My Thursdays are now spent solely looking after my son, Leif: we don’t put him in nursery that day and my wife works, so I have the day ‘off’ from my job, and it’s just me and him all day. I love my job (yes, I have one, Anna Soubry, and a good one, despite your snarling ‘Get a job you layabout’ comment when I questioned your attitude to constituents, back in May. True Tory colours shone through there, didn’t they?), but this is my favourite weekday.
So Thursdays are a joy of playing with Leif, feeding Leif, getting Leif to nap, taking Leif for a push around Beeston, changing Leif’s nappy and generally immersing myself completely in parenting. As someone whose own dad was at sea for most of his formative years, I know the importance of that bond and what happens when it doesn’t form, so am vigilant to ensure it does. It seems to have. We spend the day laughing.
So far, so Mumsnet-friendly. Yet then I get a call from Labour HQ, asking if I’d like to interview John McDonnell for Beestonia. I’m about to turn it down with a self-righteous ‘No. nothing will spoil this precious time between my baby and me’ when I realise it’s only round the corner. Plus, Leif likes accompanying me on journalistic stuff: he came
with me to a pre-record a few weeks back at BBC Radio Nottingham: halfway through the interview he started making loud ‘blah blah blah’ noises: not quite as viral-worthy of the famous BBC News clip, but an interesting, if not a mildly harsh commentary on my self-promoting style from an infant critic.
Plus, the massive poo that he’s been storing up for days finally broke through earlier in the day, and he’s been in a much better mood since that particular horror. He can come with me.
Into the pushchair he goes, and we head out.
I set up a camera next to Notts TV and the Nottingham Post, and hastily scribble some questions. I was here -the Shed in Beeston- a few weeks ago when Corbyn visited. It was that event when it started to really dawn on me the Tories were not in for a landslide. I’ve been to many political rallies over the years but never seen so many new faces, so many young faces. The youth vote came out in force, inspired by a less dull type of politics.
McDonnell doesn’t attract such numbers -it’s a Thursday afternoon, and we’re not in the heat of an election – but it’s still an impressive turnout. Again, I’m struck by the young voters. When I first voted, it was in the age of Kinnock and a growing centrism in politics. I probably would have been in raptures about someone like Corbyn: instead, a succession of slick, uninspiring ideologically shallow suits presided. That’s not necessarily a complaint -they did a fair measure of good stuff- but you can see why it turned off the young. The Clegg / Cameron / Miliband 2015 offering was probably the nadir of this. I’m not a Corbynista as such, but I am impressed with his campaigning and the way he put forward a costed manifesto that simply made sense. I like the way Labour does seem a hotbed of ideas now, a broad church gradually coming to a sort of peace with itself, messy around the edges but not the whipped-to-hell sterile slickness of modern politics.
Not to say McDonnell isn’t slick. He arrives and launches into a stump speech without notes, straight off the back, and fields questions with ease. I get a few snaps, all the time while holding a baby with my free hand. I didn’t have a great deal of time to prep my questions, and a dodgy contact lens hindered my attempts to read my notes, so apologies for the rather clumsy questioning.
And if the producers of BBC’s Today programme are reading, I’m sure John Humphries isworth every penny of his £600,000, but if you need a cheaper option I can do it for a fraction of that….if you don’t mind a few baby babbles in the background.