A Total Fork-Up





From top: Donald Trump; Jeremy Corbyn; Derek Mooney

The US presidential Election and the British Labour Party leadership race offer candidates that are so dislikeable it is a ‘no win’ whatever the results.

Derek Mooney writes:

I don’t know about you, but I am firmly of the opinion that when it comes to profane expressions; you can never have enough.

Hence my delight when I saw a post from Mentalfloss appear on my Facebook timeline last week offering 8 grand but forgotten profane expressions. Excellent, I thought, some additional material.

Sadly, the expressions – though colourful – were not that profane.

They did, however, include some handy old-fashioned phrases and analogies to sum up such predicaments as: taking forever to get to the point “Robin Hood’s Barn” or, being hesitant or indecisive: Buridan’s Ass.

The one that appealed most to me, however, was Morton’s Fork: the dilemma of being trapped no matter which way you go.

According to Mentalfloss:

“The expression refers to John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1491, servant to Henry VII. Henry was trying to restore the stability of the English monarchy by fighting The War of the Roses, and needed more money from his clergy to do it. (The clergy in question weren’t the impoverished monks and priests, but their wealthy bishops and cardinals). The clergy did not want to give away their money, so they took one of two approaches. Either they came in rags and said they were too poor to contribute, or they came in ridiculous finery saying they needed every penny to maintain the dignity of their position. Morton wasn’t having it. His “fork” led to a dead end, no matter which way you took. If you’re a high clergyman in rags, you’re obviously storing away all the money you extract from your underlings and beneficiaries. If you’re opulent, you’re obviously rich and can spare plenty of money for your King. Either way, hand it over.”

Or, to put it another way: it is a 15th century Catch-22 or Hobson’s Choice: a no-choice/no-win situation.

While Mentalfloss offers a sample usage involving a teenager looking to play an Xbox while off school sick, might I suggest (and here I reach my Robin Hood’s Barn) two better illustrations: the choices facing (a) voters in the USA and (b) members of the British Labour party.

In the case of the US, America voters are now presented with candidates from the two main parties both of whom they dislike intensely.

A recent Gallup Poll (conducted between Aug 5 and 11) showed Hillary Clinton with an unfavourable rating of 55% (and favourable of 40%) – a net un-favourability score of -15%.

The same Gallup Poll showed Donald Trump with an unfavourable rating of 63% (versus a favourable of 32%) – a net un-favourability score of -31%.

The two candidates are attaining historic levels of unfavourability. Before this election no major presidential candidate had a double-digit net negative “strong favorability” rating. Trump now holds the record for the lowest ever rating – with Hilary Clinton having the second lowest ever.

This is not the same thing as saying they are equally bad as each other. Trump is ahead of Clinton in the despicable stakes by a country mile, as veteran US news reporter Dan Rather put it in a recent Facebook post:

“…we must beware of false equivalencies. Many have construed Hillary Clinton’s statements about her email server as lies. And critics also point to other statements from her past where she has been perhaps less than truthful. Clinton should be held accountable for those statements. The press should vigorously question her and investigate where the truth lies. But the sheer amount of the verbal fertilizer being spewed by Trump must not be reported as a “he said, she said. Calling him on it is not partisanship, it’s citizenship.”

The situation is not looking a lot brighter for Labour party supporters in the UK. Last weekend the UK Independent ran a poll rating the key political players. It found that the two candidates for the leadership of the UK Labour Party both have net unfavourability ratings – and both in the double digits.

Indeed, the order of magnitude was not dissimilar to the US presidential race with the incumbent Jeremy Corbyn getting the Trump place with a net unfavourability of -28% (just one point worse than Nigel Farage) and his challenger, the relatively unknown Owen Smith taking the Clinton role with a -14% net unfavourability score.

By contrast the new UK Prime Minister and Tory party leader Theresa May scored a net favourability of +14%.

Even more worrying for Corbyn and Smith, and for the entire British Labour Party, a recent vote among members of the GMB union as to who the Union should back in the Labour leadership only attracted a turnout of 8% (for the record Owen Smith beat Corbyn 60/40 among those union members who voted).

For the record, if I had a vote in the USA I would undoubtedly vote for Clinton, just as – if I were a member of the British Labour party – I would vote for Owen Smith.

But, in both cases, I would be doing so grudgingly as the countless French voters who backed Jacques Chirac in the second round of voting in the 2002 French Presidential election.

Like them, I would not be voting positively for someone, I would be voting enthusiastically against someone – in their case the then far right leader: Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Many of them, particularly those who had voted for Socialist or Centrist candidates in Round One went to the polls with disinfectant and/or clothespin to show their reluctance to back Chirac. Chirac scored just under 20% in Round One, but won a massive 82% in Round Two.

They resolved their face-off with unappealing options, as will those faced with similar dilemma’s later this year in the own Morton’s Fork-up.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Pics: PA/Getty

32 thoughts on “A Total Fork-Up

      1. Boj

        And this should be the first comment every week on every article in every publication until they disappear. FF simply should not exist but majority rules and majority seem to be spineless sheep…which is a very weird image!

        1. Deluded

          Better than Michael Taft? You might not agree with him but his column is considered and grounded in research. (Probably why it doesn’t excite comment).

      1. jungleman

        I’m starting to see a trend to your comments rotide. You’re clearly an insufferable yes-man. Did you support the Iraq invasion by any chance? You seem the type.

  1. bisted

    …the British Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in particular will be gutted by Derek Mooney’s analysis…

  2. Me

    In the UK with the FPTP system a lot, if not all, general elections are voted for on the basis of least worst rather than best for a lot of people plus its no surprise the level of dislike Corbyn has attracted considering the way he has been presented and attacked in the media.
    The fact that he is being challenged means his opponent has had to tack left in order to try and claim some of that ground, and for me that can only be a good thing.
    Look at how Clinton had to respond to Sanders to ensure fuller support. Her attempts to lure more left leaning supporters isn’t needed now with Trump seemingly determined to alienate so many. Thomas Frank had an interesting piece in the Guardian about it on Saturday

  3. KevM

    Neoliberal business party mouth piece would vote for neoliberal business party mouth pieces shock.

    I skipped a lot of this lads opinion since he started writing here. I suppose BS needs to be balanced…

    I won’t be reading him again

    1. mauriac

      you’re not missing much . not one sentence explaining his bizarre comparison of Corbyn with Trump .

  4. SOMK

    Jesus this is weak stuff, is it worth even mentioning the unprecedented surge in party membership as a result of Corbyn and wondering how on earth that is akin to the dislike of Trump or Clinton (the dislike of Trump is because he’s a reality TV ignoramus, the dislike of Clinton is a combination of the facts she represents the status quo (Wall Street especially), her war mongering and misogyny)? Because a racist blithering idiot like Trump and the appeal he has, is analogous to the appeal of the anti-austerity anti-war Corbyn? Because a vote for Corbyn is somehow an equivalent to a vote for Le Pen? This is a man who manages to earn a living off his advice and analysis? That explains a lot about the internal machinations of the most disastrous government in Irish history. Nothing here about why the current environment (ie. 40 plus years of neoliberal doctrine in the UK and US) has lent itself to a polarisation and given scope to political leaders with a populist appeal, instead just quote two things you got off Facebook (heavens forbid you actually read a book like), then fart out some vague horseshoe theory nonsense; Peter Mair eat your heart out!

    1. Deluded

      Wholeheartedly agree, a useless parallel drawn between the two. (By-the-by, I have yet to read analysis that even vaguely approaches the subject of Clinton’s perceived integrity and unpopularity ratings compared to, for instance, Bush.)

  5. Eric Cartman

    People are sick of the ‘give away all your money’ types like Corbyn.

    Hillary is worse than trump in every metric except foreign policy and womens rights. She is as corrupt as it gets.
    Everyone laughs now, but the US will see. President Trump, putting the white back in white house , very soon.

    1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

      ‘President Trump’

      That made me smile, because I’ve never seen those two words used together like that before, even at this stage of proceedings. Surely nobody believes it can happen. Even Donald.

      It’ll be ‘President Clinton The Second’, NOT ‘President Trump The Turd’

    2. jungleman

      Hillary clinton’s foreign policy is the biggest reason to fear her. She is a hawk of the highest order.

      1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

        Slow down Tarzan.
        I never endorsed HiLIARy.

        But still, a liar is easier to deal with than a lunatic.

        1. Boj

          A lunatic in power can be taken away and dealt with appropriately. A liar in power can…..well have a look around you.

  6. Serval

    He didn’t explain how, if so many Americans dislike Trump and Hillary so much, how come they both emerged from the primary process.
    Also, he didn’t mention any of the hundreds of other candidates in the US presidential race.

        1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

          I’ll have you know, I’m both drunk and nuts and drunk.
          – I’m also taking ‘non-prescription‘ drugs, I’m not wearing any trousers and I need a haircut.

          I was going to call you something different to Spaghetti Hoop. The most vulgar I could come up with was Spaghetti Hoop, and sure that’s the same. I gave up.

          1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            Wait a minute…I thought of one;
            Pot Noodle.

            No. hang on…that describes ME better…
            Gimme a minute, then stir and leave me alone for three minutes. I’ll think of something better.

          2. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            Wait a minute…
            ‘Ravioli Balls’. That’s a good name….
            As we all know Ravioli is a meat-smuggling operation run by the Italian Mafia who are a shower of….

            Hold on…
            -Can I just change me mind and call you ‘Pasta Sell-by-date’?

          3. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            And anther thing…
            If I was playing Scrabble cmpetitively, but using Alphabetti Spaghetti instead f prper Scrabble letters and stuff, I wuldn’t want yu n my side. A letter ‘ ‘ is nly wrth ne pint.

          4. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            Hold on Alpha-Betty, I need to apologise to you.
            I was very wrong to say the things I didn’t actually say, but merely implied…

            You’re a number aren’t you, not a letter?

          5. rotide

            I’m sure you’re hillarious in your own head, but any chance you could limit the hillarity to like 2 or 3 posts ? I have no problem letting you dribble away to yourself like a self satisfied toddler, but you are clogging up the ‘recent posts’ feed which is literally the only way to keep on top of posts here.

  7. some old queen

    I would not be voting positively for someone, I would be voting enthusiastically against someone

    Just about sums up the last Irish election now doesn’t it?

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