I am not always thrilled to see elderly comedians and heritage pop music acts wheeled out for the sole purpose of nostalgia. Sometimes it can be overwhelmingly sad to see once great artists as a mere shadow of what they once were. But no one could be more thrilled than me to see the return of Diane Abbott.
You will remember that Abbott once managed to claim that the mass murderer Chairman Mao, “on balance did more good than harm.” And who could forget Abbott attacking Tony Blair and Harriet Harman for sending their children to selective state schools whilst forgetting to add that she sent her own child to a top private school? No one can touch Abbott for pure comedy and now she has done it again with a new routine about her ex boyfriend and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Jeremy Corbyn is worth about 18-20 percentage points to Labour’s vote. Without him, and led by any one of his vocal critics, we could easily be languishing in single digits in the polls,” she said. This is comedy of the highest quality, comparable with Fawlty Towers and Blackadder. This was laugh out loud funny, as everyone at Tory HQ would agree. Best of all, Abbott managed to keep a straight face throughout.
But Britain’s top female comedian was far from finished. Attacking right-wing newspapers and supporters of “business as usual” politics, Abbott said, “One of their current arguments is that Labour’s difficulties in the polls are all attributable to him and that if only we had a new leader, almost any leader, then this would resolve our problems. This is completely untrue.” Laugh? I almost started. It was only when she said that Corbyn was the party’s best hope for delivering a clear alternative to the Conservatives hard Brexit that Corbyn actually told his MPs to vote for that that I started to laugh out loud.
It is safe to laugh at Abbott because she talks such bollocks. No one in the Labour Party seriously believes, as she laughably suggests, that simply replacing Corbyn will solve Labour’s problems. If only that were true. Labour lost under the unlucky Gordon Brown and it lost under Ed Miliband who was not seen as a potential prime minister by the electorate. Corbyn is so bad that will take many years, perhaps even a decade, to rebuild the party. The next leader’s job will be to first staunch the losses in votes before she or he can make Labour look electable again. If Corbyn left tomorrow – and oh how I wish he would leave tomorrow – the electorate would not return straight away.
Abbott blames the party’s polling figures on the media’s failure to cover policy issues and the decision of Labour MPs to mount a leadership challenge last year. No, Diane. Corbyn has very few policies – he just has positions – and last year’s leadership challenge made no difference to Labour whatsoever, except to turn even more voters away once he was re-elected.
Whoever said that woman comedians weren’t funny never met Diane Abbott. If only being funny was her intention.