Friday, 22 January 2010

My Downing Street 'sporting' adventure

I know this makes me something of a rarity (or some may call me something far worse) but I really, yes really, like politics. I always have, I always will.

As a big sports fan I just see party politics as another form of great sporting drama. In this case you have a number of sides competing for the big prize but they are kicking around ideas instead of footballs to win it. It is all wonderful theatre to me and what makes it so intriguing is that the players make moves that affect our everyday life.

It is all simply irresistible and the most under-rated sport in Britain.

It was for that reason that I was thrilled, for the second consecutive year, to have been invited last week to the Wembley of the political world – 10, Downing Street – for a regional media reception.

The Prime Minister and his wife hosted the event which attracted members of the regional press from all over the country for an intriguing couple of hours. It was last Wednesday – the day when the snow came back after a temporary ceasefire – but that didn’t stop any of us travelling because we didn’t want to miss the chance to chat to some of the most influential people in the country and talk with enthusiasm about the areas we represent and the concerns of the communities we serve.

To be honest, the first surprise for me, was how relaxed Gordon Brown seemed on this occasion. Last year, when he was in a probably stronger position in terms of the opinion polls, he looked as though he had the world on his shoulders but on this occasion he seemed far more buoyant and even a bit rejuvenated. Maybe he is more determined to hang on to the top job than we think?
Elsewhere I had the chance to chat to the likes of Alistair Darling, Hilary Benn, Jack Straw and Lord Mandelson. All of them had ‘something’ about them but I have to say it was the ‘Lord’ himself who really exuded power. When he walked into the room virtually all the heads turned and I got the impression that after the PM he was the one we all wanted a quick word with.

There’s just something about him . . . (I will pause so you can all say exactly what you think that is!)

The idea of the reception is not to make political capital – I am proud of the fact that editors of the regional press are passionately non-partisan when they are in official mode – but it was a good opportunity for those at the top of Governemen to get a feel for what is happening on the ground throughout the UK. As such, I was happy to talk about the forthcoming elections in the seats of Bath and North East Somerset – both of which are very much on the radar among the powers that be.

As I left Number 10, looking back at that famous front door, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I would get another invitation next year. And, indeed, who it would be that would be doing the invitations. Will Mr Brown defy the odds and still be there? Is David Cameron a nailed-on cert? Should we be looking at Nick Clegg?

Or even, dare I say it, could it be a ‘Lordly’ invitation . . .

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