Somewhere, in a darkened studio, not long after ten o’clock this morning, Jeremy Corbyn had a car crash. It was the kind you hear from miles away. They will have to close both lanes. The scorched tyre marks will never come off that road.
I don’t write much about politics, these days. I found the whole tribal loathing that was unleashed by the Scottish independence vote and then the referendum so tiring and saddening that I retreated into my cave and stared dolefully at the flickering shadows on the wall. Social media can be vastly entertaining in this area but also savage. If you say something even mildly political on Twitter, the hounds of hell may be unleashed. They are too barky for me. I tend to stick to racing. There’s no controversy in writing about the beauty of Winter soaring over the emerald turf of the Curragh.
But I happened to hear the screeching tyres and the shattered glass of the Corbyn interview. I listened in astonishment, thinking for a fleeting moment it must be some kind of spoof. It was lovely John Thing from Dead Ringers. (I’m like my dad now, I can’t remember anyone’s name. Everyone is Mr and Mrs and Ms Thing. Occasionally, there is obviously a Duchess of Thing.)
Apart from the fact that the interviewer actually told Mr Corbyn, in some astonishment, that he had already taken one telephone call and was now looking up things on his iPad, apart from the fact he had no figures to back up one of his main policies, there was something else which amazed me. It was the faint, sulphurous whiff of arrogance. Perhaps I was over-thinking this. Perhaps the poor man was just exhausted. I don’t think he likes campaigning very much. All those inconvenient questions about things he said thirty years ago, all that forensic examining of his positions, all that insistence on numbers actually adding up: no wonder he sounds cross. But there was a part of me that wondered whether there was a subconscious thought that going on a show with the word ‘woman’ in the title would be a breeze. That charming blonde female with the mellifluous voice would surely be a walk in the park. As Emma Barnett started to out-Paxo Paxo, I could hear a note of almost resentful amazement creep into Corbyn’s voice. The women were supposed to be a soft gig. Promise them all a pony, mention cupcakes and shoes, and then go home.
I’m sure I’m being unfair. There was something about that car crash interview that made me furious and it’s not to do with Corbyn himself. It’s not to do with left or right or men or women or Brexiteers or Remainers. It’s the whole shower. I’ve spent my entire life believing in government, having faith in the state, in a mixed economy, in the Scandinavian miracle. (People are starting to say now that it’s not such a miracle after all, which is yet another hopeful illusion dashed.) I always stuck up for politicians, even when they were making a horlicks of everything with the expenses fiasco. I was absolutely not one of those people who shook their heads and sucked their teeth and said ‘they’re all the same’.
But in this election, I’m fed up with the whole damn lot. There isn’t a single clarion call, a single ringing voice, a single galvanising mind that makes me want to leap to the barricades and plant a flag. There’s pretty rubbish, slightly crap, and rather disappointing. The Tories are doing robotic on-message with a side order of bitching and Labour don’t seem able to write fuck on a dusty blind. I don’t even know what the Lib Dems are doing, and I’m not sure they do either.
Meanwhile, there are children in poverty and old people who can’t afford care and Donald Trump running around like an infant who has had too much sugar and fundamentalists who would like to blow up the world. Who is going to pick up the reins and make sense of this crazy hill of beans? (I’m so cross I’m mixing my metaphors; always a sign of strong emotion.) I want so much to have faith in someone. And there is nobody who inspires faith.
I understand that politicians are caught always between voters and reality. Voters are both eminently sensible and quite naughty. There is a fundamental fairness in the British electorate. They tend to give one side a go, and then, when that side runs out of steam or mucks things up or becomes moribund, they give the other side a shot. But the voters also do what all voters do, which is want stellar public services and low taxes. That’s the rock and the hard place. That’s the naughty part. That’s the reason that politicians won’t answer the question. They dare not address the huge truth which is that you can’t have both. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have the numbers, because nobody has the numbers. Everyone shades the truth and trims and changes the subject. The great ship that is the NHS creaks and groans and takes on water and no-one really knows how she is going to go on sailing over an increasingly stormy sea.
That car crash was a universal car crash. It could have been any politician on any show. They are not all the same, but, in their different ways, they are not doing the people of Britain proud. This is the first election I can remember where I really don’t want to vote. I cherish my vote, because so many women battled for me to have it. They chained themselves to railings and submitted to the Cat and Mouse Act and faced down hatred and calumny so I could put my cross in the box. When I go into that little wooden booth, I take the Pankhursts with me, every time. All I have, this year, is Least Worst. It is not a choice that makes my heart sing. I know that politics is not unicorns and stardust, but it feels as if this election is hitting a new low. I shall go into the Victory Hall on the 8th of June and make my mark, with slow fingers and dragging steps and a heavy heart. It won’t feel like victory. It is the very epitome of making do. The British are awfully good at making do, but I’m sick of it.