Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Shadow Cabinet member Rachel Reeves is the latest addition to Labour's Fembot range

After last night’s edition of Newsnight, its new editor, Simon Katz – who, drearily, used to work for the Guardian – replied to a congratulatory tweet with one of his own: “Tnks ... except for boring snoring rachel reeves…” Unfortunately, Katz hit the wrong button, and the tweet was publicly viewable. This earned him a terse one word reply from "boring snoring" Ms Reeves herself: “Thanks”.

I was reminded of my time running a political TV talk show just before the 1997 election, when Peter Mandelson’s highly disciplined Labour Party machine (he ruled it with a rod of iron, apparently) took to sending us a succession of fantastically boring female parliamentary candidates, usually with some thug of a male press office minder to make sure his animatronic charge didn't malfunction: while other guests chatted relaxedly, the Labour pair would sit in a corner of the room, going through briefing notes. Naturally, when the "women" got on air they were as animated as coma victims as they trotted out what Michael Gove memorably characterised as “standard political boilerplate, fashioned by the Labour whips’ office”.

I’ve always suspected that the descent of parliamentary politics into anti-democratic euro-blandness began in the run-up to Labour’s 1997 victory. Not, of course, that most British politicians weren’t as dull as ditchwater before then. But Labour, with it’s legion of dead-eyed, script-spouting fembots, turned an absence of genuine emotion and a refusal to engage in anything vaguely resembling political debate, into a powerful electoral weapon – British voters were effectively bored into submission.

Rachel Reeves is just the latest version of the Standard Labour Female Robot to roll off the assembly line. When the first version (known as the AH – or Almost Human – range) was rolled out nearly two decades ago, many members of the public were fooled into believing they were seeing and hearing actual flesh and blood politicians. The very fact that the Labour’s unofficial name for the latest model is the “YaddaYaddah” suggests the party realises it needs to go back to the drawing board. Rachel Reeves may find herself being recalled to be replaced by a model that looks and sounds as if it knows what it’s saying and actually believes it.

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