Election diary: “It must have been while you were kissing me!”

PUBLISHED: 19:43 21 May 2017 | UPDATED: 19:48 21 May 2017

Iain Dale

Iain Dale

Archant

Thoughts on Thornberry and campaign tales

It was a wonderful sight to behold – Emily Thornberry in full Panzer mode on Marr telling Michael Fallon he was talking ‘bollocks’. Andrew Marr was so shocked he remained mute. Fallon didn’t quite know what to say. The rest of us watching just roared with laughter. I’ve always liked La Thornberry. She tries oh so hard to be very serious, but whenever I interview her I just know that there’s a very cheeky sense of humour that she tries (usually in vain) to suppress. Had it not been for her ‘white van man’ episode I genuinely believe she could be a candidate to succeed Jeremy Corbyn. Some Labour MPs might see her as a ‘fellow traveller’, but to most her continuing allegiance to Corbyn is more out of party loyalty than any great admiration for her leader. Party members might rather like that attribute. The fact is, Emily didn’t get going when the going got tough. She toughed it out.

***

Even though the Conservatives have picked more female candidates in safe and winnable seats, it is unlikely the number of women in the House of Commons will increase much after the election. Indeed, I have done some analysis and if there is a Tory majority of 130 I have calculated that the overall number of female MPs will increase from 191 to 195. Big deal. There will be 25 more Conservative women MPs, but the Labour number will diminish from 99 to 73. The Lib Dems may go up from 1 to 5, assuming they double their representation to 16. The Labour benches will be 44% female, but the Tory benches only 23%, up 3% since 2015. The Tories may be doing better than before but there’s a long way to go. It’s a sobering fact that at the last election there had been 455 female MPs elected to the House of Commons in every election since 1918 – that’s exactly the same number as the number of men elected in 2015.

***

Last week’s Sunday Times hardback non-fiction top ten was headed by Yanis Varoufakis’s Adults in the Room. Quite an achievement, you might think. Maybe so, until you realise it sold only 4,665 copies to get to that position. The number two book sold 1,650, and the number ten book 940. We are becoming a nation of illiterates, or are we? Last year more books were sold than ever before, and more books were published than ever before. Something doesn’t compute, unless we’re now reading trashy novels to escape from the ‘harsh realities’ of Brexit. Oops. That last sentence is what a left-wing Sun journalist would call ‘throwing a bone to the readership’.

***

Nick Robinson doesn’t seem to be flavour of the month among his fellow Today programme presenters. His supposed sharp elbows aren’t going down well, it is alleged. He’s down to present the show the day after the election, alongside John Humphrys. Cue outrage that two men will present alongside each other. Quelle horreur! It is quite often the case that Sarah Montague and Mishal Husain present together. Does anyone, let alone a mere man, complain about that? No. Why on earth should they? If I were editor of the Today programme I’d want my two best political interviewers on top form that day and I don’t think anyone would argue that in the Today programme line-up, Robinson and Humphrys are indeed the two best political interviewers. Incidentally, Shelagh Fogarty and I will be pairing up to present LBC’s election night show from 10pm again, with Nick Ferrari taking over (on his own) at 5am. I wonder why Today needs two presenters. Clearly they are ‘overpersonned’!

***

What is it about recently appointed Knights of the Realm that they all seem to be embarrassed to use the word ‘Sir’ in front of their names? First it was Sir Craig Oliver, and now it’s the south west London double act of Sir Vincent Cable and Sir Edward Davey. On their respective ballot papers they are reverting to being mere commoners and call themselves Vincent Cable and Edward Davey. My thought on this is simple. If you’re embarrassed by your knighthood, don’t bloody accept it in the first place.

***

Spare a thought for anyone knocking at your door during this election campaign. Regardless of which party they’re campaigning for, they’re not being paid and they’re doing it because they believe in something. Be nice to them. My favourite canvassing story came from my 2005 election campaign in North Norfolk. A woman answered the door with a vest on, showing arms baring a multitude of Meat Loaf tattoos. I started giving her my spiel and said something about believing in low taxes. “You took the words right out of my mouth,” she exclaimed. Without missing a beat, I replied: “It must have been while you were kissing me!” We both collapsed laughing. If you don’t know your Meat Loaf lyrics, you’ll no doubt think I had/have lost my marbles. I think she voted for me. One of the few that did. The bastards.

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