They all had six weeks off. Everyone was meant to have calmed down. But it’s only day two of the new parliamentary term and Keith Vaz appears to have been secretly filmed trying to pay Eastern European men for homosexual sex, the Ken Livingstone Hitler Was A Zionist World Tour is back on the road and oh look, there’s Jeremy Corbyn on stage with UB40.
Well, not on stage, as such. He was in a dimly lit basement theatre in Westminster. And it wasn’t UB40 as such, either. UB40 split into two factions eight years ago, and the brothers that formed the heart of the band have not exchanged a word since, as both tour the country in between bouts of legal action over who has the rights to the name.
Such things, you might think, are an easy gift for the satirist with half an eye on Labour's troubles, though not as easy as Team Corbyn’s decision to launch an official hashtag for the occasion, #UB4CORBYN which, in case you haven’t noticed, is an interlocking portmanteau of the Labour leader’s name and the form that unemployed people in the eighties had to complete in order to claim unemployment benefit.
It’s easy to mock UB40. After all, they’re white men, principally, who sing reggae with Brummie accents, and who are forever burdened with the guilt of a generation who has not yet fully come to terms with allowing themselves to love with no trace of irony the Pato Banton rap on Baby Come Back.
And it’s easy to mock Jeremy Corbyn. After all, he’s a tracksuit wearing North London vegan somehow leading and destroying one of the country’s grandest political parties as an unlikely prize for having spent three decades missing no opportunity to undermine it.
What was the point of this publicity stunt exactly? Perhaps, like the Prime Minister not so long ago, he has seen numbers we haven’t. That this leadership election really is poised on a knife edge. That rushing out the UB40 B-string endorsement was his equivalent of the panicked rooftop press conference. His nuclear option (though not actually armed with nuclear warheads, obviously).
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
But actually, you know, UB40 aren’t that funny. And they’re not attention seekers either. In the 38 years since they were founded in Balsall Heath, Birmingham in 1978, none of its eleven founding members has ever been filmed onanising a pig. None has eaten a kangaroo’s testicles, at least not publicly. And none has broken their neck ski-jumping into the cast of Towie.
They were an overwhelmingly successful, racially diverse band at a time when Jim Davidson was making a living doing jokes at the imagined expense of a black man called Chalky. They stood up for devastated communities at a difficult time. Also, at the very height of their wealth fame, all eleven of them, everyone from the singer-songwriting Campbell brothers, to the drummer to the saxophonist, took an equal cut of the profits.
On a personal note, thirteen years ago I was working on a Top 40 list show for Channel Four for which we interviewed UB40. We asked the band simply to, ‘Tell us about the song Rat in My Kitchen.’
“That song was Rock. Against. Thatcher,” Robin Campbell informed with no shortage of aggression. “Rat in Me Kitchen was rock music to Get. Thatcher. Out!”
He meant it, but he would be fatally undermined seconds when resident rapper Astro leaned over his shoulder and reminded him, “Yeah, but you did have a rat in your kitchen, didn’t you.”
So mad has everything and everyone gone of late, that it has been genuinely suggested that by coming out in support of Jeremy Corbyn, it is UB40 who are condemning the nation to a generation of Tory rule. In 2016, it appears it is no longer the job of politicians to do the strategising, the compromising and the triangulating required to achieve power, but it is now up to Birmingham based reggae collectives and the rest of us to do it ourselves.
When Corbyn and his “colleagues in the band” (he genuinely said that), took questions at the end, UB40 had far sharper answers than the Labour leader. There’d been a leak on Tory plans for grammar schools.
“I think it’s wrong,” said saxophonist Brian Travers. “It should be a level playing field. Didn’t Tristram Hunt go up to Oxford last week and tell them all they were the leaders of tomorrow? Since when has that been what the Labour Party is about?”
Damn right, isn’t he?
Some well meaning socialists stuck in the eighties are nothing to laugh at. It’s not their fault their cause has come round again. It’s just a pity it's so clearly a lost one.