“I’m fed up and I’m angry,” Jeremy Corbyn told the Andrew Marr Show. He didn’t sound particularly fed up or angry. He sounded more like a yoga teacher on a meditation retreat in Mallorca who wanted everyone to stop being so stressed out.
Marr didn’t want to chill. He’d been watching the clock tick ever nearer to midnight as Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump squared up to each other, and he wanted to know how the Labour leader would react if his finger got anywhere near the nuclear button.
“Would you press it?” he asked.
Corbyn breathed in deeply to realign his chakras. He wasn’t going to say he wouldn’t press it eventually, but there were lots of things he would like to do first. A cup of herbal tea, some weeding in the allotment and a nice chat for starters. In the event of war, his clear instructions to Britain’s nuclear submarine commanders would be to await further instructions while Labour had a quick think about what its policy on Trident really was.
Marr was incredulous. What kind of prime minister would pass up the opportunity to launch a nuclear strike if they had the opportunity to do so? But realising that no answer was the best answer he was going to get, he moved on to a less doomsday scenario.
“Imagine you’re in No 10,” he said. Corbyn’s eyes widened. That was a possibility even he had never imagined. “And the spooks tell you you can launch a drone strike to kill the head of Isis? What do you do?”
The Labour leader adopted the warrior one pose. He’d need time to think about all this, as it was a lot to take in. Om. What he’d like to do was phone Isis to let them know the Brits knew exactly where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was and that they could easily kill him, so wouldn’t it be better if the Isis leader just stopped committing so many terrorist atrocities and decided to be a nice man instead. Let he who is without sin cast the first drone.
The more urgent the questioning, the more zen-like Corbyn became. He would be making offers to the UK people on health, schools and tax but he couldn’t go into any details as he didn’t know what they were yet. “All in good time, Andrew,” he said, “We will be publishing our manifesto by the end of May.” This sounded rather late in the day until you remembered Labour’s only firm election commitment so far had been to announce four extra bank holidays. And relax.
There again, Corbyn wasn’t the only one not to be answering questions on the Sunday morning politics TV shows. On Marr, Ukip leader Paul Nuttall couldn’t even say for certain that he would actually be standing in the general election, while the most coherent thing Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood came up with was that she was, “here in Wales”. Meanwhile on Peston on Sunday, Tim Farron made an unashamed land grab for the bigoted Tory vote by refusing to say whether he thought gay sex was wrong and Labour’s Liz Kendall couldn’t commit herself to endorsing her leader.
The most abject performance, though, came from Damian Green, the Conservative work and pensions secretary. Green is normally confident and assured, but on Peston he looked like a shifty, nervous wreck. A man terrified not by his interviewer, but by the spectral presence of Theresa May. It isn’t just opposition dissent the prime minister wants to close down, it’s any dissent whatsoever and any Tory who accidentally says the wrong thing knows their career is over.
What makes it even trickier is that it’s not just careless talk that can cost lives, it’s any talk whatsoever as Theresa is quite capable of thinking one thing one day and another the next. The only guaranteed form of survival is to say nothing. Peston began by asking if the Conservatives were planning to get rid of the tax locks. Green stammered anxiously. He couldn’t possibly comment on what might be in a manifesto but he didn’t think a party should be judged on what it put in a manifesto anyway.
It wasn’t the most promising of starts for Green and it soon got worse when it was put to him that the energy caps, that he had first heard about when reading about them in the Sunday Times, had been one of Ed Miliband’s key policies. Green then became semi-comatose and began babbling that Theresa just wanted to help everyone and that people needed to cut her a bit of slack. He was wheeled off to be re-educated by Theresa’s team. Never to be seen again.