Smith and Eagle to form “Smeagle” alliance

Former Labour leadership candidate Angela Eagle has announced she is to join forces with Owen Smith and campaign together under the name ‘Smeagle’.

Political analyst Andrew Marragorn said: “It’s an epic tale.

“Smeagle is driven by a burning desire to retrieve the Labour leadership, which has accidentally ended up in the hands of a mild-mannered hobbit called Bilbo Corbins.

“Corbins is one of the little people – he was never supposed to wield power like this, and he doesn’t know how to control it.

At a press conference, Eagle said: “As Smeagle, we will retain two distinct voices. Owen will frolic around gaining people’s trust, being suspiciously friendly and telling everyone what they want to hear.

“I will sneak around in the darkness, doing underhand things like registering campaign websites several days before I regretfully resign on principle.”

Eagle then hissed at the four journalists who had actually turned up, before crouching on the floor, eating a fish and muttering “fifth collum, collum, collum”.

Smith and Eagle hope to unite the centre and right wings of the Labour party under the slogan “One wing to rule them all”, while protecting the leadership from both the Dark Lord Blairon and the bloodthirsty creatures of Mor-mentum.

Should Smeagle’s campaign to unseat Corbins prove unsuccessful, a concession speech is already believed to have been drafted:

“The precious! The Corbins stole it from us! Thief! Thief! We hates it forever!!!”

The Trident debate: a brief introduction to the nuclear deterrent

Nuclear weapons have a unique ability to divide people. Specifically, they have the ability to divide people into lots of much-smaller bits of people. And when it comes to the renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons systems, opinion is split much the same way as the atom was first split a century ago – violently, recklessly, and with no-one really thinking too hard about the consequences.

In Westminster, the Conservatives and a significant proportion of the Labour party have voted in favour of replacing the submarines that carry the UK’s Trident nukes, arguing that giving up our weapons would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight. The SNP, Plaid Cwmry and the remainder of the Labour party, including Jeremy Corbyn, oppose renewing the nuclear subs. They say that keeping nukes is more like bringing a tiger to a gunfight. Expensive, unnecessary, and guaranteed to end up with everybody dead.

Corbyn has even said that if he were Prime Minister he would never use nukes, even in self-defence. This makes some sense – the only time he might use them would be if we were all effectively dead anyway – but it slightly undermines the concept of a deterrent. It’d be like telling a naughty child “If you don’t behave right now, I swear I will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”

Renewing Trident could now cost anything from 40bn to £205bn – campaigners say this money could pay for 120 hospitals and 150,000 new nurses, or 1.5m affordable homes. Alternatively, if we wanted a genuine deterrent to foreign powers, we could spend the money on a magnificent 800-metre high golden statue of a nude and priapic Michael Gove to stand proudly on the white cliffs of Dover.

Cost has been an issue from the beginning of the British nuclear programme. In the early 1950s, rationing was still in effect in the UK, and some questioned how we could justify spending vast sums of public money on doomsday weapons we never intended to use, at a time when citizens were queuing in the streets for food. Of course, everything is completely different today.

Safety of nuclear weapons is another concern, after decades of fires, crashes and dropped clangers. Barely a week seems to have gone by in the 1950s without some hapless GI wheeling a city-incinerating missile to a plane while whistling the Laurel and Hardy theme tune in giddy anticipation of some top-notch slapstick.

In the early days, the computers controlling global nuclear stockpiles had slightly less processing power than a modern-day electric toothbrush. Likewise, the soldiers guarding the warheads also seem to have had slightly less common sense than a modern-day electric toothbrush.

The UK no longer conducts nuclear testing, after controversial early British nuclear experiments in Australia threw up large amounts of radioactive dust. This was the only time in history that Australians were ever unhappy after welcoming a team of Englishmen for a series of tests and getting to keep the ashes afterwards.

Today, the UK’s nuclear threat is submarine-based, making it hard for enemies to detect or target our weapons. In fact, they are so difficult to detect that in 2009 a British nuclear-armed submarine crashed into a French one in the middle of the Atlantic. The government described this as an isolated incident and, to be fair, you can’t get much more isolated than floating around in the middle of an empty ocean and still managing to crash into something else that’s also carrying nuclear warheads.

Despite incidents like this, the navy are seen as reliable custodians for our nuclear arsenal. Because if we must amass world-destroying weapons, who could be better emotionally suited to control them than someone trapped for months in a claustrophobic tin can, traversing a hostile environment without contact from the outside world? What could possibly go wrong?

Bringing us back to the present, the main purpose of today’s vote was not really about a debate. It was about embarrassing an unstable Labour party on the verge of meltdown.

The Conservatives are taking a leaf out of Ernest Rutherford’s book from a century ago. By firing a stream of charged emotions at a wafer-thin sheet of consensus, they hope to successfully split the Labour party. The chain reaction could drastically alter the political environment, and the poisonous fallout could take years to clean up.

Two weeks on: I can just about face thinking about the election now

It’s been two weeks now since the UK voted overwhelmingly* for five years of a majority Conservative government. We’ve chosen to spend our next five years with our balls in a crocodile’s mouth, because it promised it totally, definitely won’t bite this time like it did all those other times. Still, the crocodile looks majestic eating a bacon sandwich, and that is clearly what really matters.

Terrifyingly, some 13% of electorate in the UK voted UKIP, and 14% in England. This means that more than one in eight voters plumped for a party whose entire manifesto consisted of the phrase “bLAmE FoRRinnERs” written over and over in crayon, Winnie-The-Pooh-style handwriting, with several of the letters written backwards.

Labour’s defeat has prompted the traditional soul-searching. Various Blairites have clambered atop their piles of money with loudhailers to announce that the party lost because it was insufficiently “aspirational” or “pro-business”. Presumably they felt that the demographic of very wealthy ex-Cabinet Ministers and political advisers was not sufficiently represented in politics.

Ultimately, the result seems to have come down to the perception of Ed Miliband as someone unfit to be Prime Minister. This may well have been an accurate perception, although unfitness to govern for reasons of incompetence, megalomania or a total indifference to human life hasn’t stopped any other Prime Minister in my lifetime. But it’s hard to escape the role the media played in the campaign. They just stopped short of mocking up a picture of Ed Miliband dancing on the grave of Princess Diana with Madeleine McCann under his arm, but you suspect only after much heated debate on the pictures desks.

The hatchet jobs on any credible party even a fraction to the left of centre (or insufficiently right of centre) will be something Labour has to work out how to counter if they are ever to regain power, as massive right-wing bias seems to be the price we have to pay for enjoying a free media. Privately-owned media outlets almost inevitably accumulate into the hands of a very small number of very wealthy people. As such, newspapers will tend to support whichever party seems best to represent the interests of paranoid elderly billionaires, and decry anything less than total subservience as the bastard spawn of Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro and Vlad the Impaler.

Meanwhile, as we await the apocalypse, the new Tory Cabinet has been announced. John Whittingdale, who hates the BBC, has been named Culture and Media Secretary; Michael Gove, who doesn’t believe in human rights, has been named Minister for Justice, and Jeremy Hunt, who believes in homeopathy and co-authored a book claiming the NHS is “no longer relevant” remains as Health Minister. Presumably the Science Minister believes dinosaur fossils are a test from God, the transport minister believes in flying carpets and the Foreign Secretary flatly denies the existence of Norway.

Still, the people* have spoken, and that’s what we’ve got for five years. I just hope that when they realise what they’ve done, anyone who voted Tory has a severe word with themselves. Preferably a very short, very rude word.

* just under 11,500,000 people voted Tory, from a UK population of around 64,000,000, or a little under 18% of the populace. Included in this figure are children who can’t vote, because it makes the proportion look smaller and therefore makes me feel better. And anyway, it’s their generation who’ll have no schools or hospitals left, so let the toddlers speak! But let me interpret.