Quote of the Week!

Coming all the way from Idaho

Thank you to the Idaho Press-Tribune for publishing this story of a night-time encounter between a car and an elephant. It's pretty wonderful.

Bill Carpenter, driving with his wife through the darkness, nearly hit an elephant:

"Didn't have time to hit the brakes. The elephant blended in with the road," driver Bill Carpenter said Thursday. "At the very last second I said, 'Elephant!' "

The elephant blended in with the road? Really? I don't know if I'm convinced by the road-being-a-perfect-camouflage-for-an-elephant theory. But even better is the random screaming of "Elephant!" and hoping for the best. As though if you identify something, it will move. Anyway, it continues:

"So help me Hanna, had I hit that elephant, not swerved, it would have knocked it off its legs, and it would have landed right on top of us," he said. "We'd have been history."

No, Hanna is not his wife. I'm not sure who Hanna is. But I did find this. And this. But that's distracting us from the matter in hand.

Carpenter joked about being involved in such a bizarre accident on what is usually a peaceful church night.

"I don't know what was in the wine, but it must have been pretty strong," he said.

Ah, the church wine. Of course. Elephant-inducing.

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.