If you’re a proud geek like me, the shenanigans in British politics are both horrifying and thrilling at the same time. And I’m not the only one. Despite the lazy trope that everyone hates politics, we are glued to the news and BBC Parliament has enjoyed record audiences.
It’s the World Cup of politics. Or Love Island for ugly people who mercifully wear a lot of clothes. Politics right now has all the qualities that top television executives crave for a hit show — heroes, villains, never-ending drama, jeopardy. No one knows what’s coming next. I have spent time this week with fellow commentators, activists, advisers and politicians from across the spectrum, and no one has a Scooby Doo how this will all pan out. Is Dominic Cummings a genius or a buffoon? Is this the end of the Conservative Party as we know it? Has Jeremy Corbyn knocked it out of the park or is the ball about to ricochet off a post and knock him out?
Labour circles face an interesting moment. Corbyn has won plaudits from even the stoniest of critics over the fact that he did not shamble, Forrest Gump-style, into the massive elephant trap laid out by the Prime Minister and his advisers earlier this week to support the Commons vote for an election.
That is not to be sniffed at. Labour feels pretty chipper at the moment. Last night, at a party hosted by Politico, many Labour MPs and pollsters told me — with varying degrees of enthusiasm — that they believe Corbyn is on the path to Downing Street, albeit not with a majority. They are calculating that the Tories will be wiped out in Scotland, and lose support to the Brexit Party and Lib Dems across the rest of England, particularly here in London.
They are also banking on traditional, heritage voting patterns, particularly in the North of England. I’m not so sure. I think we are in an era of promiscuous politics. Voters are less tribal along old party lines, as we saw from the European elections, and for many, Brexit will be their new priority.
There is also likely to be some kind of pact between Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. As a Brexit Party spokesman said to me last night: “Cummings may not like it now but eventually it comes down to basic maths. Even a five-year-old can work an abacus.”
"Corbyn has won plaudits for not shambling into the massive elephant trap laid by the Prime Minister"
The Lib Dems have set another elephant trap. By saying they intend to revoke Article 50, they are firming up their credentials as the only clear Remain party, while Labour today finds itself once again mired in division over its Brexit policy. Deputy leader Tom Watson and many in the party want Labour to be firmly Remain, while Corbyn still wants to straddle both sides of the argument. This saw Labour haemorrhage support in European elections, where voters rewarded parties with a clear, honest position on Brexit on either side.
Labour has definitely had a good week and is straining for an election, but be careful what you wish for.
Talk about the blind leading the blind
I’ve never been blessed with good eyesight. After squinting at the blackboard at school I was made to take an eye test, and it was found I was as blind as a bat.
Opticians were not as PC back then and there were many “hilair” jokes about giving me a white stick and a dog (which I was all for, by the way) but there was nothing funny about my glasses, which were a tribute to Su Pollard. Hi-de-Hi!
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The Eighties were tough. I was always short-sighted (in so many ways) but I got used to it. Lenses got thinner, lighter and were probably crafted at Nasa. Eventually I moved on to contact lenses, which at first felt like popping a piece of double glazing in your eye. I’ve always struggled to see things far away, but I was always good at reading small text close-up, which is helpful for reading newsprint — but not any more … For middle age has caught up with me and I’m now both shortsighted AND longsighted. Mother nature — you’re spoiling me.
I’ve spent hours at Boots Opticians trying out varifocals (pretty sexy, right?) and it’s a nightmare. I begged the lady for a really strong reading prescription, and she retorted, “Nope — your eyes will just get lazy”. I wondered if my mother had been in touch.
Will no one give my poor eyes a break?
Harriet can bring order to the House
The race is on to succeed Commons Speaker John Bercow. I’m backing my old boss Harriet Harman, the MP for Camberwell and Peckham. Harman is the longest-serving female MP. She was Labour’s acting leader twice, knows Parliament inside out, has a great network of MPs from across party lines and an impressive track record on equality issues, and it’s high time politics became less of a rowdy boys’ club.
We’ve had more than 100 male Speakers and only one female — the brilliant Betty Boothroyd — so it’s time again for Mrs Speaker. And she’s a tough cookie. Her nickname was the Harminator.