Sometimes, even as an artist who admires Aubrey Beardsley and Erte, I have to bite the bullet and admit that substance is more important than appearance. The race for the London mayor is one of those times. It may seem like some sort of abstract Platonic argument- that we need to ignore the glitzy images and look at the reality behind the razamatazz, but that is how it is. The reality stinks and we have to identify it for what it really is: bad judgement, and demagogy.
Today, Sadiq Khan revealed who he really is and this is disappointing, even if I have been repeatedly warned. There has been alot of things said about a possible Khan win confirming the dreadful Corbyn in his place as leader of the opposition and that this win would confirm the position and the power of the man who presides over the destruction of the labour party- why would I care about that? I am a Tory! But I enjoy the challenge of a good debate and since Corbyn came to office, that has been missing in the House of commons. Instead, we are treated to a self-satisfied litany of what Betty said to Sally and what Bert thinks of Dave. What we want are some facts rather than a series of quasi-religious quotations. The commons, anyway, is not the time for semi-anonymous or barely-invented hearsay.
But it is the self-righteousness of Corbyn that dominates.
What I loved about Tony Benn and particularly about Michael Foot as orators was the element of conviction which was matched by the possibility of doubt in what they said. Another way to put that is to use the word “humility”. I am sure no one has ever accused Tony Benn of humility before, but he was a man who knew his place as did Foot. Yet I admired their skills in speaking even if I rejected what they said. There is nothing I can admire in Corbyn. I think Corbyn has yet to learn what his place should be. He has been thrust into the political spotlight too fast, and while on the Breakfast-time sofa on TV, he sounds reasonable, he has not yet found his place as a national orator or leader in the Commons. He might well be a nice man- who knows? That is not important- Corbyn’s job is not simply to represent his party -he does not incidentally- but he is also the voice of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. He represents a challenge across the political parties to the sitting Prime Minister- he demonstrably does not do that either. Instead, he represents a small vocal faction of the Labour party. So, Mr Corbyn fails absolutely to serve his country. He serves himself and his clamouring supporters.
But should Khan win in the Mayoral race, just like a second Oldham by-election, Corbyn’s position will be even more protected and we shall have to suffer even more litanies from his makeshift lectern of what John and Jenny, Mary and Jo have to say when all we really want to hear is the authentic voice of the Leader of the opposition. Any opposition! Without that voice, Mr Cameron must look to his own party to find a challenge: we have not elected a dictatorship.
If Mr Corbyn continues to demonstrate that he cannot do or does not want to do this job, then in the interests of Parliamentary democracy, someone else must surely do it for him. I do not want to hear any more about John and Jenny, Mary and Luke or whatever improbable names are chanted in the prayers Corbyn leads weekly (or weakly?) at the dispatch box. This is not the Bidding prayers in a local church. So, now might be the time for the SNP to step up, maybe and assume the office so abandoned or mutilated by Corbyn?
Lame Duck quacking in Commons
Let me be clear, as a Tory supporter, I do not see any advantage in having a lame duck Leader of the Opposition. Let the lame duck lay eggs on the backbench with the other quacks. If he wants to do TV shows with Michael Portillo, that too would be great news- anything indeed, save this travesty at the dispatch box week after wretched week.
And so to Khan himself. Whatever rosette is worn by any candidate for Mayor, we ought to presume competence, but today Khan demonstrates his utter INcompetence by trusting a man who has apparently a homophobic record and then sacking him. I am not sure which is the worst offence. If the homophobia was so much a thing of the past (some reports say this was recently on twitter, but some say this was stuff from 2012) then it no longer matters and the man should have kept his job, but if it demonstrates a continued prejudice, then clearly he should go and the question lingers about Khan’s own judgement- Khan sacked Shueb Salar after a letter from our own Priti Patel. He was badgered into action because he failed to act decisively in the first place, or he failed to check or worse still, he faild to notice or to care. And however it is spun, the fact remains, why could Khan not see that such prejudice undermines not only his campaign, and his credibility but the claims that Labour repeatedly make for the moral highground. This is what Ms Patel wrote,
“This man has a Parliamentary pass and thus privileged access. Do you not think it is incumbent upon you to check the background of those who are given such access in your name?
“Is Mr Salar therefore still on your payroll and is he still receiving taxpayers’ money while the investigation takes place?”
“Even if you didn’t run checks on him before appointing him, his comments could easily be viewed on Twitter as recently as a week ago, particularly as your account follows his. … You appear to hesitate and/or turn a blind eye when you come into contact with those whose views are deplorable. And you appear to regularly come into contact with such people.”
I think this event shows one of the biggest of Khan’s failings and it is a failing shared by Corbyn. Indeed, it sums them both up because they both want to say what they feel their own particular cronies, or their own particular audience want to hear from them. Khan says whatever will win him votes (he has no shame)- and Corbyn says what he thinks will please the people who voted him into power- John, Jane and Jenny who he talks about so often in the Commons and who clearly pull his strings. But in both cases, their intended job is bigger than this miniscule audience of alleged admirers. That is their common failing!
And that is why Boris was so much better. Because Boris managed to appeal beyond his core voters and across party lines.
While Corbyn has developed a joy in displeasing those MPs among whom he stands, in an effort to please his latent supporters penning letters in the labour heartlands, Khan has developed a slippery fish-like quality of pleasing whomsoever he happens to be talking to. But while Corbyn looks limp and lame, Khan looks false. How is this possible when essentially they are following the same brief? However, Khan, Like Blair, when he is caught in a fix, thinks a quick attack on an old trusted friend will do the job, but it simply exposes the lie- Mr Khan either knew his friend was a homophobe and did not care, or he sacrificed his friend because a Conservative minister inconveniently dug up dirt from the past. Mr Khan fails the loyalty test or he fails the far more important test of trusting the wrong people in the first place.
We need to believe that the future Mayor of London will have the right friends, will command loyalty and will make the right decisions for the right reason. we have to trust he will not be badgered into action by the media, or say something just because he is caught in the headlights of public attention.
For what it is worth, I would like to see London led by a Muslim Mayor. But not this one.
PS: This is what Boris said today (a few days after I posted the text above, sorry:)
The murder of Lee Rigby was an event that outraged and sickened Londoners, and the memories of that tragedy are still raw. I find it absolutely incredible that Sadiq Khan, a candidate for the office of Mayor of London, could hire as his speechwriter someone who has suggested that event was in any way fabricated.
To my mind that shows an appalling lack of judgement, and I do not see how Mr Khan could command the confidence – or the support – of Londoners.