Looking at the recent pictures of Mark Carney at this year’s Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, I had the feeling that I had once again missed a memo. I find it stealing over me increasingly often these days. In this particular case, I thought I’d missed the memo about the looming post-Brexit economic meltdown having been averted. A bit like I thought I must have missed the memo about the Labour leadership crisis having been unexpectedly rapidly solved when I saw the pictures Tom Watson was uploading of himself at Glastonbury. Otherwise, I mused, he’d be in Westminster as the party of opposition started to buckle under the strain of events that were suddenly even further from being sorted than even the most pessimistic of us had dreamed. But I hadn’t. There were, alas, no memos.
Now comes the news that Ed Balls has signed up for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing and again, I am casting about for the paperwork that might explain why the former shadow chancellor and one time Labour leadership contender will soon be prancing about in Lycra
I don’t know about you, but when there’s a big thing going on at work, I generally find it’s a bit of an ‘all hands to the pumps’ type situation. Maybe even a ‘we don’t quite need your hand at this exact minute, but could you please be around so we can call on you to help out in an emergency or pick up the slack created by all these people whose hands we do need, y’get me?’ type situation. And that’s just ordinary work. If your work is not ordinary but defined as ‘managing the British economy’ or ‘being high up in a political party with responsibility for providing a check to the excess power of the ruling elite’ or ‘similar’ – well, to be honest, I expect you to nut up.
We are living in turbulent times. Could you not, guys, over the next few months or so, manage with the traditional discreet nip of whisky at your desk and then, maybe, crack on with the necessary country ’n’ money-running stuff?
If not, then FFS, could you please maintain the bare minimum of decency and not publicly desert your posts to go to music festivals or star in reality shows. I’m asking at this point for the mere illusion of statesmanship. My hopes reach no higher than your willing pretence that you take your jobs seriously. I’d like the illusion maintained that you understand that being governor of the Bank of England, say, is a big deal and that many people’s livelihoods and happiness depend on you in a way that they don’t on most of us. And I’d like you, as a result, to occasionally sigh resignedly and hand over your ticket or refuse the generous appearance fee because you know that the time’s not right. That it would look bad. That it would induce more anxiety and anger in already anxious and enraged folk and that, though it may not appear in so many words on the job description, part of your role is to avoid that.
People to whom we look – or would like to look – to for guidance and to help us fend off the malevolent goblins of fear forever swarming up our backs and hissing in our ears need to be more circumspect in how they take their ease (and outside fees). Mood increasingly matters. At the moment, it’s not enough to just do your ‘top job’ – though again, WE’D TAKE THAT – you need to be seen to be doing it too.
Which is to say – if I see a glitter-flecked Jeremy Corbyn anywhere near the Notting Hill carnival this weekend, I’m going to burn this country to the ground.
Photography: Ellis Parrinder, Rex