Although it feels like almost yesterday that he was chosen as the Moses to lead the Scottish Labour Party through the wilderness of SNP dominion, the time comes, alas, to write Jim Murphy’s political obituary.
Historians will wrangle for decades over what best typified his stellar career. Was it shepherding through the Commons, as a Blairite minister, the splendid legislation – nickname: the Abolition of Parliament Act – that scrapped a key tenet of what passes here for the constitution by enabling a government to make law without a vote being passed? Or selflessly exploiting an expenses loophole to lease out his London flat while claiming back rent he paid on another? Or suspending his campaigning for the Scottish referendum No vote after a Yes supporter egged him? While the above point unmistakably to a statesman of the first rank, I suspect the future will adjudge as the defining mark of his greatness the fact that Jim Murphy willingly laid down his political life for a lost cause. The day he became leader, he blethered some nonsense about how Labour would not lose a single seat to the SNP in 2015, but a poll published that very day showed the Nats 27 points ahead of Labour. A man of his intellect – nine years a politics student at Strathclyde University, even if he never quite graduated – must have known it was a doomed cause. So why did he do it? Perhaps the trauma of that egging knocked him so badly that he wanted a way out. A teetotal vegetarian, he was always a more natural fit for the Greens than the roughhouse demands of Scottish politics. And yet, in the manner of Admiral Lord Horatio D’Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets – the classic template for nihilistically pointless courage, who eschewed the lifeboat to go down with his ship – he willed his own destruction. We may never know the real reason. Who can fathom the thinking of someone who affected to believe that an arch-Blairite enemy of independence was ideally suited to countering the SNP surge? But one need not understand the Murphy mind to salute the self-sacrificial little lamb, and to wish him all the very best in his next career. If he isn’t dead set on finishing that marathon degree course, he could open a vegan café. No eggs.
Fey Guevara missed a trick on ‘Question Time’
The ridicule heaped on Russell Brand for that Question Time answer when an audience member asked why he was not prepared to stand for Parliament seems harsh. After all, the revolutionary leader’s only mistake, in replying that he feared becoming “one of them”, was lapsing into generality when he should have been icily specific. He could have brought the house down by saying that he didn’t want to become a serpentine apparatchik like Jack Straw, who continues to hide from questions about what if any role he played in facilitating the torture of terrorist suspects behind the transparent facade of ongoing and interminable inquiries; or like Malcolm Rifkind, who interprets his duty as chair of the Commons select committee on intelligence as being not to investigate the intelligence services but to cheerlead on their behalf. “Look, mate, my comedy ain’t about slapstick,” Fey Guevara might have said. “I ain’t in it to become the third of the Three Stooges.”
Another candidate for the buffoon berth
Of all the media reactions to the US Senate report on CIA torture, none caught the mood more expertly than BBC1’s This Week. For the show’s veteran presenter, Andrew Neil, the revelations were an irresistible temptation to indulge his Wildean wit, and his decision to introduce the matter with a parody of 24 was a ribcage-busting delight. But his hilarities were bested by the comedy stylings of one Douglas Murray, a foppish Niall Ferguson wannabe who contributes in the neo-liberal cause in The Spectator. Douglas drolly selected Britney Spears’s [Hit Me] “Baby One More Time” as the background track to his exquisitely well argued reflections on why it would be foolish to get worked up about torture. More than untold merriment, this was the perfect audition for the crucial extremist-buffoon-guaranteed-to-say-stupid-things-and-get-Twitter-buzzing berth on Question Time.
Something you forgot to mensch, Louise?
In her latest Sun on Sunday masterclass, Louise Mensch rails at the maltreatment of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, who was charged in New Zealand last month with hiring a hitman, threatening to kill and various drugs offences. The police dropped the first charge, but Rudd awaits trial on the others. Louise is in a terrible state on behalf of those like herself who are “desperate to catch these Brit/Aussies on their tour – which can’t start without Rudd”. She’s in such a pickle about this “Ruddy disgrace”, indeed, that she forgets to menschion the eerie coincidence that her husband, Peter, used to manage the band.
Mantel and Moir duke it out over the Duchess
Radio 4’s decision to make a Book at Bedtime out of Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher provokes a bout of the most sincere indignation from The Mail on Sunday. The paper wheels out the usual suspects – Norman Tebbit, the noble Lord (Tim) Bell of Much-Tossing-Over- The-Heath – to screech about the wickedness. This is not new turf. The Mail group has had it in for Mantel since her “plastic princess” speech about Kate Middleton, and small wonder given the viciousness of the attack. “Dreary suburbanite”, “Mrs Bland”, “mumsy dresses”, “mouthing only platitudes” and so on... Ah, sorry, I appear to have tangled up my notes. In fact, that was Jan Moir writing about the Duchess in the Daily Mail last week. Still, you take the point.Reuse content