For the younger ones, the former junior ministers and ambitious MPs, opposition is the time to make their mark, to climb the party’s greasy pole and get down and dirty in an awful lot of boring, though utterly necessary, manoeuvring, so that when the party to whom they lost power in turn finally loses the plot - as, of course, eventually they always do - they are in prime position to present themselves for selfless public service, knowing that the old guard is well out of the way and regularly getting pissed in the genteel bars of the Lords.
But before that grand moment comes, there is a year or two of hiatus before the real jostling for power and position within the party begins. Most certainly it is going on in the background, indeed, it never stops, but as far as the public is concerned they can relax a little: after all no one is taking a blind bit of notice as the public knows this lot will be in no position to form the government for five years at the very least and so they have nothing to lose.
So it was with Labour after May 2010. The Coalition government was formed here in the United Kingdom by the Conservatives, who won most of the votes, and the Liberal Democrats who were buggered if they were going to form a coalition government with Labour. (Although they often seem appeal to the same constituency and like to present themselves as the ‘caring party’, the Lib Dems and Labour hate each other just a little bit more than the Conservatives and Labour hate each other. So despite a little virtual flirting with Gordon Brown after the last election - which was all nothing more than strengthening his hand when it came to bargaining with the Tories - Nick Clegg plumped for coalition with the Tories as we all knew he would.
Labour needed the break. Like the Tories in 1992, they were knackered, not just out of ideas, but out of puff and, to push a phrase more or less to utter breaking point, out of sorts. The problem the Tories had in 1992 was that everyone - Labour, the Lib Dems and, crucially, they themselves, confidently expected them to lose the election, which would have meant a few quiet, relaxing years in opposition and time to top up the personal coffers and take the wife to that lovely little hotel in Dorset they used to visit before they married and where she gave him his first blow-job. As it turned out, the bloody electorate played silly buggers and re-elected the Tories for another, utterly miserable, five years in government, which caught everyone on the hop and persuaded everyone, as if they didn’t already know, that you simply cannot trust the voters.
So now it is Labour’s turn to drop their guard and come out with all the wacky things they privately believe but, as a rule, are too wise do support publicly.
. . .
The outstanding wacky idea of these past few days was the suggestion by some idiot or other (i.e. a chap called Ivan Lewis who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lembit Opik, a former Lib Dem MP) at this week’s annual Labour party conference in Liverpool that all British journalists should be ‘licensed’ by the government and that if they behaviour in any way fell short of what the licensing committee deemed fit, they would be ‘struck off’. On the scale of wackiness, it almost scores a perfect ten. Leave aside completely the ethics of a democratic government deciding who should and who should not form that country’s free press, the true measure of quite how daft the suggestion is is the sheer impossibility of making a licensing system work. Whichever idiot is was spent the best part of three seconds thinking it all through. What, for example, would the state do with those bolshy individuals (of which, thank God, Britain has more than its fair share) who were unlicensed but still indulged in some kind of journalistic activity? What sanctions would apply? A fine? A short term of imprsionment if the fine remained unpaid, and most certainly it would? A longer term of imprisonment for persistent unlicensed behaviour? And what would constitute ‘journalistic activity’? Would this kind of blogging be regarded as such? Or would all ‘journalistic activity’ be tolerated as long as it did not touch upon a list of sensitive subjects drawn up by the government’s licensing committee?
And how exactly would the government stop ‘unlicensed journalistic activity’? Yes, it might impose fines, followed by imprisonment, followed by, for persistent and unrepentant offenders, the death penalty, but this would, in practice, prove to be cumbersome at best and a bureaucratic nightmare at worst. In the meantime, all those saintly types who now work for the ‘Indy’ and the Guardian and all those gin-soaked fornicators who now work for the ‘right-wing press’ - none of whom, irrespective of their politics, would for a second agree to the government dictating what and what they might not write - would rapidly form a thriving underground press.
Lewis’s suggestion has, unsurprisingly received a universal raspberry from members of the press of all stripes, ranging from Helen Lewis-Hasteley in the News Statesman to Tom Chivers of Her Majesty’s fascist press who writes a blog for the Telegraphy. I should, incidentally, mention that Ms Lewis-Hasteley is a case in point that the daft chararacterisation by many of the caring left-of-centre press and the nasty right-of-centre press (or the other way around, if you get my drift) is at best simplistic. Ms Lewis-Hasteley, or Helen as I shall call her simply because it is shorter, now writes for the New Statesman, avowedly left-of-centre. Odd then, if the simplicissimi are to be believed, that before she took up that job and agonised over the plight of the downtrodden many, she worked - very successfully - for the fascist Daily Mail (whose editor is widely believed to eat at least two babies for breakfast) as a commissioning editor and features executive.
Somehow, I don’t think a list of British journalists, licensed and regulated by the government, will see the light of day.
. . .
I have not previously come across Ivan Lewis, who, apparently, is Labour’s shadow cultural secretary. But not for long, I should think. Lembit Opik (once described by Private Eye as ‘the well-known anagram’) also has something of an odd history. He began his career as a Lib Dem MP showing some promise and was, I think, even considered by some of them as a ‘coming man’ (always the kiss of death). But as time went on, he made more headlines for his love life than as a politician and things started going pear-shaped. First, there was a longish romance with a Welsh TV weather presenter (who cut up rough as increasingly it didn’t ever seem likely to end at the altar and was eventually dumped). Then the youngish roue took up with a Cheeky Girl, one of two Romanian sisters who had a very minor pop hit and who then found fame as to Romanian sisters who once had a very minor pop hit. It seemed an unlikely pairing, and so the Cheeky Girl involved seems to have decided for she gave her beau Lembit the boot. What he does now I don’t know and care even less.
As for the ‘regulation of hacks’, it less of a chance of seeing the light of day than a snowball surviving in Hell. But never say never, so if, by chance, there does come a time when hacks are licensed by the government (with that nice Ivan Lewis holding the licensing committee’s casting vote), I want to make sure from the off that I am ruled out completely. I could and would never countenance being regarded as in any way ‘acceptable’ by anyone in authority. So let me say publicly: Ivan Lewis is a complete prat. That should it, if the guy has even a modicum of self-respect.