If Parliament had been sitting, today would have been Jeremy Corbyn’s final PMQs as leader. April Fool’s Day. I’m sure he and his team breathed a sigh of relief when Parliament shut last week.
He went out last Wednesday with a whimper rather than a bang, which was fitting given his electorally disastrous reign and the fact that the country finds itself in the biggest crisis since the Second World War.
For those of us who have watched heartbroken as the Labour Party fell apart over the past five years, this will be a moment of muted celebration.
Finally, we are free of a leadership which took a wrecking ball to the party’s reputation and managed to corrupt what we were meant to be above all else — equal, decent, and not racist bullies.
Traditional political orthodoxy dictates that the Tories are meant to be good on the economy and Labour are supposed to be good at being nice to people. But as we’ve seen, the old rules have been ripped to pieces.
So, what does that mean for the new Labour leader, who is likely to be Sir Keir Starmer? The coronavirus crisis gives them the chance to show that they can be a grown-up, responsible leader. They can do so by scrutinising the Government’s handling of the situation in a way that is forensic and robust but steers away from cheap point-scoring.
Public approval for the Prime Minister and his actions is high right now, but that could change when we see the social and economic fallout. Gordon Brown was not rewarded by the voters for all of the important work he did during the financial crisis.
But for the new leader to have any chance, they need to assemble a top team of serious, smart figures who the public get to know and, most importantly, don’t fall about laughing at. The shadow cabinet should not be comedy central, and I say that as a stand-up.
The role of shadow chancellor is going to be key. I hope if Starmer wins, he appoints a good woman such as Rachel Reeves or Anneliese Dodds, both of whom are respected and know their stuff. There has never been a female chancellor or shadow chancellor in Westminster.
In the next few years, there will inevitably be a profound political debate about what kind of society and economy we want to rebuild post-pandemic, which should lend itself to progressive values, but that won’t happen unless Labour is trusted — and doesn’t look like a rabble.
This is why the number-one job for Labour’s next leader will be to clean up the party. The damage done by anti-Semitism and bullying has been horrific and shameful. They must start here and show no mercy, even to senior figures. Send a signal that racists, misogynists and bullies are not welcome any more, because Labour is nothing without a sense of moral purpose.
Perfect lockdown viewing
Tiger King on Netflix is perfect lockdown viewing as it’s so bonkers it makes our current reality feel not so bad. The documentary features Joe Exotic, an ex- zoo owner in Oklahoma with dubious morals, a terrifying dress sense and criminally bad hair. He’s larger than life, stupid, petty, vain and vindictive. Remind you of anyone? I’m surprised Donald Trump hasn’t asked him to be his running mate.
God bless America.