Barking Corbyn, batty Trump and the disappointments of contemporary politics

EDITOR'S BLOG: Politics has fallen down the rabbit hole. Someone wake me up.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 25 May 2016

Sometimes politics is an awful disappointment. If Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump are the answers then what exactly were the questions in the first place? What on earth is going on at the moment? One could be forgiven for thinking we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and been bottle-fed Grade A LSD.

I recall being dragged along to see Tony Benn while I was at university. He was a seductive orator and all the Trots and softer lefties were rapt, leaving the meeting ready to storm the student union, stop paying their rent and start the revolution. Benn worried me even then and Corbyn concerns me still more. Because Benn was a tea-swigging Don Quixote who never stood a chance of leading the Labour party. But Corbyn - who latest crazy wheeze is re-nationalising the big energy companies - does.

People are attracted to Corbyn because both domestic and global geopolitics does get one down. It’s the mind-numbing cynicism in play when one hears that, for example the Saudis and the Russians have begun a major love-in. Austerity is so dull, so negative. So unfair.

Trump is in the vanguard of the Obama backlash. Filled with wild, populist spleen about Mexican migration, climate change conspiracy and ‘pro-life’ aggression he’s striking all the chords with the bone-heads. Corbyn’s barking but Trump howls at the moon.

Actually, what worries me is how little Obama has managed to achieve. A couple of weeks back he made a speech at the funeral of the nine church-goers in Charleston. It was lauded as one of the finest pieces of oratory since JFK’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’

Well, yes. It must have been comforting for the congregation - many of whom had been bereaved - to be addressed by their president. The problem with Obama is that he’s like Hamlet. Great at beautiful blank verse, full of lyricism, tutored at Cicero’s knee. But not so good at the grubby business of getting things done.

How can you mourn the death of nine black people shot dead by a racist psychopath and not make mention of guns? And, in making mention of guns, suggest a few ideas about how he, the most powerful man on earth, might actually get a few Colts and Smith and Wessons off the streets. But he’s tied down by Republican majorities who loathe him, the wilder of which believe he’s a Muslim plant born in Africa. More pure delusion.

But if Obama is Hamlet then Trump is Caliban. I know we’re often accused of sniffy superiority when it comes to American politics, but surely Trump is an unconscionable monster. He makes Cameron look Churchillian. What’s worse is that he’s The Voice of Business. The original Apprentice master. The guy who creates wealth and supposedly does know how to get things done. We treat Alan Sugar over here for what he is. But nobody’s suggesting sticking him in Number 10

I know politics is the art of the possible rather than the desirable or even laudable. But sometimes what is possible in reality is a very poor option indeed. No wonder all these young voters are drawn to Jeremy Corbyn like moths to a flame. His vision seems so logical, so clean, so righteous, so simple. And because he’s never had any power, run anything, or had to defend a policy, he carries so much less baggage than more heavyweight rivals. But he has, remember, voted against and betrayed his own party.  

Corbyn’s version of state socialism has done so well in Cuba, and triumphed in Venezuela,  that he wants us to give it a try over here. Even the Chinese have kicked that into touch and come up with their rum way of doing things as a better way. And what does it matter in this Looking Glass world if he’s unelectable, as Brian Eno - Brian Eno! - solemnly pointed out. Give me the other Drink Me potion. I feel like waking up now.

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