I got a little over-excited on Tuesday when I got a telephone call which started with the words: "Hello, I'm calling from Question Time...". I say 'over-excited' because it was an invitation to appear on Question Time Extra on News 24 as opposed to the main programme, but I suppose you’ve got to start somewhere. I was on with former Labour spin doctor turned psycho-therapist Derek Draper. It was, shall we say, an animated exchange.
I listened to Prime Minister’s Questions in my car this week. Even without seeing the pictures it was clear that Cameron pulverised Brown. Like many Labour MPs I suspect, I thought to myself, how would Blair have reacted? And I think the answer is this. He would have looked at Cameron with a slight air of disdain and tried to swat him away as if he were an angry schoolboy daring to question the Master. He would have deployed humour and wit, but he wouldn't have allowed himself to become riled in the way that Brown did.
It was the reading from his COURAGE book which made Brown lose it. It may not have come across on TV but on the radio it sounded as if Brown had had a Violet Elizabeth Bott moment, in that he was speaking so quickly he couldn't get all his words out properly. I could almost imagine him shouting: "I'll squeam and I'll squeam till the Right Honourable Gentleman acknowledges that I am a man of courage!"
But far more interesting than the actual exchange was the media reaction to it. Don't get me wrong, Cameron did brilliantly, but did he really do as brilliantly as the pundits reported? 'Pulverised' was a word being used by many. I suspect the media relished their chance to kick Brown when he was down, after two weeks of being spun to in the most duplicitous way. Cameron was right when he said that Brown was taking the electorate for fools. But it was the media who felt they were being taken for fools too. And they, at least, had the chance to bite back.
Transport planners are the curse of modern day society. They cannot see a junction without putting a No Right Turn sign up. Driving round Norwich this week it was clear to me that some little City Hall bureaucrat had been having a field day since my last visit. Various streets had been blocked, made one way or made less accessible. Each time, the detour involved added several hundred years (and in one case half a mile) to my journey. How very environmentally friendly. I suppose the real reason is that these menaces want to put car drivers off coming into the city in the first place. If that is so then let them be prepared for the consequences – fewer shoppers, fewer shops and then fewer business rates receipts. At least that might then mean fewer bureaucrats. But don’t hold your breath.
On Wednesday I was delighted to be the guest speaker at an event commemorating the twenty fifth anniversary of the founding of UEA Conservatives, by a certain Mr Iain Dale. There’s nothing like an event like that to make you feel very old indeed. It did, however, bring back a lot of memories and it was good to see some old faces there. One of my main memories of running UEA Tories was a meeting we held in 1985 with Cecil Parkinson as guest speaker. He was slowly being rehabilitated after his 1983 resignation and we expected a big crowd in Lecture Theatre 1. Little did I know that when we walked in it was full to overflowing, with 900 students. He got a standing ovation, which I was a little surprised at, as UEA was a very left wing university in those days. In fact his reception was so good that it provoked the socialist workers' crowd who tried to invade the stage. They failed at that due to the skilful work of members of the UEA Rugby Society, so then the eggs started coming in. None of them hit Cecil. They all hit Ann, his wife, and me. My new suit was ruined. Cecil was furious and shouted "which little lefty rat threw that at my wife?" The rest of the audience cheered and turned on the egg throwers who left without further incident. What a great meeting! Cecil loved it! Student politics is very different nowadays, but there is one thing that remains the same. It gives people the opportunity to participate in the political cut and thrust and can lead to much greater things. If I hadn’t started UEA Conservatives in 1982 I would never have gone to work for the then Norwich North MP Patrick Thompson after graduating. I would never have met two of my best friends, two American interns who I met while working for Patrick. I would never have then gone to work as a lobbyist for the ports industry, where I met my future business partner. I would then never have fallen out with that business partner and left to start a bookshop and publishing business. This business, Politico’s led me to gain a lot of exposure on the media and to a career as a political pundit and columnist. It just goes to show. Everything you do in life has a consequence.