Letter From London – by Clayton Goodwin

Diane Abbot – Mother of the House


The country wanted change – though, until it really happened, few people thought it would be so sweeping. The remnants of the Conservative administration which had shamed the electorate for so long were sent packing – into an inglorious history. Rishi Sunak was the fall guy for 14 years of gimmickry, bluster, mistakes and downright nastiness. It was a triumph for the Labour Party of Keir Starmer who, merely by winning and turfing out the rabble, has restored normal decency to Westminster. It was a triumph for the Liberal Democrats with their affable leader Ed Davey. Above all, though, it has been a triumph for the British people who have proved that they are not as nasty/petty-minded as the Conservatives and right-wing press have presumed them to be.

It was a triumph for Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Labour, who defied the party machine, relied upon the trust and loyalty he had built with his constituents, and was elected as an independent member. It was a triumph, too, for Diane Abbott, who defied an attempt to edge her out, and sustained by the faith of her electorate and the bulk of the West Indian heritage community who have come to regard Diane as their icon (and this time the term is not over-used) after in 1987 she became the first black woman MP. She has stayed the course for a longevity which has earned her the accolade “Mother of the House”. It was a triumph for the Green, Plaid Cymru and the independents of conscience, all of whom, lacking the resources of the bigger and the better-financed parties, have made their presence felt.

It was a triumph for the maverick Nigel Farage who has brought the right-wing Reform UK into the heart of Parliament. Yet, in view of the backing he has received from donors and the mesmerised media, it hasn’t been a triumph of the magnitude by which it has been presented. Farage has a knack which he shares with – among others – Muhammad, in persuading his opponents to fight in a way which plays into his hands. A politician of stature or a commentator in the mould of Ed Murrow (who brought down the odious Senator McCarthy) could burst his preposterous bubble. Instead of concentrating on building his inflated image as a bogey-man waiting to devour the system his adversaries should just play the man as he is.

And with the Conservative, their right-wing allies in the print and broadcasting media have been made to look ridiculous (though they will hit back). Assured of the nastiness of the electorate, which had been seen in the Brexit Referendum eight years ago, they threw the book of under-the-belt punches at Starmer, Labour and anybody who seemed to threaten their hegemony. But the people have learned from their mistakes and have repented. There will always be a section of the community which will put hate and resentment before acceptance, a sector to which the media and the government have kowtowed for too long, but they no longer speak for the country.

Nor are the electorate as mean-minded and money-greedy as they have been painted. The Conservatives and their allies showered the news-outlets with horror-stories of the taxes  Labour would increase – sure, in their arrogance, that   the public would put their purse before pity and compassion. It mis-fired spectacularly. The British people appreciate that taxes are their subscription for belonging to the national society and are more than happy to pay their contribution – provided that it is not siphoned off to any “fast track” acquaintances of politicians. The Conservative-led rhetoric about stopping, harassing and evicting immigrants has given way to a greater realisation that immigration is here for the foreseeable future and what is needed is a policy for the “management of immigration”.

Above all – it was a triumph for decency.

The television coverage of election night did not emerge with an enhanced reputation. Across the board broadcasters decided to frame their reporting of the election-night reports and comments as entertainment. The informality and cross-chat banter of celebrity presenters tended to impinge on and detract from the presentation of information. And it was information, and informed comment and opinion, which viewers wanted. It wasn’t excessive, however, and didn’t spoil the coverage. Yet it is not necessary for everything on television to be presented with an informal almost game-show flippancy – there are many other programmes to provide that. Nevertheless, the broadcasters brought home the message, and that was what we wanted to see and hear, and, admittedly, the Liberal Democrats had shown that politics could be fun and successful.

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