Corbyn shuns Glastonbury and no one cares. Remainers have moved on | Barbara Ellen

After his three years of evasion and dithering, anti-Brexiters can’t trust the Labour leader

Why didn’t Jeremy Corbyn go to Glastonbury this year? Couldn’t he find his wellies? Was it too late to hire a yurt? Or is he hiding from Remain supporters? Again.

When Corbyn attended the festival in 2017, preaching to the euphoric masses, it turned into a veritable Glastonbury on the Mount. Are members of that 2017 crowd a little embarrassed now – too much whooping, weeping and “Jez-mania” and not enough scrutiny? When Corbyn had cancelled appearing at Glastonbury the previous year, straight after the referendum result, the official line was that he was “focusing on the issues”. No one thought to ask why the rent-a-protest Labour leader, usually never happier than when air-punching at a mic stand before uncritical throngs, was suddenly too shy to appear before a massive festival crowd of hyper-emotional Remain voters needing reassurance?

Three maddening, mendacious, slippery, gormless, prevaricating years later – even after polling data emerged saying that, contrary to popular thinking, there appeared to be a majority of Remain-Labour members and voters – Corbyn remains the invisible man of Brexit.

Ask him a straight question and the bandages unravel, spool on to the floor, and you’re left staring at nothingness. Oh, some say, but it’s very hard for Jeremy, what with all those tricky Leave territories, blah blah, blah. To which the only logical response is: diddums. Isn’t this Corbyn’s actual job – hasn’t he had 36 months to do it?

There’s also the small matter of personal integrity. But never mind that now, because Labour might have zombie-walked into a whole new problem: Remain-irrelevance.

I’ve long been anti-Corbyn for reasons beyond Brexit (antisemitism, anybody?). However, even I’m confounded by the sheer arrogance of Corbyn behaving as though all Labour has to do is eventually (grudgingly) support a people’s vote and all would be forgiven. That’s not what I’m seeing in the (many) Remain groups I’m a member of. Time was, the Remain vote was such a cheap date that Corbyn would only have to vaguely hint at backing a second referendum and the knickers would fly off.

Not any more. These days, when Corbyn comes out with his “definitely/maybe/people’s vote” guff, the majority groan, jeer or say they no longer trust him and won’t vote for Labour. Worse, sometimes people don’t even react or care. Remain supporters have learned how to live without Labour.

It’s a marked change from even six to nine months ago. Corbyn appears to have made the exact same mistake he accused New Labour of – taking decent, loyal voters for granted until they can stick it no more. For the Remain-minded “many, not the few”, Labour reluctantly “coming around” to supporting a second referendum won’t cut it any more. There would have to be unequivocal official support, sustained wooing and crawling, maybe even the removal of a tainted, unpopular leader. (Along with music festivals, that’s another thing Team Corbyn has been avoiding – a new leadership contest.) As for Glastonbury, of course Corbyn didn’t go this year – he knew he’d be soundly booed.

Joan Crawford’s child abuse should never be a laughing matter

Joan Crawford: no model mother.
Joan Crawford: Photograph: RONALD GRANT

How strange to think that a terrorised child could ever be considered amusing?

Christina Crawford, 80, has been publicising the stage musical version of her 1978 book, Mommie Dearest, her account of her abusive childhood at the hands of her adoptive mother, the Hollywood star Joan Crawford. Crawford, an alcoholic with mental health problems, would punch, slap and strangle Christina, forcing her to do endless chores.

Christina stresses that the musical is different to the high-camp 1981 film version of Mommie Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway. She also says that, today, her mother would be arrested.

Well, quite. The climate was very different when Christina was a child, but things had barely improved by the time the book was published. Her account was disputed by Crawford’s Hollywood cronies, and she was widely criticised for being disloyal – almost as though her mother’s star-power cancelled out the abuse. While drag artists have lampooned Mommie Dearest (ironically, and with Christina’s blessing), the straight world isn’t blameless. When the film was released, audiences reportedly laughed outright at certain scenes, such as Crawford disciplining her young daughter with coat hangers.

It now seems inconceivable that cinema audiences would laugh at a small child being terrorised. Christina Crawford could be justified in feeling badly treated, first by her sick mother and, later, by an even sicker public.

Give kids, and parents, a break from dodgy GSCE marking

GCSE students
Pupils collecting their GCSE results at Whalley Range High School, Manchester. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Will the GCSE pain ever stop? Exams are already stressful; now there is news that the marking system could be unreliable. A whistleblower, dubbed “the secret examiner”, has revealed how marks can wildly vary in English language papers and how, often, it’s only because the papers are checked by a second examiner (improving the grade) that pupils are marked correctly. In this case, it was AQA, but in the past other exam boards have been implicated in marking anomalies and there have also been leaks of exam papers.

The AQA whistleblower said that pupils were being “betrayed’ and it was a “shit storm”, not exactly the kind of “English language” you expect to see from an examiner, but I appreciate his honesty.

Then again, do I? This is the last thing British parents want to hear as we move into July. Parents who have children taking GCSEs, like me, have had the entire year taken up with those exams. I haven’t seen my kitchen table in months – it’s been buried under books, files, laptops, half-drunk mugs of tea and crumb-strewn snack plates.

The results are due in August, so July is the “sacred time”, where frazzled students stagger forth to make the most of their newfound liberation and parents can start drinking again. Next thing you know, there is news that your child’s paper might get marked too low. Or too high, which is obviously fine.

Give us a tiny break. And yes, I do mean the parents. Come August, who do you think will be on the phone, inquiring about weird exam grades?

One hears about university grade inflation, where apparently spoilt students stamp their feet to get marked higher, but who could blame them when this sort of thing is going on at GCSE?

• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist


Barbara Ellen

The GuardianTramp

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