I’d never been in a gossip column and then came the leaked memo about the Blair exit strategy, a Blue Peter interview at Downing Street undertaken by Konnie Huq and someone coming up with my name. I’ve since been mentioned in The Daily Express, Evening Standard, Hugo Rifkind’s people column in Murdoch’s Times and most recently Jon Henley’s diary piece in the Guardian which got my kid sis Konnie, Blair, Clare Short and myself all into one succinct paragraph.
Since 1975 I have become used to comparisons drawn between me and my younger, better-known sister. She has no political aspirations or affiliations yet it is her who managed to get an exclusive with the PM notwithstanding the fact I have been a Labour candidate (PPC in the next door seat to Beaconsfield where a young T.Blair was bloodied). Interestingly although Blair and Short are not these days usually mentioned in the same breath, parallels can be drawn. Both entered Parliament among the rare new blood on the labour benches after the “longest suicide note in history” 1983 election. Both are now due to exit centrestage New Labour politics in the not-too-distant future. Progress readers may have seen my comments on our Kingston gig before so it’s not worth repeating them again.
Meanwhile Blair has now been on Blue Peter as the exit strategy memo predicted. Far from this demonstrating his demise as a serious politician as some have implied, the appearance is entirely in keeping with Blair’s numerous popular media appearances. Early on in his premiership, he was interviewed by Des O’Connor, apparently mockney-fying his accent in the process. He has been on Richard and Judy’s sofa more than once and the Simpsons. “When Konnie met Tony” follows on from my sister’s first tv appearance aged 14 on Newsround where Huq junior quizzed then Labour leader Neil Kinnock on stopping CFCs destroying the ozone layer - I remember as I was the consenting adult guardian required to accompany her under BBC rules. Politicians reaching out to the wider public by the power of the cathode ray – or whatever its flat screen digital equivalent is – is commendable. After all every politician agrees with the notion of reconnecting with the voters - even Tories. Blair's Blue Peter appearance had infinitely had more substance than David Cameron's vomit inducing adventures in web-land will ever command.
Clare Short remarked that Tony Blair was an “actor”. His last Labour party speech was another virtuoso performance which returned the compliment by including a veiled reference to her beginning “let’s have no more talk of hung parliaments.” In the end I missed Konnie’s interview as I was out of the country but I understand the question never arose: an opportunity missed I’d say, but then I guess electoral reform is not up there in the sticky backed plastic stakes. In the meantime it’s on with the show…