What a time to be alive. If David Bowie had died this week rather than in January his death would have been a footnote rather than front page news.
David Cameron’s resignation has plunged the Conservative Party into a blackly comic power struggle. Boris Johnson was presumed to be the favourite for Prime Minister but was betrayed by the unlikely Brutus Michael Gove. Johnson wholly deserves this. Even if one sets aside the fact that his participation in the Leave campaign was a cynical, opportunistic move in a cynical and opportunistic career, no one who cheats on their spouse can complain about betrayal.
Gove is much less of a cynic. He is worse: an ideologue. There was merit in his efforts to reform education, but entrusting power to an excitable neoconservative who feels that the praises the Iraq war and reveres Tony Blair seems irresponsible. I would also find it difficult to respect a Prime Minister who allows their spouse, as Gove does with the Daily Mail‘s Sarah Vine, to write about their sex life. Standards, please. Perhaps the best of an uninspiring clutch of candidates, then, is Theresa May, who has been tough enough to last six years as Home Secretary without her reputation being torn to shreds. Remember David Blunkett or Jacqui Smith? It’s a tough gig. Yet who knows what will emerge from such an arduous boot camp? She could be another Thatcher, or a British Clinton, an unholy union of these notorious stateswoman or, at best, a stubborn pragmatist with a steady hand.
The travails of Labour, as ever, are even more comical. For years, in fact, it has lurched from gaffe to gaffe as if engaged in some kind of uproarious slapstick routine. Corbyn still clings to power: this ageing, unassuming communist who would, I’m sure, be more at home in front of twenty people in an obscure communist sect, preaching his dull third-worldist homilies to anoraks and students. Who could admire his opponents, though? These are people who caterwaul about being electable yet cleave to Blairite internationalism that the public loathes. These are people who wail like the very worst kind of students about anti-semitism in the party, even when they are reacting to distortions. These are people who are so incompetent that they will mount a coup before even deciding on a leader to represent them. My hope is that the communists and the Blairites will split off into separate directions, allowing the more conservative social democrats like Frank Field to take a stand – being, as they are, more aligned with voter preferences and the national interest.
What a time to be alive. Britain is fracturing into different tribes and opportunists and ideologues are struggling to exploit this. It is serious, it is important and it might even be frightening but one has to admit that it is also funny. Democracy may or may not be the best form of government but is is, as Mencken said, the most amusing.