For a politician – of any age and any party – there is a narrow line to tread between national treasure and embarrassing elderly relative.
Think Ed Balls.
It may be a little premature to call him a NT but he is staking his claim. First “Ed Balls Day” on twitter, then Gangnam style on Strictly and now his recent Dream Dinner Party on Radio 4 and underpinning all this froth, listen to him talking about his stammer.
But the last few days have also seen a couple of the elderly relatives escape their minders.
First up the moist eyed wet lipped Michael Howard, attempting to conjure the shade of the Blessed Margaret with an ill-concealed warning to Spain (or as he probably sees them, Johnny Dago). Or perhaps he had just misread the Lynton Crosby playbook on dead cats.
And not to be outdone, we now have Labour’s own elderly uncle, Ken Livingstone, bleating that he was “just stating the truth” – something to which I fear he may be a stranger.
Engaging her brain before opening her mouth is obviously not one of Hazel Blears’ virtues, if her reported remarks in the FT this morning about Boris Johnson are to be believed.
“He’s a nasty, rightwing elitist with odious views and criminal friends like Conrad Black [the former newspaper tycoon].”
Leave out ‘rightwing’ and substitute ‘leftwing’ and you have Ken Livingstone: except Ken’s criminal friends are closer to home.
Read Rod Liddle in this week’s Spectator for a slightly different take on the Ken and Boris contest.
A postscript to yesterday’s comments on the London Eye fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Cost to the London council tax payers? £1.2M if the papers are to be believed; and I cannot think that there was much off set from letting the BBC film them as (a) the display was public and (b) the quality of the BBC OB was so indifferent that they must have been employing people on work experience. Or perhaps it was yet another case of “insufficient skilled people” (yesterday also saw a somewhat overhonest admission by Network Rail that the reason for the overrun in repair work this holiday is that they simply couldn’t get sufficient specialists contractors in; and why? Because having been kept busy the last five or so years over the Christmas break by Network Rail, they had all decided enough was enough and they were going to see Christmas and the New Year with their families this time.) Back to Ken and his fireworks: if you live in London I hope that you feel that you got your money’s worth.
Reading Charon QC’s Blawg, he was “Impressed by the London fireworks and usually I have no interest in fireworks.” Perhaps he was in the crowd. If he had had the misfortune to watch them on TV (don’t ask: a sad admission that one doesn’t get out and about as much as others), he might have felt differently, not least because the BBC’s OB was very certainly not up to scratch. A banal commentary, camera angles that obscured the display, cutaways to unnecessary shots of fairy lighted pyrotechnicians in rubber dinghies, and no real sense of what any of this was about (other than to get across the subliminal message that this is Ken’s re-election year: but would you re-elect someone who authorised such a hideous waste of money? Thank God I live in the South West). They do it so much better in Sydney!