This is hard to believe. But I’m assured by family members in Canada that the most in-demand present for young children in North America last Christmas was Dookie, the pooping Unicorn. I won’t give away manufacturers’ scatological details only add that it comes with a “squatty potty”. The rest I leave to your imagination or the imagination of the under nines.
My family demographics did not provide me with any equally reliable information on the popularity of pooing Unicorns in Britain. But thoughtful Remainers will instantly see what a wonderful present Dookie would have made for the children and grandchildren of the Tory European Reform Group and their hangers-on. What a great symbol for the Leave campaign as a whole. A large model should go up on a plinth in Parliament Square in time for Tuesday’s vote. And who better than Sir Ian ‘Dookie’ Smith to unveil it?
I should not limit these festive thoughts to the Conservative Party alone. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, matters are moving beyond darkly funny to car crash serious. I was disturbed to find that Andrew Rawnsley, a commentator who is usually forensically objective, in his last two Observer columns, was beginning to crack and sounding honest-to-goodness angry. Things must be bad.
What also struck me were the latest figures Rawnsley quoted for the current opinion of Labour members and supporters on Leave, and how they would vote in a second referendum were it to be organised. 88% of Labour members and 71% of Labour supporters would vote Remain, assuming it was on the ballot paper. 89% of members and 73% of supporters now thought it would be wrong to vote Leave. The last You-Guv sample of 25,000 Labour voters came plum within this range and also found that 75% favoured a second referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn significantly increased Labour Party membership because he appeared as a radical new voice offering a different sort of politics. As Rawnsley pointed out, his core appeal depended on his being a listener promising that Labour Party policy really would be determined democratically in accordance with the views and priorities of its members. This distinguished Jeremy Corbyn from earlier Labour leaders - who looked to a wider public - and got Labour members chanting his name.
Well, it was all, at best, a bit of a disappointment, at worst a con-trick. Mr. Corbyn only agrees with his base when his base agrees with him. He still inhabits the arguments of the 1970s and has always been ideologically – and stubbornly – opposed to the European Union, seeing it as an international capitalist club. The tortuous presentation, ambiguities and obfuscations of Labour Party policy on BREXIT have served to obscure the simple fact. Pity Sir Keir Starmer. There is a massive THREE QUARTERS majority in his Party for Remain, but Corbyn persists in reneging on his contract with the members and ignoring them on this vital issue.
At least so far. Because there is growing evidence that parts of Labour’s membership have emerged from denial and moved into anger about what they are coming to see as Corbyn’s betrayal of their future. The number of Labour held constituencies with predominantly Leave populations may offer more pragmatic explanations for his behaviour. But there are many courageous Labour MPs who are behaving as leaders of their Leave communities and putting the national interest, and that of their constituents, before their political careers, and calling for a second referendum in the light of the future economic consequences of Brexit in their impoverished regions.
If, in the face of his many young members, Mr. Corbyn pursues his Brexit politics to date, a performance smacking of abject hypocrisy, he will pay the price. And so will the Labour Party. Momentum is not the young ones Corbyn Fan Club of commentators’ myth. It has a more diverse membership. But it has enough youthful followers, with youth’s sensitivity to hypocrisy, for the movement that has kept him in place to fade away as quickly as it coalesced. Those who come up fast usually go down fast.
The irony of the Brexit car crash is that it may be Theresa May who survives to fight another day. But Corbyn’s days are numbered unless he gives up the ideas about the EU he swallowed in the 1970s. He needs to honour his pledge to his membership, and consider the national interest, instead of ineptly finessing his own misguided version of ideological purity.
I am sure, if he tries, Jeremy Corbyn could find a Pink Dookie on e-Bay the better to fulfil grandparental duties to which the hand of history calls him. Meanwhile he should heed a radical who has ideas that might genuinely reinvigorate the Labour Party: Amartya Sen. “While purity is an uncomplicated virtue for olive oil, sea air, and heroines in folk tales,” he wrote, “it is not so for systems of collective choice”*. Shame he left out unicorns.
*Amartya Sen Collective Choice and Social Welfare San Francisco 1970, 200