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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 gone to bed yet. Wahey! No, I haven’t been partying. I’ve been working. I’m a professional. Unlike American news organisations, here in the UK, I think you’ll find us journalists to be a bit more balanced. Wahey! Oh, God. All right. Let’s do this. After 14 years of Conservative rule, the Labour Party has resoundingly won the UK election this morning, leaving the Conservatives with their worst defeat ever. Sorry. I’m going to do it again without a smile on my face. Sorry. I’m a professional. (PHONE SOUNDBITE) Well, the results keep coming. Hey. Dum, dum, dum, another one bites the dust. It’s a bloodbath. It’s an absolute bloodbath. For six weeks, election fever has hit the UK in general, all very dull and predictable. A man without a coat getting wet in the rain, a man falling into the water, a man putting 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, we haven’t either. If he were a vegetable, he’d be a potato. But a bit of boredom is exactly what the doctor ordered. That is if you can find a doctor in the UK who isn’t on strike for fair and decent pay. (PHONE RINGS) Oh. This is brutal. It’s like the beginning of “Saving Private Ryan.” I’d almost feel sorry for them, if they weren’t really awful people. The Labour Party’s landslide victory this morning goes against an international trend, a resounding rejection of right-wing populism, more or less. Yes. While countries such as Italy, Hungary, France and Germany have passionate love affairs with right-wing populism, and in the US a second helping is being seriously considered, here in the UK we have been in an abusive relationship with it for some years. It began in 2008, when the unchecked greed of investment bankers brought Western economies to their knees. The Conservatives took power in 2010 and Prime Minister David Cameron declared: “We are all in this together”, before imposing brutal austerity on the country’s poorest. Resentment and anger took over. And populism thrives on nothing else. Then came Brexit, which gave all the marginal voices in British politics a mainstream platform on which to promise the world without fear that they would ever have to deliver. That’s how populism works: it promises the moon and instead 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 have Emperor Palpatine’s cleaner, Theresa May. She knew Brexit was crap, but she went along with it anyway. And it didn’t last long. Then Boris Johnson, populism on steroids, a man whose modus operandi is outright lies and unconscionable incompetence, while looking like he’s combed his hair with a teapot (EXPLETIVE). Then Liz Truss, populism on heroin, with £45bn of unfunded tax cuts for the richest, which promptly tanked the economy, tanked the pound and sent everyone’s mortgages soaring. It wasn’t so much trickle-down Reaganomics, but rather (EXPLETIVE) high-flying big economy. She lasted just six weeks in office. (PHONE RINGS) Oh, Liz Truss, former prime minister, just lost her seat. Good riddance! Then, just when we thought there would be no more incompetent, entitled morons to run the country, along came billionaire hedge fund manager Rishi Sunak, the richest prime minister in UK history. We had finally come full circle, with Britain run by economic terrorists and disaster capitalists, supported by a political class of grifters and fraudsters, who blame immigrants and the poor for all the country’s ills, while squeezing 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 do we have to show for it? The British economy has stagnated. 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 healthcare system is in tatters, our welfare system is in tatters, and rapists are getting away with it because the prisons are full. I mean, this is an extinction-level 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 about as charismatic as a lukewarm block of unseasoned tofu, going back to a centrist, socially center-left, fiscally center-right party run by a potato seems like a radical departure. 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 isn’t promising anything. Reading the Labour manifesto is about as inspiring as when you forget to take your phone with you and have to take a shit while reading the back of a bottle of bleach. Labour’s tax and spending promises are minuscule, less than even what the Tories promised. And therein lies the problem. When the system fails the people, the people support politicians who promise to burn it to the ground. Enter stage right: Nigel Farage, about as reliable as an unlicensed butcher. You may have seen him speaking at Donald Trump’s rallies. Farage has been an exceptionally bad smell in British politics for a few years. His reformist party may have only won a handful of seats last night, but Farage has already declared himself unofficial leader of the opposition, and many pundits say he could be our next prime minister before our new prime minister has sat down at his desk and taken out his pens. Starmer should be careful, as should people like Joe Biden. It is not enough to not be the other guy. If Starmer cannot turn the tide – and quickly – by saving our public services from the brink of collapse while putting more money into working people’s pockets, in five short years the populists will be ready to take over the country again. Keir Starmer may well be a step in the right direction, or he may simply represent a stay of execution. If so, the UK’s political landscape has never looked so bleak. Well, that’s depressing. I was in a good mood when I arrived here.