Been running around all over the place, not seen the papers, nor heard the news, so unable to offfer much by way of comment on the Cameron cuts/pain strategy. Just remember one thing, however, about compassionate Conservatism, which is what he tried to emphasise in his campaign … the important word in that is Conservatism. The compassion gets laid aside quite quickly once power is won. Read the history books.
And just be aware that ‘things are worse than we expected’ (the deficit figures are not btw) is one of the oldest and least convincing tricks in the book. More anon.
Despite my last encounter with Andrew Marr getting a bit tense, I enjoyed Start the Week, and in particular meeting Burnley-born playwright Joy Wilkinson, who has written a short play based on Margaret Beckett’s bid to be Labour leader back in 1994, which is running as part of the Tricycle Theatre programme on women, power and politics.
We ended up, on and off air, discussing whether what Joy sees as Margaret’s ‘being somewhat written out of the script’ has anything to do with the fact that she is a woman. I’m not so sure.
Both Joy and Thea Sharrock, there to talk about the Terence Rattigan play she is directing at the National Theatre, felt that it seemed harder for women to get noticed in politics for their politics, and Joy pointed out that sometimes she got the sense that the men in my diaries behaved as often men perceive women to behave – histrionically (my word not hers).
As anyone who knows me is aware, I am a huge fan of Margaret Beckett’. I did not vote for her, either as leader or deputy, but I always admired her as a team player and someone who whilst not naturally New Labour always understood its importance and – as Joy captures in her play – TB’s broader appeal.
The other main character in the play is Clare Short and it is likewise no secret that I was never a fan of Clare’s. Indeed, as I record in the uncut version of the diaries, I was pleased when I heard Margaret had appointed Clare as her campaign manager because, as a TB supporter, I felt it would narrow her breadth and appeal within the party.
I feel that Clare is someone who in a sense reached a higher level in politics than her talents merited, whereas Margaret did achieve the heights she earned, whilst accepting that her lack of interest in personal profile for its own sake may, in the modern media age, have been a contributing factor in Joy’s argument that MB does not get the recognition she ought to.
But don’t forget that she was Leader of the Party between John Smith and TB, and occupied a large number of ministerial positions under TB and GB, including Foreign Secretary.
I was also chuffed to learn that Joy had used details for her play (with which Margaret did not co-operate btw) which she had found in my diaries, including one observation I never tired of making, namely Margaret’s habit of keeping a bundle of pens and pencils wrapped in a rubber band.
So it’s nice to see the diaries contributing to art and culture as well as politics. On which point, congratulations to the Thick of It team for their three Baftas. Given the whole Armando Ianucci spin thing started with his spoof Alastair Campbell column, which then morphed into Malcolm Tucker, I think it would not be unreasonable for them to give me a share of the takings, which I could pass on to the (cash-strapped) Labour Party.
I hope meanwhile they are now working on a coalition equivalent. There’s comedy in there aplenty if you look beneath the honeymood period headlines.