Saturday, 29 May 2010

1984 Revisited or The New Manchurian Candidate

(1982. Michael Foot realises the next general election is all but lost. He strolls down Walworth Road with a young party worker by the name of Peter. They discuss Labour’s future.)

Michael: Sense of foreboding, young Peter?

Peter: Beg your pardon?

Michael: 1984, my boy. Just around the corner.

Peter: 1984. Yes. (Contrived) Brrrrr....

Michael: Know it’s just a book, but...

Peter: Yes?

Michael: Even though Eric Blair - George Orwell to you and me- wrote it thirty years ago, still sends a shiver down my spine.

Peter: Really?

Michael: Oh, yes.

Peter: Why would that be, if you don’t mind my asking?

Michael: Because it’s possible, my boy. Because it’s possible.

Peter: What’s possible?

Michael: Orwell wasn’t making it up. He’d seen how these people operate.

Peter: What people?

Michael: The far left.

Peter: I thought most historians and critics had revised their view. Assumed the threat would ultimately come from the far right.

Michael: Left-right, right-left. Doesn’t really matter, does it, Peter? It’s about how extremists organise in order to grab power.

Peter: Don’t see that happening any time soon, do you?

Michael: Indeed. I don’t have a crystal ball. But...

Peter: But...

Michael: (Hesistant) Peter... People tell me you know a thing or two about the Militant Tendency

Peter: (Laughs nervously) You could say that.

Michael: And what’ll happen to them, do you think... If the party ever manages to rid itself of them?

Peter: Tell me. I’m game.

Michael: No one can say for sure, of course. But one thing I do know is that they won’t go quietly.

Peter: Quietly?

Michael: Perhaps the wrong word. What I meant is that they won’t go.

Peter: No?

Michael: Denis Healey and I were turning this one over a while back. You’re probably aware that once upon a time Denis was a somewhat darker shade of pink. As were many of us.

Peter: Right?

Michael: Right... Well... to continue, Denis and I were wondering whether they will re-invent themselves, these Militants. Make themselves more voter friendly. Rebrand is the word they use nowadays, I do believe. It means taking on a new name, a new logo, is it?

Peter: Yes, a logo.

Michael: A logo that people are more comfortable with... something that sounds perhaps more... conservative.

Peter: Interesting proposition.

Michael: Terrifying proposition, I’d say, Peter.

Peter: Yes , terrifying. (Cheerily) Shivers down the spine stuff indeed (A grin appears on his face. He quickly suppresses it.)

Michael: The dreadful thing is, my boy, the dreadful thing...

Peter: Yes, Michael.

Michael: I sometimes fear that there are some in the party who have read Orwell’s great work... and who have come to look upon it not as a prophecy, not as a warning but...

Peter: (Eagerly) Yes?

Michael: But as a training manual, Peter. As a blueprint, as a manifesto... as a mission statement...

(to be continued)