Saturday 14 December 2019

Labour backbenchers must look at themselves in the mirror

Liam Fay

Fresh faces and clean hands. These are the attributes being touted as the minimum requirements for the next generation of Labour cabinet ministers, primarily by Labour backbenchers who mistakenly believe their own complexions and fingernails to be spotless.

Politics, they say, is showbusiness for ugly people, but this is not the case. Politics is actually showbusiness for people with body dysmorphic disorder, an affliction that distorts what you see when you look in the mirror.

So far, the Labour leadership election has been characterised by heated debate about two monumental irrelevancies: age and gender. Front-runner Joan Burton encapsulated the preoccupations when she ho-hoed about how Hillary Clinton – "who is slightly older than me" – is a mooted contender for the comparatively easier job of American president.

Burton identifies with Clinton because they are both women, an oversimplification. However, it is Labour's would-be Young Turks who have been making the emptiest noise.

Ironically, many of these supposedly radical youths seem to have been experiencing a succession of what Americans call "senior moments". Short-term memory loss is rife.

Most of them appear hazy about anything that happened in government before Eamon Gilmore resigned.

The speed with which Gilmore jettisoned Labour's 2011 election promises is nothing compared to the speed with which these hotshots have disavowed the austerity they voted at every turn. "The future rests with the new generation," said Dominic Hannigan (48) who called for a purge of Labour's old guard.

Irrespective of who becomes leader, however, a future devoted to resting is really what awaits most of the "new generation" after the next election.

Bonny baby or silver surfer, warrior queen or benevolent king – most of us don't care how the next Tanaiste is categorised by Labour spindoctors. All we want is someone with a backbone.

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