How Sir Kier Starmer Got His New Labour Mojo Back!

Sometimes, in order to go forward, you must first take a step back.  Back to where it all began.  He hadn’t been to this place for more than two decades.   But it was here where he had come-of-age.  Here where he had discovered the true power of the ‘force’ – learned how to tread the mystical path of the ‘third way’.

Back then, this great chamber had been a place of celebration; vast numbers of ecstatic people swaying to the beat of a great electoral triumph, colourful banners fluttering their victory reds – Cool Britannia celebrities mingling with billionaire press barons.  The future had been bright; the future had been New Labour!

Now, though, he pushed through the large eroded doors only to be greeted with a chasm of darkness.  The great hall was dank and empty except for the overturned tables, a few broken, lonely chairs, a single torn poster splayed across the floor – its slogan written out in thin, ghastly lines of dried blood:

‘1997. New Labour, New Hope’.

The air is heavy with moisture and decay; already he feels his lungs transforming into these sluggish wet bags within his chest, that feeling of choking on the damp.   And that’s when he hears it.  At first he thinks it might be a projection of his own distraught, devastated brain.   But gradually the sound clarifies, becomes distinct.  It is the sound of singing, the sound of song.  From far away.  A song crooned out from another time.

‘Thinnngggsss.  Can only get better…Yeah…things…can only get better…now I’ve found you!

The haunting music wafts across the dead air and causes the hairs on Sir Kier Starmer’s neck to prickle in the gloom.

Instinctively, involuntarily, he reaches up; his fingers furtive and hungry – he fondles the great quiff which has been erected on top of his head, lacquered into its eternal form with the most expensive hair gel money can buy.  He fondles that vast grey wave set into its thick, brittle mould, because it feels hard and solid and permanent.  It reminds him that perhaps not everything is lost.

He strokes his haircut, the most expensive haircut of any Labour leader since Harold Wilson.  Even Brown’s great shaggy Scottish mane hadn’t achieved this kind of durability. Fingering his hairline, he feels the throb of his heart begin to slow and quieten.   Sir Kier Starmer is calm again.

There is a flash within the darkness.  The great projector screen at the front of the auditorium suddenly flickers into ghostly life, and Sir Starmer looks up in alarm.  The image starts to sharpen; he watches agog as the gigantic, thousand-foot face hoves into view; those familiar sharp pegged teeth, the unnaturally bright eyes tinged with a pinprick of red at their centres.

Sir Keir Starmer watches as Tony Blair’s demonic grin takes shape from within the black.  All at once the hyper, furtive, wheedling voice of the great leader in his heyday begins to peel across the room, coaxing, inviting.

‘I believe in Britain…I believe in the British people…One cross on the ballot paper… One nation was reborn.’

Those same pregnant pauses, that same unnatural brightness of tone.  Suddenly Starmer feels a rage gush out of him, a rage born of hopelessness and betrayal.    With a desperate scream, he throws himself down before the thousand-foot image of Blair’s grinning visage.   Starmer’s voice is ragged within the darkness.

‘I did everything you asked, my liege.  I did all the things you commanded.  Terrible things.  Unspeakable things.   I slaughtered all the Corbynites. I buried their allies alive. I sexually violated their forefathers. I even desecrated the graves of their children.  But…but the public, they still don’t see me.  The beast who has slouched his way toward Number Ten has the mark of Eton on his forehead, and 100,000 dead souls flickering in his eyes.  But he is still higher in the polls.  It’s like…it’s like I don’t even exist!’

But Blair’s grinning countenance remains insensible, the bland unconquerable ambition set into furtive, squinting eyes, blind and demented, lost to time.   A mechanical voice projected out from speakers locked into its eternal rhythms.

‘I believe in Britain…I believe in the British people…One cross on the ballot paper… One nation was reborn.’

At this point, Sir Kier Starmer begins to wonder if he does exist.  Does anything?   He touches his quiff, but there is nothing there.  He raises out his arm in front of him, only the limb is thin and translucent almost like a shadow.  Sir Kier Starmer realises that this is the end for him.  This is what it means to fade away, to die.  But can you really die if you never existed in the first place?

In that very moment another figure materialises from the shadow.  A sleek vulpine form with a powdered countenance and reptilian smile. Sir Starmer gasps

‘Lord Peter Mandelson.  But what on earth are you doing here?’

Mandelson’s smile widens, but there is a sadness there too.

‘I never left, Sir Kier.’

‘I don’t understand’, Kier Starmer blurts out, ‘I don’t know what any of this means!’

‘Yes you do,’ says Lord Peter Mandelson, softly, with that same touch of melancholy regret.  ‘You know.  You have always known!’

Sir Kier Starmer blinks out in anxiety.

‘Just listen to the voice, his voice’, Mandelson soothes.

In the background, Blair’s speech is still running.

‘I believe in Britain…I believe in the British people…One cross on the ballot paper… One nation was reborn.’

Sir Starmer listens… he really listens.

Gradually his muscles unclench, his whole body relaxes, even his quiff seems momentarily slacker.  Then his eyes begin to cloud over; thin films of grey – the same colour as his skin, his hair, his well-tended suit, his fingernails.    And when his words eventually arrive, these too are grey – monotonous syllables delivered into the gloom, bereft of form or life:

‘I believe in Britain…I believe in the British people…One cross on the ballot paper… One nation was reborn.’

Tony McKenna’s journalism has been featured by Al Jazeera, Salon, The Huffington Post, ABC Australia, New Internationalist, The Progressive, New Statesman and New Humanist. His books include Art, Literature and Culture from a Marxist Perspective (Macmillan), The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine: A Political Account of Joseph Stalin (Sussex Academic Press), Toward Forever: Radical Reflections on History and Art  (Zero Books), The War Against Marxism: Reification and Revolution (Bloomsbury) and The Face of the Waters (Vulpine). He can be reached on twitter at @MckennaTony