Earlier this month the Belfast newspaper the Irish News had to issue an apology after quoting from the Twitter account “Ian Paisley MP.” It transpired that they had quoted from a parody account. The problem faced by the Irish News is that the allegations surrounding the Democratic Unionist Party are such that it is difficult to discern what is truth and what is parody: stories include the Renewable Heat Initiative, in which the more fuel farmers burned the more they were paid; and the sale of land valued at £75 million to an evangelical church for just £4 million.
Polemical politics invites parody. In a bizarre comment, the former health minister of Northern Ireland, Jim Wells declared he would not watch Strictly Come Dancing if it would mean watching a same-sex couple dancing, precipitating a flood of online comment on other reasons people might have for not watching one of the most popular programmes on television.
Truth stranger than parody is not confined to Northern Ireland. It has been an enduring feature of Left-wing politics. Radical politicians without a prospect of power have declared their support for revolutionary political stances. Left-wing groups have frequently quarrelled with each other regarding the precise details of a revolution that will never happen.
Among the sectarian splinters into which the Left is divided, none has been more certain of its own rightness than the Trotskyite element now determining the direction of the British Labour Party, the old Militant Tendency reinvented.
The Trotskyites have clung to the belief that their radical Left wing views can be the only correct understanding of society and their prescription for revolutionary change must be the best way forward for working people. The fact that the working classes have repeatedly decided that they don‘t actually want the Trotskyites, and have declined to vote for them, has been seen as further evidence of how right they had been in the first place – working class rejection of revolutionary politics has been because of “false consciousness” on the part of the workers. Working people who understood the truth would see the rightness of the cause and they need to be educated as to their own best interests. To deny Trotskyite arguments is simply to be absorbed by the same false consciousness that has enshrouded the workers.
It would be hard to write a parody stranger than the truth that now characterises the Labour Party; its complete denial of political reality. Lines written as parody capture a sense of the denial of reality. From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian:
JUDITH: I do feel, Reg, that any Anti-Imperialist group like ours must reflect such a divergence of interests within its power-base.
REG: Agreed. Francis?
FRANCIS: Yeah. I think Judith’s point of view is very valid, Reg, provided the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every man–
STAN: Or woman.
FRANCIS: Or woman… to rid himself–
STAN: Or herself.
FRANCIS: Or herself.
FRANCIS: Thank you, brother.
STAN: Or sister.
FRANCIS: Or sister. Where was I?
REG: I think you’d finished.
FRANCIS: Oh. Right.
REG: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man–
STAN: Or woman.
REG: Why don’t you shut up about women, Stan. You’re putting us off.
STAN: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our movement, Reg.
FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?
STAN: I want to be one.
STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me ‘Loretta’.
LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.
JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
LORETTA: I want to have babies.
REG: You want to have babies?!
LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
REG: But… you can’t have babies.
LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.
REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.
FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
REG: What’s the point?
REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.