If you were drawing up a list of the 20 nicest MPs, Labour’s Alan Johnson would get more than his fair share of nominations. He is a formidable politician who surely still has a future in front line politics. But last Friday, when I was interviewing him about his new book, This Boy, he categorically ruled out a tilt at securing Labour’s nomination for next London mayor. I am sure I heard Sadiq Khan exhale a sigh of relief. But the question remains: will Ed Miliband will offer him a seat on Labour’s front bench in his coming reshuffle? Miliband is said to want to rid himself of people associated with the past and doesn’t want to bring back Johnson or Alistair Darling. He’s deluding himself if he thinks a shadow cabinet of thirty-somethings is going to cut the mustard with an electorate which is tiring of youth-obsessed politics. Perhaps he should bring back Gordon Brown. After all, Ed Balls insists that he saved us. Anyway, back to Johnson. His book is superb, and tells the story of his poverty stricken childhood in 1950s Notting Hill. His sister, who brought him up from the age of 13 after his mum died emerges as the true heroine of the book. It’s been a surprising bestseller and, on the strength of it, he is planning to pen two further volumes before he gets to writing about his political career. You can listen to the interview here.
A month on from Tom Watson resigning as Labour’s campaign coordinator…and there is still no white smoke emanating from Labour HQ telling us who his successor will be. Wee Dougie Alexander was originally touted as a possible replacement among a few MPs, but faced a backlash as a famous three times loser (Euros 2009, General 2010, David Miliband campaign 2010). Also, Jim Murphy and Michael Dugher have been promoted by some. However, after the overseas hires of Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina by the Tories, Labour are desperately looking for their own person from the Obama team. I’ve heard Marlon Marshall’s name a few times. He was Deputy National Field Director for Obama. I’m told he came to London a few months ago and had a few private meetings with staffers in Parliament and Labour HQ, and think tanks. Make of that what you will.
Godfrey Bloom, the outspoken UKIP MEP, says his main job in life is to drive the BBC and the Guardian to distraction. Well, he should certainly get a bonus for his comments this week on “Bongo Bongo Land”. Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley waded in and said that he couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and why people might be offended, but perhaps Bloom’s remarks were ill-judged. I think that’s called having your cake and eating it.
Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to dislike Polly Toynbee. Whenever I interview her, I think to myself “right, this time I’m going to monster her”, and then she completely disarms me, not just by being nice, but because sometimes, just sometimes, she does have a good argument. And so it was on Wednesday. “Afternoon Polly”, I started. “Hello Iain, can I just say, I’ve always wanted to be on your programme”. Well, how can you be nasty to someone after that?! I was talking to her about her column on misogyny and while I gave as good as I got in terms of arguing that misandry in our society was almost as prevalent as misogyny, I just couldn’t bring out my inner Paxman, which, believe it or not, does rear its ugly head from time to time, as the Labour MP Barry Gardiner will testify to. The truth of it is, I like Polly Toynbee despite the fact that I barely agree with a single word she writes. I don’t know what it is about lefty women like Polly, Yasmin or Zoe Williams. I clearly have a weakness for them.
I did an hour long phone-in with Eric Pickles the other night. Reading between the lines, it’s clear he is no big fan of these immigration vans that have been touring six London boroughs urging illegal immigrants to go home or face arrest. He said it was a trial and he would “take a lot of convincing” before the trial was rolled out nationwide. You can listen to his remarks here. It’s interesting that Crosby isn’t a fan of the vans either, according to the Sunday Times. No one will argue that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be deported, but it isn’t just people from ethnic minorities who felt that the vans were just plain offensive. In my experience, people who come to this country legally are the first to want to pull up the drawbridge to those who try to come here illegally, and rightly so. But these vans are just not British.
The Guardian’s Suzanne Moore is never one to ignore an opportunity to have a go at men, so on the back of Polly’s article on misogyny she has written an article titled Ten rules for managing your penis. Some of us are quite capable of thinking for ourselves on that issue. Just imagine the outcry if I had written a blog entitled “The rules for managing your vagina”. Just think about it. We’re getting to a situation where men can barely speak about women for fear of being told we are women-hating bastards. If the great cause of feminism is to hound a reputable CPS prosecutor out of his job because of some ill-judged remarks in a case whose details none of us can know the full details of, then I venture to suggest that feminism has won the day and the feminist movement can quietly abolish itself. Ah, they say, but what about all these vicious internet trolls who abuse women. Yes, they do. And they abuse men too. I know. I’m one of the abused. As the comment thread on this site will no doubt prove!