of Liberal Democratic voters racking up the numbers, with Labour candidates flying near. I don’t call these votes of the Liberal Democratic supporters illegitimate, but I do know how they’ll likely turn when the next goal becomes keeping the Tories out of power. The voters should be able, at the constituency level, to initiate a process to hold special elections ousting politicians they’re dissatisfied with.
The baying hounds of the Parliament may bust a gut where they please, but Jeremy feels different to people who watch. He is powerful, he is strong, and he will be Prime Minister. Soon or sooner.