Labour's film stars

I have been told that Glenda Jackson, an obscure backbencher who was briefly a transport minister, a

With the polls the way they are, many Labour MPs will be preparing for alternative careers after the next general election. A couple of them have a head start in this race: they were in the movies long before they were in Parliament.

A very young Hazel Blears, in bunches and a kilted skirt, can be seen in A Taste of Honey. Her brother sings “The Big Ship Sails On The Ally Ally O” - as children did in 1961.

At the time of Labour's deputy leadership election Blears reminisced to the Daily Mail:

"The director wanted a couple of street urchins in the film and saw me and my brother playing in the street, asked me mum if we could be in the film and, being the proud working-class woman that she is, she made absolutely sure we had our Sunday best clothes on and were all scrubbed up.”

Today there would have to be a risk assessment and several varieties of professional on hand before she could lift a bar of soap, and even then the children’s faces would have to be pixilated. But this was in the days when there were still working-class matriarchs.

Six years later, when British cinema had discarded the kitchen sink and learnt to swing, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush was made.

Attentive viewers will notice that one extra appears in it twice. First in the crowd watching the Spencer Davis Group at a youth club, and later as a bus driver “with the sun glinting on my flowing auburn locks, a fag in my mouth and a copy of Labour Weekly sticking out of my back pocket”.

At least that is what Stephen Pound told the Daily Mirror in 2003.

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is chiefly of interest as piece of pop history. It was made just as Steve Winwood was leaving Spencer Davis to form Traffic, with the result that its soundtrack features the music of both groups.

A knighthood for Winwood, incidentally, was to have been one of our demands when we were contemplating holding the cabinet hostage in Shropshire. We would have been doing them a favour: it is a gesture that could yet swing those vital West Midland marginals.

I have also been told that Glenda Jackson, an obscure backbencher who was briefly a transport minister, appeared in a film once. It sounds unlikely to me.

******

Even though Andy Burnham used to be the cheerleader for identity cards, there is something about his face that makes you unwilling to hurt him. So I shan’t be criticising his idea of spending £2.5m on free theatre tickets for people aged under 26.

It’s just that the scheme is a perfect illustration of the way the failures of government are taken as evidence of the need for more government intervention.

The tickets are for seats in subsidised theatres that would otherwise be empty. Why are they empty? Because management in the public sector lacks the initiative or the freedom to fill them.

And Burnham introduced his scheme by saying: “Culture has the power to change lives. But some people feel it is not for them.”

Which is true. Yet he doesn’t ask why so many emerge from a dozen years of compulsory schooling feeling that way.

But let’s not be cruel. Just look at that sweet face.

Touched by Julian's exit

I see that Julian Clary has been relieved of his column in the magazine.

We may have had our differences, but it would be churlish of me not to compliment him on his exit.