The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part II)

Honourable Order of Sisyphus – Theresa May

There’s something of a trend to the fate of Uncut’s politicians of the year. In 2015 it was David Cameron, followed by his 2016 which earned him the Honorary Order of Suez.

Last year’s politician of the year was Theresa May and in 2017, once again, she’s among the awards. This time she wins the Honourable Order of Sisyphus.

To refresh, Sisyphus was condemned for his hubris by Zeus, to push a huge boulder up a hill in the underworld, only for boulder to roll away back to the bottom as he neared the top, compelling Sisyphus to start again.

Unending frustration. Useless effort. Interminable repetition.

These are the traits of Sisyphus’ torment and the day to day life of Theresa May in Number 10.

Shorn of her majority, she’s endlessly trying to make progress on Brexit or domestic legislation, only to have the boulder roll away at the last, pushed by Conservative Remain rebels, Conservative Brexiteer rebels or the DUP.

If the experience of Tory rebellions in the 1990s is any guide, this is just the start.

These are the early adopter rebels. New rebel groups will form across new interest groups – health, education, defence – as backbenchers become used to defying the whip and getting what they want.

Legislation will pass on Theresa May’s watch. Often, it just won’t be what she intended and after each compromise or defeat, she’ll have to start the whole process again, in preparation for the next big vote.

Speech of the year – Ken Clarke

From Theresa May’s disintegration to Jeremy Corbyn’s show of strength, this year’s headline conference speeches felt telling. It may be, however, that Ken Clarke’s powerful speech on the triggering of Article 50 lives longer in the memory. As Robin Cook’s resignation speech over the Iraq war aged well as his warnings came to pass, we might come to look back ruefully on Clarke’s Brexit concerns, while the agonised faces on the Tory benches are almost as funny as his jokes.

Political comedian of the year – Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has transitioned from a leader who lacked the timing to eat a bacon sandwich smoothly (or the sense not to attempt to do so with cameras around) to an ex-leader with the timing to unleash comedy zingers – whether on TV or Twitter, podcasts or parliament. If he keeps this up, he’ll end up as a national treasure, as Tony Benn did over his last decade or so.

Miliband would be justified, though, in hoping to one day again be the kind of pioneering minister that Benn was in a much younger vintage. William Hague has recently proven that ministerial careers can be sustained after party leaderships. And, after all his at-ease-with-himself TV appearances, Miliband would be comfortable with the likes of Angelina Jolie – whose friendship with Hague was one of the stranger quirks of his renaissance.

Overseas inspiration – Jacinda Ardern

When Andrew Little resigned as leader of the Labour Party in New Zealand less than two months away from the 2017 general election, the party was in opposition and polling at around 24% – its lowest level for many years. 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern succeeded him and is now prime minister, making her New Zealand’s second female leader (after Helen Clark – in whose office Ardern cut her teeth – served as prime minister from 1999 to 2008) and its youngest since 1856.

While Theresa May vastly undershot expectations in the UK’s 2017 general election and Jeremy Corbyn overshot them, the reversal of fortunes in New Zealand, as it culminated with Labour in power, was even more dramatic. That Labour are in coalition with the New Zealand First party is a complicating and limiting factor, which, hopefully, won’t dim Ardern’s inspiration too much.

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2 Responses to “The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part II)”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Tony benns national treasure, was quite a relief, in his last years,as his obscurity, meant he’d never achieved what he was close to doing
    Destroying the Labour Party Completeky forever in the 80’s

    Ed Miliband ,who I initially backed, spent his years as leader as the opposition, rightly saying new labour was over,and he wasn’t new labour, but then he never said what was to replace it, his theory was Gordon brown, was right not to cut quicker ans horror,without explaining why abroen, had gone against anew Labour/Blair’s policy in 2008

    Then ed Miliband decided that New labour going back to Blair’s last year wasn’t left wing enough,ans that was the reason labour lost in 2010
    Arguing,he’d decided the public felt that labour lost in 2010 as it wasn’t left wing enough, so he knew the public felt labour had to be more left wing to win in 2015, as he’d told them they thought, the public had swung to the left post 2010′ so he must have been right to decide that the public agreed wuth him,that the public eanteda more left politics in 2015..

    Then He lost..

    Of course by doing this ,the party agreed wuth him,the public were mistaken for not voting labour in 2015 and could be won round to our thinking,that the public were mistaken for not voting labour in 2015.. and secretly..really eanteda more left wing labour leader

    Plus with the £3 voters, the party convinced itself to swing to the left. And the public would want jeremy as leader…

    Then Jeremy lost too

    So Ed Miliband as a connivance national treasure like tony Benn before him ,could do what benn failed to do, Destroy the party completely forever

  2. Matthew says:

    Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand’s *third* female PM – Jenny Shipley (1997-99) and Helen Clarke (1999-2008) preceded her.

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