Friday, 6 December 2019

There’s just one election issue that really matters

At last I understand. With less than a week to go till election day, suddenly everything has come into focus. This really is, as so many commentators have already said, a one-issue election.

And the issue is: Does Jeremy Corbyn watch the Queen on TV on Christmas Day? (Spoiler alert: er, no, he doesn’t. He doesn’t even know when it’s broadcast.)

What could matter more for the future of our country? What question could possibly be more important than whether the man mocked as Magic Grandpa is such a devoted Royalist that he will sit his family down at 3pm on 25 December to watch Her Maj deliver her sixty-sixth Christmas homily?

(Factbox: just over six million people watched her last year, down from seven and a half million in 2017. When George V delivered the first Royal Christmas message in 1932, by contrast, 20 million people tuned in. Perhaps Mr Corbyn is in better company than he thinks.)

It seems he is terrified of appearing out of sympathy with the people he presumably thinks of as traditional Labour voters, gathered round the TV, preparing to desert his party and vote for the pro-Brexit Tories for the first time in their lives.

As a result, when he was asked by Julie Etchingham on ITV last night about his Christmas Day viewing habits, he lied. He dodged and ducked – and he looked every bit as shifty as Boris Johnson does every time he is asked how many children he has. (Watch the clip here if you haven’t seen it yet.)

So in an election in which he hopes to defeat a prime minister with an unrivalled reputation for lying and opportunism, he blows a huge gaping hole in what is left of his own reputation as a man who sticks to his principles (although you could argue that he was already well on the way with his dogged refusal to come clean on whether or not he wants the UK to leave the EU).

I am now finding it almost impossible to take my own advice. I wrote last week of the dangers of succumbing to despair, yet now I am closer to the brink than ever. A NATO summit, which could have offered an opportunity to take stock of the real dangers we face (Russia? China? Cyber warfare?), turned in to a tawdry soap opera episode in which the lead character, a deranged TV celebrity, was mocked behind his back by his fellow cast members and scolded to his face by the French president for being flippant about Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Meanwhile, virtually ignored, representatives from more than 200 countries are meeting in Madrid in yet another attempt to agree on ways to alleviate the worst effects of the climate emergency. Nothing like as important as Mr Corbyn’s Christmas viewing habits, admittedly, unless you are tempted to take seriously a warning from the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, which issued its latest annual climate report this week.

His verdict? ‘Things are getting worse.’ As the New York Times reported: ‘More devastating fires in California. Persistent drought in the [US] southwest. Record flooding in Europe and Africa. A heat wave, of all things in Greenland. Climate change and its effects are accelerating, with climate-related disasters piling up, season after season.’

The current prediction is that unless governments take urgent action, by the end of the century – in other words, within the lifetime of children now being born – average global temperatures will have risen to levels that climate scientists say will have catastrophic and irreversible consequences. And according to a research paper published in the specialist journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists’ climate models have already proved remarkably accurate.

Before the European parliament elections last May, I explained why I had decided to cast my vote for the Green party. I wrote: ‘I want to maximise the unambiguously anti-Brexit vote, which is why voting Labour is not an option, and I want to support a party that has convinced me that it understands the seriousness of the climate crisis that confronts us.’

Next Thursday, because I live in a constituency where the admirably anti-Brexit Labour candidate is sitting on a super-safe majority of more than 30,000, with the Lib Dems having come second in 2017, I shall be voting Green again.

It is the only action I can take to stave off the overwhelming feeling of despair. And I’m sorry, but no, I won’t be watching the Queen on Christmas Day. Just like Mr Corbyn and about 40 million other voters.


Gregor McGregor said...

I'm totally anti- the monarchy, but if I'm around I'll watch Queenie on Xmas Day, merely out of curiosity.

Garry Humphreys said...

Robin, are you really saying that you'll (only) be voting Green because you know your safe-seat local Labour MP is certain to be re-elected? What if there was a real contest?

Robin Lustig said...

Garry: For any anti-Brexit voter, the choice is relatively simple. If you are in a marginal constituency, vote either Labour or Lib Dem, whichever is best placed to win. In a non-marginal constituency, vote for whichever party most closely matches your priorities. In my case, yes, it's the Greens.