Dundee is the City of Discovery and Labour is learning all sorts during its conference weekend there.
Early on, they announced the winners of the Keir Hardie Awards, given in honour of the party’s founder and enduring hero. Only this year they had been renamed, according to the legend beamed onto the conference backdrop, the ‘Keir Hardy Awards’. Imagine the SNP celebrating the life and work of ‘Adolf Donaldson’. (In fairness, an easier mistake to make.)
When you run your party as a drop-in centre for suddenly political 16-year-olds, it’s not surprising that they don’t know much about its history. Wait till Sebastian in graphics finds out about all those other great Labour leaders like Hugh Gateshead and John Smythe. It seemed apt that the staffer responsible had echoed the spelling of Oliver Hardy’s name. It was another fine mess Labour had got itself into.
However, members had gathered to hear the current leader. How they bayed and roared when he shuffled on stage and up to the podium, where he gazed out at the hordes in wonder. Two years into the job and he’s still waiting to be woken up by the chief whip and chastised for day-dreaming on the backbenches. A few delegates tried to get a chorus of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ going but it fizzled out. This was Dundee. The Alexander Brothers are still considered a bit racy, let alone the White Stripes.
Corbyn hailed Scottish leader Richard Leonard for his greatest success in the job so far — a campaign against Donald Trump visiting the UK. He’d managed to keep this campaign so secret no one else had heard of it. Still, President Trump is going to sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un soon and eventually he’ll work up the courage to face Richard Leonard.
Brexit was the major theme of the address and Corbyn warned that the Tories were ‘risking peace in Northern Ireland’. No wonder he was upset; he did personally draft the Good Friday Agreement.
This Tory Brexit was so reckless, why Mr Corbyn was going to jolly well do everything in his power not to do anything about it. He wanted Britain to enjoy the benefits of ‘the’ customs union but committed only to ‘a’ customs union. It’s a rhetorical device he uses to play both sides of the Leave/Remain divide. To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word of his Brexit is a lie, including ‘a’ and ‘the’.
Corbyn concluded his speech with a stirring peroration from ‘Connecting Cultures’, a poem by Scotland’s former makar Liz Lochhead. ‘Only by a shift and sharing is there any chance/ For the Welfare of all our people and Good Governance,’ Corbyn intoned solemnly. ‘Such words can sound like flagged-up slogans, true,’ he added, from a stage branded ‘For the many, not the few’.
It was a fitting choice of poetic reading. Lochhead is famously political and a member of the Scottish party. The Scottish National Party, to be specific. Had the speechwriter read the full poem rather than spotting a few lines on an inspirational quotes website, they would have noticed the pointed reference midway through to the ‘free association of independent member nations’. Every time Jeremy Corbyn ventures north of the Border, he seems to come not from a different country but a different planet.
Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.