Perhaps it truly will take place. Maybe it will happen.
Imagine the scene. President Trump sits with his nose upturned as if a member of his entourage is suffering the effects of an enormous curry. Prime Minister Corbyn sits with a look of vague discomfort, as if he is meeting a friend’s drunkenly abrasive wife. Their handshake is tense and their words are limited. (They have some common ground. As someone else — not me — suggested they are both unfriendly if not hostile towards the idea of Nato.)
Afterwards, Trump says ‘Grandpa Jez’ is a ‘crazy guy’. ‘But we have to work together,’ he shrugs diplomatically. Corbyn tells the British press that he grilled the president on his sexism, racism and Islamophobia. Somewhere, a press secretary is deleting copies of a photograph that showed Corbyn meeting the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
It could happen.
Let me be clear: Jeremy Corbyn is a terrible politician leading a terrible party. A long-time third worldist with a bone-deep faith in the emancipatory potential of anti-Western militants, he has worked with the IRA, worked for the Iranian mullahs, backed the useless Venezuelan despot Nicolás Maduro, attended memorials to PLO terrorists and surrounded himself with a shadow chancellor who credits ‘the bombs and bullets’ of the IRA with securing peace in Ireland and fantasized about the lynching of a conservative rival, a chief spin doctor who is an obsessive defender of the Soviet Union, and an adviser who spent decades in the Communist Party of Great Britain and has declared himself a friend to ‘Peoples’ Korea’. Obviously, such a list of career lows and lowers should disqualify somebody from a council election in Hull, never mind from being prime minister of the United Kingdom.
The issue of anti-Semitism has become at least somewhat misleading inasmuch as Corbyn and his supporters’ sympathy for anti-Israel thugs and ideologues has been abstracted from their sympathy for anti-Western thugs and ideologues in general. Theirs is an inverted Eurocentrism in which Western governments and their allies are essentially oppressive and people who stand against them are essentially victims (granted, unpleasant at times, but even then inspired or at least enabled by the oppressive behavior of the West). That these men and women could lead one of those Western governments is rather comical, if morbidly so.
Nonetheless, just because I hope Jeremy Corbyn fails does not mean he will. While there is a slim chance of there being a Labour majority, there is a significant chance of there being some kind of progressive coalition. Labour over-performed in the last general election, so the ‘shy Tory’ phenomenon might have been reversed. Boris Johnson is a uniquely untrustworthy and egotistical prime minister. The Liberal Democrats could put the hope of a second referendum on Britain’s departure from the EU above ideological differences with Labour. It could happen.
More than that, I sometimes feel that it is destined to happen. That image of Trump and Corbyn keeps sidling through my brain. It is not so much because of its political implications. Of course, the ‘special relationship’ would be put on ice but I think that would be the least of anyone’s concerns. It is more to do with symbolic resonance. It would be an accelerationist fever dream.
It sometimes feel as if some great yet enigmatic cosmic force is directed towards that first handshake between the brash, obnoxious Republican billionaire and the earnest vegetarian Marxist. In a sense, it feels like the spiritually inevitable outcome of years of empty-suited ‘moderate’ politicians spouting clichés on both sides of the Atlantic while doing insane things like invading Iraq. In a sense, it feels like the inevitable comic outcome of five years of rip-roaring political farce.
Perhaps this will be a real existential climax — a point at which the universe can become no sillier. The moment President Trump and Prime Minister Corbyn pose for that first awkward photo op, an immense light will shine throughout the world and the Earth will blink out of existence to the sound of an orchestral flourish. Or perhaps the two men will smile and bow and a curtain will fall on the obscene production we call ‘politics’.
Or perhaps not. There is no such thing as destiny. A Conservative majority is still on the cards, and a progressive coalition would be difficult to manage. That, at least, is how it feels when I repress that part of myself that hears a great unearthly laughter echoing around the world and imagine Trump’s obsessively sanitized fingers gripping Corbyn’s garden-calloused hand as the ‘Banter Timeline’ — in which the funniest of all outcomes is realized — lurches towards its peak.