Two different parties in two separate countries, and yet their fates are almost identical. Less than five years ago, both were the principled, left-leaning third party in their respective nations, both had leaders that excited people who were thought might shake up a longstanding political hegemony, both made a spectacular breakthrough at the last general election. And then both went into freefall when they both exchanged aforementioned principles for the spurious magic beans of government positions in a heavily centre-right government.
Both their bungee chords snapped but good this week, as between them Irish Labour and British Lib Dems - the Laboural Democrats, if you will - were destroyed at a local and European level. Between them, across the reach of the whole British Isles of 84 MEPs and nearly 5,000 local councillors, the Laboural Democrats tallied 478 councillors, slightly less than 10 percent, and only one MEP, slightly less than 1.2% percent. Decimals are particularly good at bringing the cold reality home.
So too are backbenchers, and the Irish sibling of these political blood brothers, Eamon Gilmore, was faced with an almost immediate no-confidence motion on Monday. It had a hefty ream of signatures on it, all of them young, first termers, ambitious and terrified of losing three quarters of their vote at the next general. Gilmore steps down as party leader, Tanaiste (Deputy PM) and Foreign Minister in July, when the new leader (and chances are it'll be a very new leader indeed) is chosen. The other Labour members of cabinet, most of whom were at the top table the last time the party was in power in the mid nineties, will also likely go in due course.
Gilmore's British counterpart Nick Clegg isn't being quite so acquiescent to his dissenters, despite not even having an actual ministry to relinquish. Nevertheless, he is having a lot of feelings, and one of his closest advisors and rubbish Roy Orbison lookalike Lord Oakeshott has quit the party for leaking a poll that found Sooty and Sweep have a better chance of avoiding a Lib Dems bloodbath. That's what happens when one of your candidates is beaten by the Pirate Party in the Ancoats ward of Manchester.
Meanwhile UKIP were in bullish mood having taken a plurality of UK seats in the European parliament, a feat which Nigel Farage called "a political earthquake". It was undeniably a good performance, despite their campaign being the equivalent of walking into a bucket with every step, and you know you're having a good day when this eejit can get elected in Scotland of all places. But they still only won 27% of the 33% percent who voted, and even an amateur seismologist knows that mass public revolutions are not built on 1 in every 15 voting for a party. So in spite of the reports of countries swinging intriguingly to the far left or terrifyingly to the hard right, it's the dominance of the Apathy Party that needs to be toppled. Not that will be easy, when this guy could be the next PM.
Europe's political mainstream is suffering from an identity crisis, but certain sections of the US still seems damn sure of itself when it has no earn to be. Elliot Rodger killed six people with legally obtained guns and knives, and irrespective of motive (and it was chilling) that should not be. But for the American right, the ones that tell you how pro-life they are at every turnabout, not even the most heartbreaking parental plea will sway them to decency. Instead, they'll talk about gunowners rights trumping dead kids (a phrase that is, sadly, verbatim) and cowering like a bitch. Given the misogynistic overtones of the shootings, the hashtag #YesAllWomen rose from the fallout, and gave every man cause to gulp hard. Later in the week, a woman in Lahore was stoned to death outside a courthouse in a laughably labelled 'honour killing' for marrying for love. East or West, there are Barbarians at every gate.
And so to Belfast, where I want you to consider the following: Imagine a person born into a church-going family, who has always enjoyed church and has felt a palpable attachment to the teaching of Jesus since childhood. Imagine that person striking up a friendship with someone who doesn't attend their church, isn't of their denomination, in fact someone who isn't even Christian. Imagine that person realising that they are gay, which causes them understandable personal tumult given their faith. Then imagine that your instinct to raise a family, an instinct no different to the straight people in the church, is blasted from the pulpit as "perverts pretending". Imagine the Pastor blast the faith of your friend as "Satanic and spawned in Hell" and he trusts none of them. Imagine trying to reconcile the reason you're there, the love of God, with the preacher ostensibly there to deliver that message of love, come out with such a personally affecting diatribe. And then imagine the most senior politician in the land defending that pastor, and making a crack about how he'd trust a Muslim to do his shopping for him. But of course, if you're from Ulster, you don't have to imagine that. Taking us further down the rabbit hole, First Minister Peter Robinson's wisecracks were criticised by his Deputy Martin McGuinness, and Robinson replied he would take no lectures from ex-terrorists. Mainly because he doesn't need one.
Not every congregation is as forgiving as the Metropolitan Tabernacle, as Macaulay Culkin's new band (no, you're not tripping) was booed off stage this week. You'd think with a name like Pizza Underground, they would have been humoured a bit more. In no need of such humouring though is the immeasurably brilliant Christopher Lee, who celebrated his 92nd birthday by releasing a heavy metal album influenced by Don Quixote and Bizet's Carmen. And it is a beautiful thing. Elsewhere Bill Murray, who will become Christopher Lee in about thirty years time, was doing what he does best: wandering round dispensing sage advice to whoever needs it. In this instance, the stupefied members of a stag do.
As weddings go, having Bill Murray giving a toast and Sir Christopher Lee leading the band in a belt of The Impossible Dream would be nigh on perfect, but somehow those details eluded the celebrity wedding of the season between two people who must really love compasses. As part of their post nuptials (which appeared to involve some kind of mutation into one person), the entity they call Kimye stopped off in Cork, and Irish people being Irish people, they started to take the piss at the incongruity of it all. Except, one Hollywood reporter didn't quite realise. Although, it's not quite as bad as the guy in Ottawa hired to make some public art to commemorate a beloved community hero who mended kids' hockey sticks, but mixed him with with his namesake badminton player, hence this. Quite the (shuttle) cock-up.