I can never work out why we do it, trailing all over the country
for at best a few minutes exposure of our views on late-night TV
audience participation programmes with a juvenile crash, bang, wallop
line in analysis.
It can’t be the money. It is derisory when you think of all the hours
you spend sitting in a car ploughing up and down assorted motorways. Of
course, political parties feel they must have someone fighting their
corner, so politicians have a reasonable excuse: duty. But people like
me? The best explanation I can offer you is publicity - you have to keep
yourself in the public eye - and vanity.
There are some compensations. Occasionally they shove you in the back of
a car with a companionable fellow panellist. That is how I made the
acquaintance of Ken Livingstone who has defected from the Labour Party
after it had rigged him out of the candidature for the London mayoralty
to stand as an independent. Of course, he felt my old boss Margaret
Thatcher deserved boiling in oil, but he also admired her. She did what
she said she was going to do. Ken liked that. So, as a matter of fact
did another old boss, Tony Benn. I got the impression that if Ken got
another chance to exercise power, he would like to garner the same
reputation for the Left.
We haven’t yet had much indication of what precisely he would do, apart
from launch a London bond to finance the revitalisation of the Tube
instead of privatising it, and make a nuisance of himself. In any case,
his powers are very limited. But we can be sure he would be in the
pockets of the unions, in debt to the loony Left and pander as
expensively as possible to every minority you can find in the Great Wen.
He would also be a tremendous card, a flamboyant, cheeky chappie.
Whether he would be good for London is entirely another matter. But that
is for you to judge.
What interests me is how Mr Livingstone has pulled off such a PR coup as
to make himself appealing even to Tories, given the history of his
monumental mismanagement of the Greater London Council before Margaret
Thatcher chopped him by killing the authority. The truth is he hasn’t
done much at all except keep himself provocatively, roguishly in the
public eye and allow everyone else to make their mistakes - Labour by
ensuring its poodle, Frank Dobson represented their cause, thereby
creating a sympathy vote for Ken; the Tories permitting Jeffrey Archer
to eliminate himself and Steve Norris to benefit; and the Liberals by
producing Candidate Who?
So, if Ken becomes Mayor of London, he will initiate a new PR fashion:
the celebrity’s art of masterly inactivity. He will also launch a
thousand headlines: how to keep your head while everyone else around you
is losing theirs. And he’ll always be on the telly.