Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Too Little, Too Soon in Labour Opera?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Too Little, Too Soon in Labour Opera?

Article excerpt


THE prize for the most useless text message of all time must surely go to the one I received at teatime on Saturday, reading "Miliband wins!" Since the sender is a fan of both textspeak and X Factor, I wondered for a nanosecond whether a military band had scored an unlikely victory in Simon Cowell's talent contest.

But I swiftly realised the timing was all wrong and fired up the news on my BlackBerry to satisfy my intense curiosity about which of the geeky North London political obsessives had seized the glittering prize of leadership of the Labour party. At the time, I was on my way to see a Baroque opera of almost incredible obscurity: Steffani's Niobe, Regina di Tebe (first staged in 1688, next performed in 2008 and only now receiving its British premiere). This was a bizarre and hugely complex tale involving a two-timing queen, her world-weary and indecisive husband and assorted gods, priests, a winged magician and malevolent underworld spirits. Much like the Labour Party conference, in fact.

It culminated in a most convincing fire engulfing the palace of Thebes, killing all the royal children, whereupon the king committed suicide and Niobe herself turned to stone in despair. And I could only think: yes, that will be pretty much like the atmosphere at Ma Miliband's house next time they all get together for a big family gathering, only with better music.

It is as though the Archbishop of Canterbury were about to place the crown on the 80-year-old Prince of Wales's head, and Prince Andrew swanned up and grabbed it.

Not being a Labour supporter myself, I naturally rejoice in the party's selection of the more left-wing candidate for the post, and one whose name so conveniently rhymes with "red".

But as a Briton, I deeply regret that our alternative prime minister is now a 40-year-old who has only five years' experience in Parliament and has never held down a job outside politics. …

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