Friday, May 17, 2019

The Wanker Party

Imagine if, say, John McCain (when alive, not Zombie McCain), Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Claire McCaskill had come together at some point to start a third party. Jon Chait would have had a cover story about them being the future of politics in the Old New Republic. David Brooks would have gushed. Front page stories in the New York Times about how this was going to DOOM the Democratic party (but not the Republican party because reasons). Morning Joe would've dedicated 3 solid weeks to their unveiling. And then... nobody else in the world would have given a shit. That's Change UK.

Fawlty Towers, Alan Partridge, The Office: finally the great British tradition of it’s-so-awkward-you-want-to-look-away-but-you-can’t comedy has a new addition, and it’s called Change UK. The critics may argue that this iteration lays the cringe factor on a little too thick, however. When Change UK’s Joan Ryan asked her audience in Bath to “look at your hands, please”, followed by “that’s it, it’s there, that’s the answer to this, it’s in your hands” – in what can only be described as panicked primary school teacher meets David Brent’s infamous motivational speech – the horror was compounded by the fact she’d clearly done this before, and that the audience clapped. Is this a political party, or is it performance art?

The tragicomedy of Change UK is principally one of hubris. You can see, to be fair, why they thought success might beckon. There is a rich seam of sympathy for their brand of politics within the British media, and there’s no doubt that many remain voters feel disillusioned, angry even, about Labour’s Brexit triangulation. But the principal flaw in their plan was this: former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie believe that being a Blairite means automatically inheriting a political elixir from 1990s Tony Blair, of electoral success, and generally being very good at politics.