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Great Britain, the dumbest MP contest is back. But who will get your vote? | Marina hyde

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When I first started in the Diary section of this journal (still this millennium, but only barely), we had an ongoing competition called Stupidest MP, which was designed to celebrate the less brilliant minds in Westminster. So many memories – too much to choose from, in some ways. But Archie Hamilton, then a Tory member of Epsom and Ewell and former chair of the 1922 committee, was a perennial candidate. The newspaper had previously contacted Sir Archie to ask if he would take an intelligence test, which he had tentatively – and even bizarrely – agreed to, as long as others were doing it with him. Unfortunately, what one might politely call a “peer group” could not be found for a few years.

But that all changed when news emerged of a “talking” chimpanzee named Panbanisha who resided at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. A call to the Hamilton office was immediately made. When he came to the phone, Sir Archie was asked if he had seen the stories about this creature. He had? Very good. In which case: would he be ready to participate in an intelligence test against the chimpanzee? Very sadly, Sir Archie declined the opportunity, forcing the Journal to make a subsequent appeal to the Conservative Central Office. “We can’t tell him ‘You have to do it’,” worried a press officer on the spot. “If it’s something he feels he couldn’t do well, we can’t do it.” Understood. Did she have any other suggestions? “What about a member of our educational team? There’s Theresa May… ”

When Archie announced his retirement as an MP – he’s now in the House of Lords, obviously – we called his office again to arrange a suitable tribute. Would he finally do the animal kingdom the honor of passing the test, only this time against a mynah bird? “Are you serious?” his agent wondered. Yes. We have the bird waiting. There was a ruminative pause. “Look, I don’t think this is Archie’s cup of tea. We are conservatives, you see. We have certain properties.

I guess the purpose of this long preamble is to pose the question: does anyone have a mynah handy? If not, does anyone have a chimpanzee, talking or otherwise? For while Archie brought his brain to the Lords, his spirit lives in the Commons. In fact, there would have been two very strong candidates this week for the Dumbest Member of Parliament, coming from opposite sides of the house.

We will begin with a catchy Westminster-themed speech on International Human Day, which has long been the occasion to bring out the cream of the parliamentary intelligentsia. Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher introduced himself as one of their own, who gave a neuron-killing speech about a masculinity crisis. “Everywhere … there seems to be a call from a tiny, but very vocal minority, that every male character or good role model needs to have a female replacement,” Nick explained. “Just consider the discussions around who will play the next James Bond.” Not really – it will be a man, but keep going. “In recent years we’ve seen Doctor Who, the Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker, and the Equalizer all replaced by women, and the men ended up with the Krays and Tommy Shelby.” I think he’ll find out that they’re mostly on TikTok and doesn’t care anyway. But it’s the extrapolation that is really special: “Is it any wonder that we see so many young men committing crimes? Nick would later call this “a rather nuanced point”, to which the only possible retort is: no. Incorrect.

Anyway, let’s move on to Labor’s Jon Trickett, who on Monday detected in Boris Johnson’s shambolic and motley collapse, not just a strategy, but a complex and brilliant one. “Peppa Pig,” explained Jon, “Was a media distraction to disguise the transfer from your NHS to private health.” Oh dear. Please, not the “dead cat”. I don’t know if you can technically kill a dead cat, but if that phrase were to be deprived of the ability to appear in British political discourse again, that would be very beneficial.

Alas, among a certain breed of political observers, the mention of dead cats has become almost a reflex. Everything is a dead cat for something else, and there must always be some invisible play at work. The dead cat is a close ally of other conspiratorial assumptions that strengthen those who are simply unable to accept that the political upheavals of recent years were not largely the work of the Russians, or Cambridge Analytica, or from any other hidden master of the wicked manipulating the poor, stupid voters. Maybe these things made a little difference. But the alternative, and in my opinion correct, the reading is that the UK basically armed everything / broke free on its own. With low level support, yes, but all the pieces were already there. And yet, in many political tribes, this is seen as incredibly simplistic, possibly due to a personal inability to face the fact.

In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, dead cats are just a story people like to tell – maybe to look smarter, but more likely just to feel better. As a longtime Jeremy Corbyn supporter, you can fully understand why Trickett needs to think that some sort of evil mastery underlay Johnson’s Peppa collapse: the alternative is to face the harsh reality that people actually preferred THIS GUY to her boyfriend. Which, let’s face it, is quite revealing.

All in all, then, an impressive week for Stupidest MP, a hugely revivable competition for which we may have to start offering prizes. Lucky to be restarted with a female mynah bird? Or the opportunity to compete in an intelligence test with a dead cat?


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