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Opinion | ’50 Shades of Beige’: Meet Britain’s New Prime Minister

Sorry. Sorry I’m late. Sorry I’m late. I haven’t been to bed yet. Wahey! No, I haven’t been partying. I’ve been working. I’m a professional. Unlike American news organizations, I think you’ll find here in the UK that we journalists are a little bit more even-keeled. Wahey! Oh, God. Good. Let’s do this. After 14 years of Conservative rule, the Labour Party won the British general election this morning in a landslide, handing the Tories their worst-ever defeat — I’m sorry. I’m just going to do that again without a smile on my face. Sorry. I’m a professional. (PHONE RINGING) Well, the results are still coming in. Hey. Dum, dum, dum, another one’s kicking the bucket. It’s a bloodbath. It’s an absolute bloodbath. For six weeks now, election fever has gripped the UK. On the whole, it’s all very dull and predictable. A man with no coat getting wet in the rain versus a man falling into water versus a man with a bin on his head. You know, the usual. But the people have spoken. Meet our new Prime Minister. Yes, it’s Fifty Shades of Beige, Captain White Bread, Sir Keir Starmer. “Change starts now.” Never heard of him? Don’t worry, neither have we. If he were a vegetable, he’d be a potato. But a bit boring and dull is just what the doctor ordered. That is, if you can find a doctor in the UK who isn’t on strike for a fair and decent wage. (PHONE DING) Oh. This is brutal. This is like the opening to “Saving Private Ryan.” I’d almost feel sorry for them — if they weren’t truly awful people. This morning’s Labour landslide bucks an international trend, a resounding rejection of right-wing populism — sort of. Yeah. While countries like Italy, Hungary, France and Germany have passionate love affairs with right-wing populism, and in America you seriously consider giving it a second chance, here in the UK we have had a violent relationship with populism for a number of years. It started in 2008, when the unregulated greed of investment bankers brought western economies to their knees. The Tories came to power in 2010. And Prime Minister David Cameron declared: “We are all in this together”, before imposing brutal austerity measures on the country’s poorest people. Resentment and anger took hold. And populism thrives on little else. Then Brexit, which gave all the fringe voices in British politics a mainstream platform from which to promise the world without fear of ever having to deliver. That’s how populism works. It promises the moon, but instead it gives you a DVD copy of “Apollo 13”. Soon the Looney Tunes who sold us the idea in the first place were running the asylum. First we had Emperor Palpatine’s cleaner, Theresa May. She knew Brexit was shit, but she went along with it anyway. And she didn’t last long. Then Boris Johnson, populism on steroids, a man whose modus operandi is shameless lying and wild incompetence, while looking like he’s combed his hair with a (FUCKING) kettle. Then Liz Truss, populism on smack, with £45bn of unfunded tax cuts for the very rich, which quickly crashed the economy, sent the pound plummeting and sent everyone’s mortgages through the roof. It wasn’t so much trickle-down Reaganomics — more (FUCKING) down from a great high-onomics. She only lasted six weeks. (PHONE RINGING) Oh, Liz Truss, former Prime Minister, just lost her seat. Good to see her go! And just when you thought you were running out of privileged, incompetent idiots to run the country, along came multimillionaire hedge fund manager Rishi Sunak, the UK’s richest ever Prime Minister. We had finally come full circle, with Britain ruled by economic terrorists and disaster capitalists, enabled by a political class of con men and ambulance chasers, blaming immigrants and poor people for all the country’s woes, while sucking every last bit of marrow from the bare bones of the rotting corpse of the state. Fourteen years of Tory populism and austerity, and what have we got to show for it? The British economy has ground to a halt. Real wages are lower than they were a decade ago. A third of British children live in relative poverty. And there are more food banks than McDonald’s. Our health service is in ruins, our social care system is in ruins, and rapists are being spared from jail because the prisons are full. I mean, this is an extinction event for the Tories. It’s a bit like a really bad “Jurassic Park” movie — a bit like the last “Jurassic Park” movie. So while Keir Starmer may be as charismatic as a lukewarm block of unseasoned tofu, going back to a centrist, socially left, fiscally right party run by a potato feels like a radical change. Boring is the new radical. Unradical is the new radical. The truth is, Starmer can’t be radical. There’s no money left. But not promising things you know you can’t deliver is itself a rejection of populism. Unfortunately, Labour promises nothing at all. Reading Labour’s manifesto is about as inspiring as forgetting to bring your phone and having to poop while reading the back of a bottle of bleach. Labour’s tax and spending promises are minuscule, less than even the Tories promised. And therein lies the problem. When the system fails the people, the people support politicians who promise to tear it down. Enter stage right: Nigel Farage, about as trustworthy as an unlicensed butcher. You may have heard him speak at Donald Trump’s rallies. Farage has been a unique stench in British politics for a number of years. His Reform Party may have won only a handful of seats last night, but Farage has already anointed himself unofficial leader of the opposition, with many pundits saying he could be our next prime minister before our new prime minister has even sat down at his desk and picked up a pen. Starmer needs to beware, as do the likes of Joe Biden. Simply not being the other man isn’t enough. If Starmer can’t turn the tide, quickly, pull our public services back from the brink of collapse while putting more money in the pockets of working people, populists will be ready to take over again in five years’ time. Keir Starmer may be a step in the right direction, or he may just be a stay of execution. If that’s the case, the UK political landscape has never looked so bleak. Well, that’s depressing. I was in a good mood when I got here.

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