Monday proved to be quite a day here at the Fringe. The first show was with Rory Bremner, who was everything I knew he would be. In fact, I barely had to ask a question! He was an absolute joy to listen to, and his impressions were as spot on as ever. He also talked about mental health and his ADHS diagnosis. Make sure you catch the podcast of this one. By the way, all the podcasts from the show will be released each Saturday and Wednesday for the next few weeks on Iain Dale All Talk.
The afternoon show on Monday was with Angela Rayner, and this had proved very popular in terms of ticket sales, and was nearly a sell-out. Angela arrived in good time with her two sons. It turned out they had never seen their mother live in action before, so it was quite an occasion for them. Just before we went on stage we were told by the EICC security team they had some intel that there could be a protest from an environmental group during the event. I scratched my head and couldn’t quite work out why they would choose an event with Angela Rayner to protest at, but I’ve never been able to work out why these groups do what they do.
Anyway, Angela proved to be as entertaining as I knew she would be and regaled the receptive audience with her views on all sorts of different subjects. She was especially good answering a question about whether Rishi Sunak could relate to the people Angela grew up with on a Salford council estate. Her answer was almost mesmerizing and I told her I didn’t think there was another politician in the land who could give the kind of answer she did, talking movingly about her own background, experiences.
I was about to ask the last question when I heard a posh woman’s voice in the audience say “I’m Katie and I’m from Green New Deal Action” (or something like that). She started to talk about the urgent need for action on climate change. I couldn’t see her as the audience had no lighting. I interrupted and asked her to sit down and told her the question I was about to ask Angela was on climate change, so I was sure she’d want to hear Angela’s answer. She started again but I firmly told her to sit down and let me ask the question, which I then did. “I sent in that question,” said protester Katie, thereby falling into my trap. “Good,” I said. “You will want to listen to the answer then.” When Angela had finished her answer a very aggressive man started to shout. It turned out he had been filming the whole thing. You can see him in the picture. We had already gone over our time, so I drowned out the man by thanking Angela and the audience. Angela handled it all very well, and was completely unflummoxed by it. The security people and several members of the audience told me they thought I had also handled it well, which I was relieved by… after all, I have history with handling protesters!
Tuesday was a slightly calmer day with first Dame Mary Beard, one of my favourite people, at lunchtime and Ash Sarkar and Owen Jones at 4.30pm. Mary was an absolute delight and the audience loved her. We obviously talked a lot about ancient Rome and a bit about Greece, and how politics worked in those days, but we ranged far wider than that.
I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the Ask and Owen session. Should we have a real stooshie or should I gently question their very left of centre stances. In the end, I decided the audience had come to hear from them rather than me, so I kept it pretty low key and didn’t challenge them every twenty seconds even though, believe me, I was tempted! They put on a tour de force performance and the audience mostly lapped it up.
In the evening I was supposed to go and see a fringe show called SUGAR DADDY (Insert your own joke) but by the time I had finished talking to people after the Ash & Owen show it was too late to get there.
In the evening, Jacqui Smith arrived and we went out for dinner at the Hotel du Vin with Ayesha Hazarika. Many reputations were shredded… When I was here in 2019 the Hotel du Vin was THE place to dine. It has gone downhill since then. I mean, how can a restaurant run out of bread? How can four of the six starters on the menu not be available? I ended up having chips as a starter! The bill came to £150 and I seriously considered refusing to pay. And I’d never go back.
And on that controversial note, that’s it. In the next installment I’ll talk about my interview with Nicola Sturgeon, which has had quite the reaction…