Politicians eh? You can’t trust ’em, can you? They’re all in it for themselves. Well, most of us have said that at one time or another. But it simply isn’t true.
One of the reasons that I wrote ‘Mind Games and Ministers’ was to try and tackle this question. What would happen if a posh-boy politician ended up stranded on a northern sink council-estate…faced with the rather sticky situation of a demented pensioner, a flooded home, victims of domestic violence and psycho wife-beaters? Would the guy be able to hack it? What kind of stuff ARE our politicians made of? (Note – you have to peruse the book to find out what next, dear reader…)
Tony Benn would have been able to deal with it. Tony Benn would have won over the women, the E-numbered up ASBO kids and would have talked down nutter smack-head wife-thumper. Tony Benn would have…Yes, by now – you will have gathered that I am a bit of a Tony Benn fan. So, I was gutted at hearing of his death today. I’ve heard him speak, I’ve met ‘his people’ and I’ve always admired his words and his work. In fact, I adored the chap so much that I simply *had* to mention him in one of my chapters (Ch 15 where the female victims of domestic violence discuss politicians and where dear old Tony Benn gets mistaken for Tony Blair -‘Well Tony whoever…they’re all a bunch of rich, lyin’ bastards.’)
So Tony Benn is a leading light for me. But he isn’t the only one. I was going to produce a little list here of ‘the good guys n gals.’ But that would be far too toadying of me, eh?
Still, I am going to make one exception to my rule and tell you how and why the spirit of Tony Benn hasn’t left the building. One of his sons, Hilary Benn happens to be an MP (and former Minister for International Development) and this fella embodies the principles, the style and the devotion to making the world a fairer place that we all surely hanker after. He’s also an MP for the Leeds area (so the northern-prejudice boxes are ticked there.)
Now here is where I get to do a bit of name-dropping. A few years ago I was in London at some United Nations related affair. I was introduced by (another one of the *nameless* good guys) to Hilary Benn. He was wonderful to talk to – a real listener. Super-duper smart. Knew his onions. ***(((But I kept wanting to say ‘Hilary. I think that your dad is just amazing!’)))***
Unfortunately we were standing right in front of some African drumming – which was all very atsmospheric but a little too high up on the decibal scale of things. I managed to catch Hilary saying something about ‘Come and meet Bob’ and he turned to hug another bloke.Who turned out to be Bob Geldof. (NB for those of you who are curious – Bob was wearing A SUIT and he is, I have to say a very handsome chappie in the flesh….I had to stop myself from wondering why I had always had a thing for John Travolota back in the 70s when Bob and the Boomtowns were available as pin-ups…well, okay. I was only 7 or something.)
So Bob and I chatted away. Or rather, tried to. The conversation went something like this;
Me: Yeah, we’re just working on shortening the supply chains and business education for the farmers so….
Bob: I dunno it’s this…..mfffnnn….mnfffff……millenium development goals are…..mffhfh…mhfhhhfff
Me: Sorry? I can’t hear you with these drums. They’re driving me nuts!
Bob: Can’t hear you… I tink it’s the Manchester accent…..mfff……mmffff……..drums…..mrmrffffff
Me: Don’t you go blaming MY accent – I can understand Hilary here – you’re the one with the Irish accent!”
So I had a nice little – somewhat muffled – chat with Bob. ***((((But even then I wanted to say to him – to Sir Bob himself – ‘Don’t you think that Hilary’s dad is… just ace?’))))***
But I managed to stop myself.
A few minutes later a rather drunken Labour party hack trundled over. He clearly hadn’t met Hilary before and was soon regaling him with tales of elections won (and lost) and just before I moved away in order to hear Bob’s speech, I caught the tipsy fella saying ‘But Hilary – I have to say…your dad is like, SO cool!’
I was kind of relieved that the words hadn’t come from my mouth. And I’m sure that Hilary must have heard it a thousand times before.
But he was. Super cool.