WHAT’S more unattractive in politics: ugly certainty or pretty vacillation? I had this thought while watching a BBC News report on the seven Labour MPs who have quit the party.
The BBC spoke to two party members in Luton, where Gavin Shuker is the MP. One was a middle-aged woman filled with understandable regret at such an outcome; the other was a young bearded man who bristled with righteous anger.
This hirsute young loon spat out his script: Shuker was a political minnow who deserved to be dropped in the dustbin of history where he belonged; a proper Labour MP would wipe the floor with him and win a magnificent victory.
I sighed at that. It was the sort of ranting comment you see on social media, where quarrelsome disciples of one faction within a party (the Labour Party in this case, but all parties play this unappealing game) spit venom at members of the ‘wrong’ party faction.
To be even handed with the disdain, it should be recorded that the Tory Party is equally riven, thanks to deep fissures over Brexit. The eternally unappetising Jacob Rees-Mogg, who picks over his words like a man looking for bones in an expensive piece of fish, pretty much runs a party within a party, a madly pro-Brexit grouping that is leading the main party by the broken nose. A nose he helped to break.
Ugly certainty or pretty vacillation? There has been a lot of the first in the treatment of one of the departing seven. Luciana Berger has been the subject of much internecine abuse. And if the sight of a heavily pregnant Jewish MP saying that she is quitting because of antisemitism in her party doesn’t make fans of Jeremy Corbyn feel uncomfortable, then you wonder what will.
Whether she was parachuted into her Liverpool Wavertree constituency, as some of her critics maintain, should be less relevant than the fact that, as a Jewish woman, she no longer feels comfortable in Labour.
You can argue until your eyes roll out of your head about antisemitism in Labour. The Corbyn faithful will say that it’s a put-up job by the media, much as they also do if you complain about Corbyn’s endless inactivity over Brexit.
The weary, and now eyeless, will admit that may be true up to a point. But unhappiness over antisemitism and Brexit has grown under Corbyn’s leadership. And he doesn’t do anything to stop the rot spreading. Or so it appears to someone given to pretty vacillation rather than ugly certainty.
For the much scribbled-on record, this departure seems a case of bad timing, especially with the Brexit car-crash scheduled for the end of next month.
Over on Twitter, Young Labour called the seven MPs “cowards and traitors”. That’s the sort of talk you hear too often these days.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, a man with an impossible job, expressed his deep sadness at the departure. In a filmed statement, he said this was not a time for crowing over those who’d gone – words that are likely to go unheeded. Watson also warned that Corbyn risked splitting his party further, unless he changed direction.
And it’s hard not to worry that those cracks will get worse.
Ugly certainty or pretty vacillation? Oh, I’ve had too much of the first from myself and everyone else – but will admit that the latter doesn’t get your far either.
Of course, it’s not just Labour that’s cracked and in danger of falling apart. Our politics is a broken jug, too.