Andy Burnham in a cardie! Ed Miliband in a t-shirt! Wakefield has a Labour MP again! For those who campaign in various ways against it, bringing down the Johnson government is like trying to destroy the Death Star with Weetabix.
So, after the weekend after the by-election before, where are we now?
Too many people make rather obvious statements that are so unprovable and/or undeniable that I found myself turning, as a poet should, to the power of word and poetry.
Did the government get any big calls right?
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT” is, in my view, a powerful piece of poetry. Yes, Poetry, with a big P. The art of using language to say by implication what would be impossible to express directly.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” First of all, there are sperm with sufficient insight to realise that this implies that this means smaller calls were got ‘wrong’. Johnson et al never say what they were, but even the government’s justification is a tacit admission of inadequacy.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” Yes, Dad, I know I borrowed your car and turned it into a burning shell in a hedge bottom, but, you know, it’s not like I murdered anybody.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” Except, as someone pointed out on Twitter, even the government’s shameless credit-grabbing for the work done by local CCGs on vaccine rollout was hamstrung by Brexit dogma meaning we ended up, after a few months, going slower and not as far as our EU neighbours in vaccinating our population.
Why did the Tory lose in Wakefield?
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The local Tory candidate, an amiable enough chap normally, was reduced to blocking people on local Facebook groups. He then claimed the Brexit he’d supported since 2016 was now a mistake. At the same time, his leaflets criticised the Labour candidate for being, presumably (by logical extension), right about it all along. Not resting on those laurels, he then invoked the crimes of Harold Shipman in order to try and keep himself afloat in the tide of moral and political sewage being pumped out by his own government. The final insult came when, rather than come to Wakefield, the PM opted instead for another Zelenskyy selfie.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The Conservative’s Facebook ad aimed at pale, stale blokes like me in Wakefield (a mistake in itself because I no longer even live in the constituency), was targeted at voters in both Wakefield AND Tiverton and Honiton. That’s right folks, they either couldn’t be arsed or didn’t realise people might spot it.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” Not only that, but the Facebook ad aimed at pale, stale blokes like me in Wakefield asked us what we thought about the Rwanda Deportations. Nine out of ten responses were against it. Lynton Crosby must be a Genius.
But life is rarely about big calls. Most moral choices are pretty straightforward. It’s the small stuff that takes over people’s lives.
What does make a difference to people’s lives?
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The same day, a work colleague got some good news about a breast lump. One of our writers couldn’t do any work because their disabled son’s support package has been short-staffed for over a year. Support workers are paid just above minimum wage. When they’re unable to support a service user, families have to step in. Unpaid. The Unite picket outside Belle Isle bus depot (current wage 20p above minimum) give a cheery wave when you toot your horn in support. An angry troll MP gets minced by Mick Lynch when the RMT leader mocks his opponent’s poorly written ‘lines-to-take’ script.
How does the national media see their friends in the North?
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” My mate Geoff hangs out all day in Wah Wah Records, close to the cathedral. News crews keep coming in to find local people to interview. The previous day he’d been interviewed by Reuters, AP, i-news, the Express and the Times. They all have VERY BIG CAMERAS. None of them have any real clue about Wakefield.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The London-Based Camera Crew I’ve been asked to help are really nice people. But they want to top some excellent earlier footage Byline TV got of working-class women in a pub talking thoughtfully about the government. They ask me to take them to some “rough pubs” where they can find angry “working-class people” who might give them that viral clip they imagine is out there.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The London-Based Camera Crew are really nice people but don’t look around them very much. They spend the whole time looking at their phones.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The London-Based Camera Crew are really nice people but aren’t even curious about what the Reform Party guy in the £74,000 Porsche Panamera is up to IN THEIR HOTEL. Instead, they want more “working-class people in rough pubs”.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” The London-Based Camera Crew are really nice people but don’t notice, as we drive down Ings Road, that a woman walking zigzag down the pavement, completely out of it, almost falls in front of our car. They don’t look up when we point her out. They carry on looking at their phones.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” One of the women in the Byline TV footage mentions, as an aside, that she’s tried to kill herself six times.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” Eventually, we refuse to take the London-Based Camera Crew, who are really nice, to “rough pubs full of working-class people”. We refuse to let them define what WE are by giving them what they ask for. All around them is evidence that the people of Wakefield aren’t like they imagine, or want, us to be. They’re still on their phones, looking for angry men with tattoos who might be goaded into calling the PM a c**t.
“WE GOT THE BIG CALLS RIGHT.” We refuse to be Perverted By Language, to paraphrase Mark E Smith. The London-Based Camera Crew, who are lovely people, are trying to make us snort the white powder of lazy stereotypes where, presumably, they get their kicks. Just say no, kids.
“BIG CALLS.” Wakefield has a Labour MP again. Johnson is still in power. Outside and far away, the white powder of power, corruption and lies will enter the bloodstream of our public discourse to try and unseat our new MP.
Why was Ed Miliband in a t-shirt?
“BIG CALLS.” Ed Miliband was outside the local Labour Party office in jeans and a t-shirt. He was helping out doing admin, answering phones and wasn’t there for his picture taking. This is quite refreshing. All politicians are not “all the same” as the white powder of lies would have us believe.
“BIG CALLS.” For now, Simon Lightwood should make a good local MP. The women in the pub will never give up. People in towns like Wakefield will never give up. There’s plenty of Weetabix. For now.