Though there are things your recently-returned correspondent misses about the UK — news presenters that aren’t gibbering sports-mad 11 year old man-children would be a lot of it — the continuing demise of the UK Labour Party is not one of them.
Though the scandal over MPs rorting expenses relating to second homes has long since spread from Labour to the Conservatives, it hasn’t benefited the governing party none. They’re still less popular than rectal bleeding, running by some measure 20 points behind.
What was first a fun dose of schadenfreude as these right-wing gits stumbled around in chaos, gradually yielded to a gray sense of torpor as it became clear that they were going to hang on and slowly die, like a possum caught in a replastered wall.
Then came “smeargate”, with skanky emails flying around, and it just looked really ugly. And then Gordon Brown’s remaining advisors suggested he go, Obama-style, on YouTube, and the world was treated to the sight of this exhausted, depressed, flabby man grinning and mugging like a kids’ TV presenter, as if he had never naturally smiled before.
The ghastly event prompted a great article from one of the great writers — Charlie Brooker of The Guardian — expressing what millions were thinking: that an early election was now necessary because it was simply too painful to watch Gordon Brown continue on, the sheer horror of a slow and infinitely attenuated car crash.
The fact that Tories are now being pinged by the expenses scandal — one of David Cameron’s closest advisors has just quit — offers small comfort, because simultaneously the earlier scandal of cash-for-questions has come around again.
This was brown paper bag payments to various Lords members to drop various questions in the mix on piddling industry stuff, an inquiry into which has finally wound its course to have two Labour peers possibly suspended for the first time since … 1643. 1643? Really? Yep apparently so. The last lot were suspended for supporting Charles I as England unravelled into Civil War, and a few of them ended up hanging from gibbets at crossroads so it’s you know … serious.
For Labour, the equivalent of the gibbet is Polly Toynbee, Guardianista columnist, scion of a liberal dynasty, who has batted back the nay-sayers about Labour for years — any objection to its sinister obsession with surveillance, social control etc was just “middle class whingeing” — who now finds, surprise surprise, that Labour has withered on the vine from being a sinister, controlling bunch of freaks.
She now says that they have to dump Brown after the European elections in early June, which will presumably be a disaster – insofar as anyone actually cares – and may see Labour not only fall to third place, but also British National Party candidates get up on quotas that Labour otherwise would have got.
Would that make things any better? Electorally — maybe, maybe not. He could be replaced by Alan Johnson, a dweeby “war-on-terror” supporter, always banging on about the suicide of the west etc, or David Miliband, an unctuous 12 year old, son of a Marxist theory grandee.
Would it be better for Gordon Brown? God knows. He faces, whatever happens, the knowledge that he has led Labour to failure and collapse perhaps worse that at any time since the 20s — and face odious comparison with Tony Blair, the twinkling evil pixie who screwed him out of a few better years (and probably rightly so, tactically speaking). As Peter Costello said — when he did not yet know he was talking of himself — the man’s got a tough few decades ahead of him.
But the one undoubted advantage of Gordon going now quickly … is that none of us would have to watch him go slowly. Even from half a world away.