In the summer of 2007, when Gordon Brown’s government was full of youthful optimism, I enjoyed a brief period of being an on-tap minor celebrity political pundit, of the kind that populated Andrew Neil’s boat of drunk people on the BBC’s election night coverage (on a scale of Joan Collins to Armando Iannucci I’d say I was a poor man’s Martin Amis). This was because I happened to be playing Gordon Brown in a musical about Tony Blair which I also wrote, which in a delightful twist of media logic meant that I was automatically qualified to give interviews to broadsheets about current politics, appear on flagship BBC shows like Today and PM and Simon Mayo’s show on Five Live (though that day Simon Mayo was being played by Colin Murray, which I found hugely disappointing but my little sister told me was very exciting).
I say that like it’s ironic and I wasn’t really qualified to do any of it – in fact, I was about as qualified as anybody else who pretends to know what’s going on and considerably more qualified than Joan Collins so I don’t know why I’m being so apologetic. Indeed, one piece of political punditry proved me to be considerably more astute than the people who are paid to do it professionally.
It was an interview with the Daily Mail for, as I recall, an article about actors-who-were-playing-real-people, and the final question they asked me was ‘do you think Gordon Brown will call a snap election?’
Now, it’s hard to believe in the aftermath of an election that ended with Gordon Brown clinging weeping to the doorframe of number 10 and begging to be allowed to stay until September so he could organise a coalition government, but back in 2007 a snap election was considered something of a certainty which he couldn’t possibly lose. But I was playing Gordon Brown in a musical. In preparation for the role I had researched him, got under his skin, got inside his head, got inside his accent. I knew what he was thinking.
So I confidently told the Daily Mail journalist, ‘absolutely not. Gordon Brown has wanted this job for his whole life and he’s not a gambling man – he won’t risk losing power in a snap election, however unlikely it is that he would. He will cling to number 10 until the very last moment and only call an election when he is required to.’
The journalist sort of laughed at my youthful naivety and pointed out that everybody else disagreed with me, so I shrugged and said everybody else was wrong.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Infuriatingly, the Daily Mail only printed a brief paragraph about Nathan Kiley’s teeth, so evidence of my superior political wisdom was lost forever.
In order to ensure that this time there is record of our prophetic abilities when it comes to current affairs, we at Talk to Rex would like it known that, contrary to popular opinion, Cameron and Clegg’s coalition government is going to last well beyond six months. James Aylett gives it two years – I am prepared to optimistically predict an even longer innings.
I use the word ‘optimistically’ deliberately: if the coalition government works it will be a Good Thing for British Politics. It will show that a cabinet need not be made up of members of the same party, that progress comes through co-operation rather than confrontation and that the petty party squabbling that has come to dominate the House of Commons is as wasteful as all those other wasteful things George Osborne keeps going on about. In spite of the ideological chasm that theoretically separates them, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are clearly determined to make big changes together to make the country a better place – and good luck to ’em, says I.
I have a number of friends who I know will vociferously object to all of that, and I willingly invite them to be as vociferous as they like. On this condition: in two years’ time, when our economy is more stable and our government still happily co-operating away, I will absolutely say ‘I told you so’.