In Political Praise of: John O'Farrell
Quite frankly he deserves a firm place here because I brought his book "Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997" about six years ago.
If it wasn't for that, I would never have considered working for an MP as a short-term career (although I know a bit more about computers and have never vomitted within the Palace of Westminster), and as a consequence made the final and decisive move to tie the knot and join the party I had been stringing along for so many years. I would therefore have not ended up working for Geraint Davies when he was MP for Croydon Central, or met great people like Kerron Cross or Jamie Bolden or Anneliese Dodds or Anna Sales or Jonathan Cox or Helen Dennis or Lucie Wibberley or John-Paul Wares or Ruth Hydon and the many others involved with the Labour Party, or got involved with Bloggers4Labour, or become involved with CSM, or stood for District Council, or gone to Party Conferences and had conversations with the likes of Gordon Brown, Dennis Skinner, Tony Benn, Billy Bragg, Neil Kinnock, etc.. I would never have...
Well, to cut it short, it was mainly down to O'Farrell.
I did meet him at the 2004 Party Conference and pointed some of this out, to which he replied (no doubt being weary of the fact that this was the 123867.3465 gushing Young Labour person to say this to him), that he was sure it would have happened anyway.
So what is brilliant about the aforementioned book!
Well, as the title suggests, it's a humourous political memoir of those times, and most of it self-depricating and if you support the Labour Party, or have been a footsoldier, or know what it's like to be in constant opposition with no immediate prospect of winning a general election (Tories and Lib Dems take note ;) ), then you can identify with this.
I certainly can. Like O'Farrell I know what it is like to be at a Secondary School in a Tory area and vocally and publicly support Labour and be mocked and ridiculed for my pains by other students. During the 1992 general election, I was one of the 88 pupils out of 643 who voted Labour in the school mock election (Tories got 265 and Lib Dems 290). Like O'Farrell, I know what it is like to be young and verbally shredded in political arguments. Like O'Farrell, I know what it is like to join the Party I love during a difficult time (I joined in the months leading to the invasion of Iraq). Like O'Farrell, I have trudged around certain working class areas and feel frustrated as to why they are so right-wing! Like O'Farrell, I worked for an MP (who also lost at the subsequent election). Like O'Farrell, I have stood for my local council (and also lost). Like O'Farrell I have been at election counts and felt the hurt at seeing people with blue rosettes bray and cheer and rub it in! Like O'Farrell I have also experienced the joy and pleasure of watching Election Night 1997 and found it to be more pleasurable than I could possibly have imagined. I still smile when I remember Margaret Thatcher's old seat of Finchley turning Labour (Apparently that really upset the Editor of the Daily Mail, who started shouting and swearing at the screen when that happened! If only he was picked as a pundit for the BBC Election Night so we could see the frustration that he deserves to feel ;)).
Okay the last bit was cruel, and not exactly Christian either, and all of us have a bit of the Roman citizen spending a hard-earned Saturday watching people suffer in the Roman arena, but you can see why it is easy to descend into Yah Boo politics when you yourself have been ridiculed and bullied and victimised for years as many in the Labour Party felt during that time! Maybe now we have all felt this brusing, our political landscape may slowly change. I certainly feel it!
What I don't have is O'Farrell's wit, his incisiveness, and maybe those of us who are political animals could do with his ability to sit back and look elsewhere.
But all political groups need their Court Jester of wisdom and British politics has John O'Farrell :-).