TV and radio presenter Nick Ferrari argues that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s recent elevation to political rock star has a limited shelf life and should not be taken too seriously. Nick hosts the weekday breakfast show on LBC from 7.00-10.00am and enjoys 1.2m daily listeners
It was one helluva shock, I can tell you. Waking up on the morning of the recent general election and reading The Times, which had decided to list the potential winners and losers over the previous weeks of endless tussling, over such key issues as strawberry picking to fox hunting, with just about everything in between.
But there, nestling behind Jeremy Corbyn (and there’s a thought!) in second place on the winners’ list was “Nick Ferrari and his maths teacher.” As so much, of such importance has happened since the election campaign, the final of Love Island for example. You can be excused if you’re struggling to recall the relevance, but the interview in which Diane Abbott showed all the arithmetical dexterity of a child at the bottom of the C stream in kindergarten class, was conducted by yours truly, on my LBC morning radio show.
Now don’t, whatever you do, ever tell Diane when you next see her, but that interview in which she struggled so woefully while doing her sums, at one point suggesting that a newly recruited police officers would earn £10,000 a year, before correcting herself and saying he would take home just £10 per annum, very nearly didn’t take place.
The reason is quite simple. Doing a breakfast show means you like to set up a few interviews and stories the night before but expecting everyone to be standing by their phones at six in the morning hoping for the call that will mean they’ll have the opportunity to speak with me, is clearly pushing it a bit.
Even so, Ms. Abbott had let me down as many times as England has failed in penalty shoot outs and I’d decided on a sort of unofficial ban. So, when the producer said she was available the suggestion was met with the customary swift dismissal of an idea I don’t rate: “Utter bollocks…next?”
But what made it happen are the fairly strict broadcasting laws that which, during an election, the major parties must be offered an equal amount of time on air, or at least as is reasonably practical. As Labour heavyweights such as Corbyn and John McDonnell had viewed the chance of chatting with me in the same way most of us would react to the chance of going on a series of Alpine strolls with the Prime Minister, Ms. Abbott was handed the microphone.
She’s not here to defend herself, so I won’t go into any more detail other than to say at one stage you’d be excused for thinking she was about to take off her socks and shoes, so she could try and get her addition correct. Her dismal performance dominated that day’s news agenda and one former colleague texted me to ask if I could give him the name of my maths teacher at school.
“Mate, I genuinely can’t recall his name. But he was bloody hopeless. I got a D at O level,” I texted in reply.
It’s ironic that there was interest during this election in my student days, as it was without doubt the impact of students that would prove to be the biggest factor in the result as Labour created and cultivated a narrative that struck home with a mass of young people, thousands of whom were so motivated they decided to register for the first time. Indeed, of the 600,000 names added to the electoral roll in the final 24 hours before deadline, 453,000 were classed as “young voters.”
Initially, it was easy to dismiss the youthful outpouring for Corbyn and a Labour party moulded into shape by the zealots of Momentum as political naivety. The gag about the Labour campaign aimed at students with the slogan: “Vote Labour… and we’ll give you a free laptop!” didn’t seem so far from the truth and Corbyn’s extraordinary appeal to this group was never more amply demonstrated than when the crowds chanted his name at Glastonbury, as if he were topping the bill. (By the way, the entrance fees for that festival are around a minimum of £240, so it’s a certain type of a middle class, if not downright well-to-do youngster who is drawn to the Labour leader. It’s easy to be a socialist of course when your parents have money in the bank, second homes in the country or villas in Umbria). But somehow Corbyn is a magnet for the young and that’s why they cheered him that night in Somerset (even if they were happy to leave it to Eastern Europeans on the zero hours contracts this group so vividly loathes, to clean up the tons of rubbish they left behind).
The left has undoubtedly had a good time of it of late. They are quick to say everything is wrong, yet offer solutions that seem a tad threadbare. It’s not fair that university fees are still charged; it’s not fair that house prices have risen so swiftly; it’s not fair that some people get a helping hand because they have relatives who help them along (ignoring the fact an entire cadre of Labour who have jobs by courtesy of the high powered intervention of family and friends); and it’s not fair that jobs seemed more plentiful years ago. All of this, of course, neatly misses the point that in many cases it is past Labour policies that have created or contributed to this so-called unfairness.
That said, while never losing sight of the fact that Labour lost its third straight election in a row, for many on the right and the centre of politics it’s been a torrid time. They have looked on as the youth of the nation has risen up in semi-revolt. Imagine The Beatles, the invention of the pill, the swinging sixties, free love, ecstasy and grime being fused into one unstoppable movement, and that’s how they saw it.
However, they needn’t worry. There are similarities between just how many ill-informed commentators saw a divided Britain last year after the European referendum. Many Tories and others see a Labour party leader, who has had some highly questionable political friendships and a shadow chancellor who appears to be in awe of Marxist policies, close to measuring up the curtains of Number 10.
This is because they also see a Conservative administration in anything but a healthy place. True blue Tory policies such as the re-introduction of grammar schools have been ditched while others that many Tories would welcome as much as sand in their swimming shorts, were introduced in their place. Did anyone vote for the idea of gender selection, as put forward by increasingly loopy Education Secretary and Equalities Minister Justine Greening? If, as is mooted, this is an attempt to “de-toxify” brand Conservative, particularly among younger people, then all well and good, but government policy is not the place for virtue-signaling ideas that belong in the students unions’ debating societies.
So are we “all doomed” as Dad’s Army’s Private Frazer might have intoned? Not yet. The Conservatives, despite themselves, are likely to be saved. True, Theresa May has been anything but sure-footed since the humiliating shambles that was the June election. She has succeeded in turning “just about managing” from a political mantra to a lifestyle choice and is now reduced to asking other parties if they have any useful ideas. It’s akin to asking the England cricket team to let the Australians pick the openers for the first test.
What will save the Tories is that this is likely to be the high-water mark for Labour. Many of those young people who got caught up in the emotion and attraction of the Corbyn groundswell will feel a bitter sense of disappointment at the result. At first they’ll be buoyed by baseless claims being perpetrated by the left that power is within touching distance and yet as each week becomes a month, that youthful enthusiasm will dim. Youngsters are put on earth to be dreamers, when reality bites the excitement pales. Also, many of the pre-election promises seem to be unravelling like a cheap suit with Labour’s financial competence being openly challenged.
Nor does the bulk of this youth vote realise that Corbyn is a dedicated anti-European Union MP. Many will have voted for him as they thought that he would seek to overturn last year’s Brexit vote, but few if any will have done enough research to learn that Corbyn has always viewed the EU as some sort of capitalist conspiracy. Since 1987 he has voted in Parliament against each and every one of its treaties; if they’d be bothered to check.
All of which indicates that this year’s general election is likely to be the last of its kind. The days politicians could make bold but un-costed promises are gone, as a more savvy electorate will from now on closely examine every idea put forward. For that alone, perhaps we owe Ms. Abbott more than we might have at first thought.