“The Long Good Friday” is perhaps the quintessential British gangster film (it’s only real competition being “Get Carter”). Bob Hoskins plays the lead role, that of a London gangster who is trying to move into mainstream business. Along the way, one of his lackeys gets into trouble with the IRA, stealing some money off of them and killing several members in a shootout. The IRA gets in touch with Hoskins to let him know they hold him personally responsible for the theft and the murders.
He tells them he’ll financially compensate the IRA at a meeting. Hoskins arrives with some of his guys and hands over the money to the paltry Irish contingent. Thinking he’s dealing with a bunch of mugs, Hoskins has his henchmen kill the IRA chaps, grabs his loot back and they depart the scene. This turns out to be, you may not be surprised to hear, a bad move. For though he and his London underworld associates are much more worldly wise than the IRA bunch who they end up the wrong side of, the Irishmen have one thing on their side that trumps everything else: ideological obsession. The fact that they are willing to do anything whatsoever to achieve their ends because they believe they are being willed on by God to do so and that the utopia of a united Ireland is worth any amount of pain and sacrifice. Hoskins and his associates’ simple worldly greed is no match for the religious fervour of their opponents.
Hoskins and his crew are like the right of the Labour Party at present. They know everything about political strategy and can run hoops around their foes on the Left in this regard. But the Left, like the IRA in the “The Long Good Friday”, has a pure ideological vision which makes them almost impossible to battle against. The right of Labour has at least figured out one thing Hoskins’ character never did, at least until it was far too late: that the fight is bound to be a losing one, so best to lay down arms and hope the other side does themselves in. The problem with this plan is obvious when you stop to think about it: the same ideological relentlessness that makes them impossible to defeat also makes it unlikely that they will self-destruct enough to allow anyone else into the equation. Also, if they do manage to do themselves in, they just might take the whole party with them, which leaves the right of the Labour Party without well, a Labour Party.
For those of you who think I’m being frivolous in comparing one of Britain’s two major political parties to some Bob Hoskins film from the 1980s, I have an example from this week that justifies me by demonstrating aptly the silliness of the age which we inhabit. The Scottish Labour Party decided at their conference to vote for a policy that would scrap the nuclear deterrent but – and this is the good part – provided defence workers are found alternative employment. Calling this student level politics does a very serious disservice to student level politics. This may well be the stupidest thing any group of people have ever voted for in the history of democracy. Do Scottish Labour members just have no idea of how jobs actually work? Then they were surprised when the GMB were none too pleased. So I think when put into that context, comparing it all to what is at least a classy film was perhaps me being too highbrow. Perhaps I should have attempted a From Justin to Kelly analogy instead.