It's tough love as Frank Field rounds on Jeremy Corbyn over EU stance

He had come to praise Corbyn, not to bury him.

Frank Field looked up, almost diffidently. He had come to the headquarters of the leave campaign with a speech ready written. But now the moment had come he didn’t really feel like giving it. What he actually wanted to do was to just have a quiet informal chat and get a few things that had been bothering him off his chest. He tossed his notes aside and began to speak from the heart.

“I love Jeremy,” he said, trying to catch sight of his reflection in the window to check he really meant it. He did, he did. A hint of moisture gathered in his eye and his voice caught. Hell, he didn’t just love Jeremy, he absolutely adored him and he didn’t care who knew it. His was the love that dared to speak its name. To those who were calling for the Labour party to mount a challenge to its leader, he had only one thing to say: “What therefore God hath brought together, let not man put asunder.”

Some people have a strange way of expressing their love, as an impartial bystander could have been forgiven for thinking Nice Frank had just spent the last hour rubbishing the object of his affection. Yes, it was possible Corbyn had undergone a Pauline conversion and was now fully committed to the EU cause and far be it from him to impute motive. Nice Frank called for a bowl and washed his hands carefully.

“But…” he choked. “But Jeremy has just written the second longest suicide note in the history of the Labour party by coming out in favour of the remain campaign.” By ignoring the concerns of ordinary white working class Labour voters over immigration and driving them into the arms of Ukip, Corbyn had in effect consigned his party to decades in the political wilderness. At this point several Conservative members of the pro-Brexit audience let out an involuntary cheer – maybe Corbyn wasn’t such a bad bloke after all – before quickly realising that this wasn’t quite the response Nice Frank had in mind.

Nice Frank squeezed out an indulgent smile. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Such was the depth of his forgiveness, Nice Frank clean forgot the logic of his position. Labour – like the Tories – was split regardless of what position the leadership decided to take over Europe, so Corbyn was bound to alienate some people. Unless, that is, he had decided to write the longest suicide note in the party’s history by saying it wasn’t really bothered one way or the other which way anyone voted in the referendum. All Corbyn had done was align himself to the majority position.

But Nice Frank didn’t want to dwell on this. Nor did he want to dwell on the fact that the largest trade unions had come out in favour of remaining in the EU. Far better that thousands of people were put at risk of losing their jobs than that one extra Polish immigrant was allowed into the country.

Where there was despair, let him bring hope. Nice Frank was big on hope. In fact he had little else to offer. He hoped Europe would offer Britain a decent trade deal but if it didn’t, some nifty currency trading should be able to offset any increased tariffs on British exports. Fingers crossed.

Better than hope, he had faith. “We have some leading world statesmen to negotiate for Britain,” he insisted. As Nice Frank was equally adamant that David Cameron and George Osborne would be dead ducks after the referendum, he can only have been thinking of an unholy alliance of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, George Galloway and Michael Gove. And possibly Kate Hoey.

The prayer of St Frank of Assisi: “Where there was hope, let him bring despair. Where there was light, let him bring darkness.”

As if on cue, there was a power cut.

Powered by article was written by John Crace, for The Guardian on Tuesday 26th April 2016 19.23 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010