James Millar: Labour's silly Christmas song is an Ed Balls-up
Written by Opinionon 15 December 2016 in
The stunt shows that being human is harder than some Labour MPs might have thought.
It may seem a trifle unfair to read too much into the execrable music video featuring Labour MPs crooning their re-worked version of Do They Know It’s Christmas. But I’m still going to do it.
Because believe it or not a bunch of MPs in Santa hats has repercussions for our democracy.
If parliament is to work properly it needs a proper opposition. Never more so than when the nation must pick its way through the treacherous territory of Brexit and continued economic uncertainty, doubled down with a Trump presidency.
The silly stunt from members including Fiona McTaggart, Mary Creagh and Kevin Brennan shows how far Labour is from being a proper opposition. For a start the bright sparks behind the idea chose to post their video just hours after all party leaders had given their backing to the charity single recorded by a cross party choir of politicians being released in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox and designed to raise cash for the foundation in her name.
The public would be entitled to be understandably confused by two songs recorded by MPs for Christmas, both featuring similar images of politicians in a recording studio. But while one is raising money for charity, the other is calling out brands like Marks and Spencer and John Lewis for their pay policies – brands that the public love significantly more than they do Labour. (A lesson the party may learn loud and clear next year should Tory candidate Andy Street – a former John Lewis chief – defeat the Labour non-entity standing to be Mayor of the West Midlands).
An important and worthy cause had been sabotaged by the sort of wheeze any self-respecting sixth formers would reject as childish. And that demonstrates a fundamental inability to understand messaging.
It’s fairly clear that the Labour leadership doesn’t understand communications – for example no-one seems to have spotted that hiring a Sinn Fein adviser to Jeremy Corbyn’s team might at the very least raise eyebrows – but it seems the people criticising him from his own benches aren’t much better. Owen Smith’s foot in mouth leadership tilt over the summer showed that.
But in the week that even Diane Abbott suggested Corbyn’s got 12 months to turn his tenure around two potential replacements turned up in this video which was largely festive only because it bore a strong resemblance to the Christmas edition of Doctor Who in that it was best watched from behind the sofa.
Dan Jarvis looked awkward. Angela Rayner managed a good visual gag involving the way she wore her headphones but sill looked less than convinced. Which begs the question why had either of them agreed to partake? Blame Ed Balls.
Since the former shadow chancellor smashed it on Strictly Come Dancing, transforming his public persona from bad guy who broke the economy to the fun guy who nearly broke his dancing partner by dropping her on her face, politicians are looking for ways to be normal.
A remake of one of the most iconic Christmas videos of all time might appeal as a means to show a human side and connect with a core demographic – you have to be over 40, ie among those who actually bother to vote, to remember Bob Geldof’s musical response to famine in Ethiopia. But they largely failed.
Jarvis looked like he’d arrived late to a Christmas party where everyone was more drunk than he and he was desperately trying to pretend he got the in-jokes that had been instituted several pints previously. Rayner, surrounded by more MPs a few years her senior, looked like she was indulging her elderly aunts who’d been at the gin.
Turns out being human is harder than some had thought. Which demonstrates how Ed Balls turn on reality telly was a success not because it was Strictly but because he’s Ed Balls, a man those who’ve come across him in Westminster know to be a decent and likeable chap given a platform to demonstrate that.
So Labour is stocked with MPs who don’t understand communications, who’s message is petty and who aren’t even able to come across as human. Electoral famine and the bitter sting of tears beckons.
James Millar is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster. He tweets as @politicalyeti.