Sarah Palin the stand-up comic

And, stop the press, she confirms the tomato saga.


Sarah Palin's post-political life has been full of twists and packed with new undertakings -- the book, the Fox appointment, the Tea Party speech -- but none is more welcome than this: please welcome, on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Sarah Palin the stand-up comedian!

"At last!" the world cries. Because Jon Stewart was getting tired. And Chris Rock is frankly out of touch. A little Palin humour will put us right back in touch with our proverbial funny bone. Hell, I hand it to the woman for standing up and telling some jokes.

She even gets her own back at Tina Fey. But she mangles the Congress one, and health care suffers from the delivery. And as for the (I'm summarising) our-faces-are-frozen-in-Alaska-because-it's-cold-not-because-of-Botox one, the laughter is on some kind of time lag. Clearly the audience needed a heavy prompt: ("Laugh, numbskulls, this woman likes guns!").

Also, listen carefully to the noise she makes as she comes on stage -- what is that?

Anyway, the big news is that Palin confirms the tomato-throwing saga. But at this point she really kills the comedy, by uttering the immortal words: "It's not funny, it's true." The first rule of comedy club: don't tell people it's not funny.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.