AN UN-HOLY MESS
This is going to sound like another sorry Covid/lockdown lament but bear with me – it only starts off in that mode.
Last week the United Kingdom eased their latest Lockdown which began just after Christmas. The easing of restrictions allowed people to meet up in small groups of 6 but only in the open air. It also permitted pubs and restaurants to re-open to customers but with the same al fresco proviso. Now, any of you who have spent any time in Britain will know that whilst it may have many delights and positive points, the weather is not one of them. For example, whilst technically spring is officially marked on March 21st , in practice wintry weather can hang around for another month or two, hence the old adage of ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’ , meaning don’t take off your winter clothing till at least June.
And thus it was that on April 13th 2021 when Lockdown was partially lifted, it was actually snowing in many parts of the country and in others, at least sleeting. Throw in a bit of wind and you can well imagine it was freezing outside and decidedly not conducive to sitting in the (very) fresh air downing a pint or a glass of red. As for a scotch on the rocks, all you’d have needed was the whisky – the weather would do the rest. Nevertheless, with true Brit grit, many determined drinkers donned sou’westers and thick sweaters and braved the elements just to show willing and help poor cash-strapped publicans begin to make up some of the losses they incurred during their enforced shutdown. Mad dogs and Englishmen, it appears, don’t just go out in the mid-day sun, they’ll also brave a blizzard in a good cause.
The euphoria didn’t last, of course. Sanity and the need for central heating soon set in so the early boom dipped and perhaps that is why the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, one Sir Keir Starmer, decided to show willing and score himself a few Brownie or possibly brown-nose points by entering a hostelry and putting a few coins in Mine Host’s till. Naturally his PR team made sure the press was duly advised of his intention, in order for his visit not to go unnoticed and unpublished. What a great photo opportunity would present itself here. The head of the Labour party, a true man of the people, getting down and dirty by downing a pint in a pub, just like the real rough-diamond working men who are the grassroots of Labour. Well, that was the plan.
I will leave you hanging as to how the scene played out for a few minutes while I reference another Labour leader when his party was actually in power. This was a fellow Scot, Gordon Brown when he visited a community scheme in Rochdale 11 years ago this month. Introduced by an aide to a middle-aged lady called Gillian Duffy, the pair embarked on an apparently good-natured discussion in which she raised the national debt, student loans, tax and benefits. She also briefly referenced immigration, telling Mr Brown: 'You can't say anything about immigrants. All these Eastern Europeans, where are they flocking from?' The two appeared to part amicably, with Mrs Duffy saying she intended to vote Labour as Mr Brown retreated to his car.
So far so good. But then, unaware his microphone was still on, he then angrily turned to the aide, Justin Forsyth, saying 'That was a disaster... should never have put me with that woman.' Asked what she had said, he replied: 'Oh, everything. She was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour. I mean, it's just ridiculous.' Less than half an hour later, SKY News gleefully broadcast the whispered conversation and Mr. Brown’s goose was cooked. Asked to comment a visibly upset Mrs. Duffy responded
'I'm disgusted. 'He's an educated person, why has he come out with words like that?'
She also declared that never again would she be voting Labour. Forced to listen to his own remarks in a BBC interview later that day, Mr Brown was humiliated and deflated and apologised on air. But that was not enough for his senior party members who forced him to return to Mrs. Duffy’s home and issue a grovelling apology, emerging after 40 minutes to describe himself as a 'penitent sinner'.
Back to Sir Keir who last week was visiting the glorious city of Bath to lend his support to West of England metro mayoral candidate Dan Norris ahead of the forthcoming elections, during which someone had the bright idea described above of dropping in to a local alehouse, namely The Raven pub in the city centre. But as we all know the plans of mice and men gang aft aglen and this one ganged aft in swift and spectacular fashion because at the mere sight of the would-be patron coming through the pub entrance, the incensed landlord, Rod Humphris, had to be forcibly held back by members of Sir Keir’s security team as he shouted “That man is not allowed in my pub” and “Get out of my pub” The political party beat a hasty retreat but not before the entire incident was capture on camera and video footage by the delighted press corps. Asked why he asked Sir Keir to leave, Mr Humphris later told the PA news agency: “I had heard that the Labour Party were coming round and he turned up and I told him what I thought of him, basically. …I think he has utterly failed us as the Leader of the Opposition. He has completely failed to ask the questions that needed asking, like, why did we throw away our previous pandemic preparedness? Why have we just accepted lockdown? Why have we just accepted the loss of all our freedoms? He walked into my pub without asking and I threw him out. Or at least, I did my best to throw him out – his security got in the way.”
You or I might have decided at this point that discretion was the better part of valour but not Sir Keir who decided that shooting himself in the foot would be a suitable follow-up by declaring in print that he ‘would not be lectured to by the likes of him’ (Rod Himphris), despite the fact that the two had had no dialogue at all. He went further by calling the hapless pub landlord a Covid-sceptic, though it was unclear on what he based that spurious claim.
End result? Rod Humphris has been declared a national hero by the country’s press and populace and Sir Kier, already saddled with the unfortunate nickname ‘Captain Hindsight’ has sunk even further in the polls and the eyes of the British public.
Little wonder that the press dubbed the scene his ‘Gordon Brown moment’.
Note to all Labour leaders past, present and future – when you’re in a hole, for heaven’s sake, stop digging. It’s not a hole, it’s the grave in which your career is about to be buried!