The Labour Party is currently suffering a crisis. I’ll forget the fact this could have been written at any point during the past eighteen months and explain why. While ‘The People’s Party’ is doing its level best to elect a new leader, all it seems the previous incumbents want to do is hog the limelight. Tony Blair’s new book is out soon, although he was ordered to change the title from ‘The Journey’ to ‘A Journey’, presumably in case people were put off by the possibility of Blair quibbling on the merits of the 5.27 to Birmingham Central.
Meanwhile Labour’s leadership candidates jump up and down, trying to get the teacher’s attention. Ed Balls could promise to nationalise lap dancing clubs and he would only be given a cursory mention in the dailies while another New Labour apparatchik sells their story to the highest bidder.
Even the process of nominating MPs for the leadership contest remains a side issue, despite the frankly scandalous attempt to make sure Diane Abbott was on the bill for the hustings. Acting leader Harriet Harman declared she would stay neutral throughout the contest, except to vote for Abbott – a very strange kind of neutral if you ask me.
And everyone knows why she has been put through. She’s a vehemently socialist, black woman. She’d have more chance of leading the British branch of the Ku Klux Klan than ever be elected as Labour’s leader. The last time Labour was properly socialist, Human League were wondering why you don’t want me baby.
For all the talk in Labour circles of change and a shift of some kind to the left, Andy Burnham has been unashamedly staking his claim as the continuity candidate, which seems a bit odd considering recent election results. “Through a range of unpopular decisions and poor management, New Labour will strive to continue being distrusted by the public and score 29% in the next general election. Vote for me!”
Meanwhile, in coalition-land, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are set to be scrapped by the Home Secretary Theresa May – the one from Thunderbirds in a turquoise outfit reimagined as a Tory token woman politician – as the coalition government does its best to find other ways of ruining kids lives, aside from the usual mixture of cancelling school building projects and closing down libraries and youth centres in the name of fiscal austerity.
Introduced by a Labour Party desperate to be seen by the public as tough on crime, ASBOs were seen as an attempt to rid the streets of youthful nuisances. But the scheme quickly got out of hand after a slow uptake (just 241 were issued in the first year).
One extreme ASBO prohibited a woman from making excessive noise during sex, which must have been a dream for the Parole Officer. “Now, according to my instructions, in order for me to sign your probation sheet, you must show me how you have actively sought to reduce your noisy love-making. As we shag each other senseless, you must not scream above 85 decibels or you shall have breached the terms of your contract and will be taken to Wormwood Scrubs immediately”.
I want to hear the court case before she was banned from participating in noisy sex. “Your honour, Mrs. X has been consistently ignorant of her neighbours and I have the audio tapes to prove it!” The jurors, judge and witnesses all freeze in terror as the tape is played.
“Objection!” cries the defendant of the accused.
“Isn’t that the bit where you stand up and start waving bits of paper in feint outrage?” replies the prosecutor.
“Yes it is but, err… I can’t really stand up at the moment. Hold on, give me two minutes”. And everyone rolls their eyes and looks away, embarrassed.
Much is made by the tabloid press of how the ASBO is treated like a ‘badge of honour’, as if it’s something you can earn in the Girl Guides. “Mum, Mum, I’ve got another badge from Brown Owl! It’s my ASBO!” “Well done dear, how did you get that?” “First of all, I spat at Megan when she said I couldn’t have a biscuit. Then I took a plastic knife from the kitchen and hid it inside my shoes, just in case Pass the Parcel turned nasty”.
What will replace the ASBO? One idea that Theresa May is more than welcome to steal is to keep all the existing mechanisms of ASBOs as they are, but just shorten the acronym to BO (Behaviour Order). At a stroke, this will stop people being proud of their punishment. Yobs are hardly likely to strut around telling anyone that listens, “I have BO”. It would cramp their style.