If Barry Gardiner lasts for a thousand years, men will still say “These were his finest hours”:
- The time he compared his own wife to Seamus Heaney in an accidentally-not-anonymous Amazon review. This genuinely happened. Her poetry is, we gather, “beautiful, funny, uplifting and tragically moving”.
- Becoming the most unexpected rescuer of the Corbyn project in July 2016. After yet another bout of Labour frontbenchers quit, the Corbynites faced a real challenge: was there anyone left who was a) willing to serve as a Shadow Minister, b) willing to do so with at least some degree of obedience to the leader, and c) even vaguely competent in Parliament or on television. And lo, strode forth Barry Gardiner. For a former David Miliband supporter, who had thought Gordon Brown wasn’t a good enough leader, to back Corbyn came as a shock to various of his current and former colleagues (I recall one calling him a “tw*t” as a result), and gave great succour to the embattled left. John McDonnell hailed him as a “hero of our movement”, and he’s never looked back.
- The leaf leaflet with his face stuck on it.No, actually:
- When he coined the term “vassal state” to describe a failure to properly escape the EU, customs union and single market, much to the gratitude of the Brexiteers. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had cause to revisit this masterful article by Gardiner, published in The Guardian in July 2017. In it, he made the democratic and pragmatic case for a proper, clean Brexit, with a clarity which even some life-long Leavers have failed to achieve. And while people often credit Jacob Rees-Mogg with the phrase, he was first to term continued EU control of our laws and money as the subjugation normally experienced by a “vassal state”.
- His increasingly precarious dance to fit his position with Corbyn’s on “a” but not “the” customs union ever since. The Labour leader’s habit of slowly fudging and shifting his policy has made life an ever-more-trying game of Twister for Gardiner, as seen here.
- When Susanna Reid spotted the Remain sticker on his iPad, seconds after he had made the case for Brexit as a democrat. Oops.
- Last night’s leak, on the Good Friday Agreement – in which he was recorded arguing, quite fairly, that the Irish border issue had been “played up” by “some people”. More controversially, he dismissed concerns that “a normal border relationship when one party is no longer in the EU will bring back paramilitary activity”, and most controversially of all used the term “shibboleth” to refer to the GFA. He has since clarified the remarks and kept his job, though a variety of pro-EU and anti-Corbyn Labour MPs are furious.
- This afternoon’s leak, in which he was recorded describing his own Party’s central Brexit policy as “Bollocks.” No sooner had he apologised over the previous bullet point, a new recording was released from the same event in which he summed up Keir Starmer’s beloved tests for Brexit like so: “Bollocks. Always has been bollocks and it remains it.” It’s a measure of his status as “hero of our movement” that he looks like he might well survive even this new row. The Labour Party’s official spokesman has simply said “Barry Gardiner fully supports” the tests – even though the whole story is that Gardiner is on record saying the opposite out loud.
- And, last but far from least, his secret talent as a concert-level virtuoso whistler. As Andrew Neil revealed, with a quickfire whistle-this-tune challenge on the Daily Politics. Enjoy:
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 28, 2018