I like to see good friends getting on as much as the next person. The sight of heads huddled in a cafe over a shared confidence, or peals of laughter ringing out on a train from a pair of besties on their way out for the day, does my heart good. But when those two close friends are BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, and right wing Labour MP Jess Phillips, and their friendly chat is being broadcast to millions of people during a crucial General Election campaign, it doesn’t have quite the same heart warming effect.
But that’s what I bore witness to on Newsnight last night. Best friends, Jess and Emily went for a nice stroll in the more affluent part of Jess’s constituency so Jess could knock on a few doors and be seen for the hardworking, down to earth but laugh-a-minute MP she purports to be. Then they returned to the TV studio, which may as well have been a local cafe where best friends often go for a nice chat over tea and cake, because all that was missing was the tea and cake.
They proceeded to have a cosy little chat about the leaked Labour manifesto and Jess, being the reasonable woman she is (rolls eyes), conceded it might prove a smidge helpful on the doorsteps, while I sat there seething and thinking, without Corbyn you’d be offering the electorate the same Tory Lite policies Labour have been offering them since the early 2000’s, driving them away in their droves. Emily gently asked her mate Jess, ‘So why is Jeremy Corbyn attracting such large crowds wherever he goes, but failing to attract voters around the country?’ This was a beautiful set up for bestie Jess to go for the goal. Salt of the earth Jess pulled the obligatory pained expression and replied something along the lines of, ‘well he’s always stuck in a positive feedback loop of people who support him,’ meaning he’s refusing to see the truth of how unpopular he really is. Then to try to inject some balance for show, Jess said the same was true of Theresa May.
This was the moment I knew for sure Jess and Emily were best friends with shared values and goals, not politican and interviewer, because at this point any interviewer with any professional integrity would have asked the following million dollar questions; questions I have yet to hear any interviewer on any tv channel or radio station ask any right wing Labour MP.
“Do you think the way you and your colleagues have spent the last 20 months openly and publicly denigrating Corbyn’s leadership at every available opportunity; writing about it in right wing newspapers, speaking of little else in TV and radio studios, tweeting about it, resigning over it, refusing to take up posts in his shadow cabinet because of it, forcing a second leadership contest to overthrow it, telling the public you can’t support it and can’t vote for it and want nothing whatsoever to do with it, is why you are hearing your own words about weak incompetent, hard-left leadership, mirrored back to you on the doorsteps? And when you do hear those words, do you get a warm fuzzy glow inside and think, wow haven’t I done well, or do you ever feel a pang of guilt knowing the biggest lag effect on Labour’s polling is Corbyn, and that’s largely because of your relentless and public acrimony? And if Labour do lose the General Election, will you and your colleagues take responsibility for the damage you did or will you pin the entire blame on Corbyn because it suits you to do so?”
But none of these questions were forthcoming just as they never are. I never got to see Jess made to squirm and no interviewer will ever make her or her faction squirm. That’s because they’re best friends, and they are ALL in it together!