This wretched deputy leader race needs opening up. The six candidates are such experts of equality that it's very hard to tell one from another. Only the most brilliantly contrarian columnists can make a case for the significance of an Employment Rights Commission here against an Equal Pay Champion there. Who's going to reconnect the party with the grass roots and have an honest dialogue with the public? Every single last one of them. No, it needs some fresh air in there.
Shelley told us that poets were "the unacknowledged legislators of mankind" - can't we have one of them in the race? Mind you, the only poet I've read for years is Rimbaud, but I'd vote for him like a shot. So let's see how the Politician and the Poet stack up on the key issues:
The future of the Labour party
Politician: We have to win back the trust of the British people by delivering on promises that represent an honest debate with the public making tough decisions tackling difficult issues not retreating to soft options and becoming the party of renewal and change in being on the side of decent hardworking families.
Poet: We will feast on the entrails of the public and spit our filthy essence into their faces! And they will see their own degradation as it runs down their scabbed breasts! Les rages! Les débauches! La folie! Let them adore mon orgueil génital.
Private sector involvement in the health service?
Politician: We need continually to review the involvement of the private sector with a moratorium on structural change and scale back for-profit contracting out in order to transfer innovation to the public sector to deliver world-class health care.
Poet: Lepers will be seated on shards of glass! I possess every talent! C'est l'enfer! My scalp is drying! Pity, Lord! I am so thirsty, so thirsty!
Should the top rate of tax be increased?
Politician: It's the tough choice of reducing inequality in society through moving away from the politics of envy and redistributing opportunity. Or we will move out of the centre ground of politics. It's a difficult decision we have to tackle.
Poet: The celestial praline! Smear it round society! Leave it not to the ancient City beasts who copulate as they hunt with their glans smeared in excrement! Water their graves with le sel des larmes d'enfants!
Should there be an amnesty for immigrants?
Politician: We mustn't give a recruiting sergeant to extremists by ignoring the views of decent hard-working people. We must build up our relationship with the electorate, we must rebuild the connection, we must listen, not lecture.
Poet: Nos fesses ne sont pas les leurs! Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! Iron! Rock! Let us eat coal!
In what way will you be different from John Prescott?
Politician: John played a very important role in policy formation, in chairing committees, in structuring the relationship between the Government's leading figures, in connecting with the rank and file, in keeping communication open with the back benches, and I will be nothing like him at all.
Poet: I shall return laden with gold! I will be idle and brutal and women shall minister to my ferocious desires! En bref: more of the same. What do we want! Arthur Rimbaud 1854 to 1891! When do we want him! Tout de suite!
Is Clive really up to this job?
God, he's a handsome devil, Clive Owen. What eyes, what a jaw-line, what a heroic face. In the past few years he has played parts from every quarter of the social compass, from King Arthur to Walter Raleigh to Lord Stockbridge's valet in Gosford Park. He even played a former political activist fighting once more for justice in Children of Men.
I mention this in a self-interested way because he has just signed up to play the part of me in Tiger Aspect's film adaptation of my important memoir, The Boys Are Back in Town (Hutchinson, out of print). I don't know why it should be so, but being played by Clive Owen in a major motion picture, I feel will make me more attractive. And at my age we need all the help we can get. My only query is, does he have the commitment to put on five stone for the part?
* London Metropolitan University is developing a psychometric test to catch secret racists. The test demands fast reactions and gets to what people feel deep down, below the carapace of social training.
It seems very unfair to me. Society is based on how we suppress our antisocial instincts. We sublimate them into art, commerce and newspaper columns. It's what civilisation is all about.
An experiment some years ago wired up a labful of women to a device to find out what aroused them. They were shown images of various mating activities. They pressed a lever according to how aroused they felt; but there were also electrodes attached to monitor actual physical reaction. I think that's clear enough? Watching baboons at it caused no woman to press the lever, but nonetheless, each reacted at that deep, primitive level. Human nature is awkward; we shouldn't try to fashion it too hard, and those things that we keep out of sight in our depths deserve a little privacy in a civilised society.
Charles Nevin is awayReuse content