If someone said to you, ”I heard that your mum shagged an elephant. Is it true?”, how would you respond?
You’d probably ignore the question, as whoever asked it would obviously be a weirdo, a trouble causer, or a cheeky child. But then imagine that you were in a position that meant you couldn’t really ignore the questioner because you worked in a shop and the person addressing you was a regular customer. Or you might be a public figure, being interviewed on TV. How would you reply, then?
It’s a tricky one, because what you’ve just been asked is obviously ludicrous. What does it even mean? It’s impossible, it couldn’t actually happen, therefore it’s silly. Elephant, my eye.
So you’d probably ask the inquisitor what on earth they are talking about, or you might ask them if they were feeling alright, or tick them off for wasting your time.
But the one thing you wouldn’t do, is dignify their silly question with a serious answer, such as, ” I can assure you that my mother certainly did not shag an elephant because she hasn’t even been to a zoo, or travelled abroad recently, and she doesn’t even fancy them, anyway’. That would be dignifying the question, and joining in the mockery.
And neither would you, in the days following, go around telling people not to believe anyone spreading this rumour about your mother and a pachyderm, because in publicly giving oxygen to the nonsense , you would be lending the idea some credence that it didn’t warrant.
Okay, so I may have used a rather far-fetched analogy here, but what if we switch this up and the person under scrutiny is a Labour politician, and the question is not about sex with elephants but was intead, this:
‘I heard that your party is the party of the unemployed and benefits. Is that true?’.
This question, in political terms, is as ludicrous and as meaningless as the elephant one, as we all know that no political party would or could campaign under a banner of ‘ Up with Unemployment’ and ‘ We promise to give all who want them, unlimited benefits forever, no questions asked..’.
So then, you could be forgiven for assuming that a Labour politician faced with such a question, would take the time to explain, in clear and simple terms, about how all governments, by definition, are the party of the unemployed and benefits because there are unemployed people and people on benefits in society at any given time, and it is a government’s job to deal with these issues, one way or another, some fairer than others’.
Our hypothetical Labour politician may go into more or less detail, and explain it much better than I, but you get the idea.
What you would not expect, however, is for that grown up, university educated Labour politician, with a brain that they get paid very well to use, to respond to the meaningless question by stating, defensively ”No, we are NOT the party of the unemployed and benefits”. For that would be protesting too much, and that way, madness would lie. Yet that’s what Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves did, before the election.
Neither would you have expected Labour politicians to go around telling all and sundry, not to listen to those that say we are the party of the unemployed and benefits, and look, we’ll even prove it by abstaining from a vote opposing a whole raft of cuts, that will drive children and mothers into poverty, and make thousands homeless.
But that’s what Harriet Harman and all but 48 rebel Labour MPs did last night. Because they think, as Harman said, that ”the public have told us that they don’t trust us on welfare’. She even said, ‘During the last government, we opposed 13 welfare bills, and where did it get us?”
So, instead of keeping on, keeping on, and trying to rationalise the debate, oppose Tory rhetoric and seek to de-demonise those in dire need of social security, the majority of Labour MPs just hammered them further into the ground. For why? Because they think that might get them the few seats they need for a majority in 2020?
It’s akin to reacting to stupid elephant shagging accusations against your mum, by voting to approve elephant-hunting.
Sorry to go on, but it’s the welfare rant in the room. The same room in which Labour have just painted theirselves into a corner. Dumb.
Or, indeed Dumbo.
And your mum.