Sir Koi, voters will carp when you’re a fish out of water in the real world

THE “Westminster bubble” is a goldfish bowl for politicians.

They swim back and forth in safe waters, navigating around each other while largely disconnected from the people who put them there.

But the second they venture outside and, shock horror, encounter “the voter”, there’s a clear and present danger that the bubble gets popped and they’re left gasping for air.

The latest one that didn’t get away is Labour leader Sir Koi Starmer, who blithely strode into The Raven pub in Bath for a post-lockdown, cleansing ale while on the Mayoral campaign trail in Bath.

The visit had been pre-arranged with the pub’s co-owner Tim Perry who, presumably, was on board with the media-managed idea of Sir Keir dropping in for a “spontaneous” pint with jolly, on-message locals while projecting a “just like one of the lads” image.

But the other co-owner, Rod Humphris, clearly didn’t get the memo.

Despite being a Labour supporter, as soon as he clapped eyes on the Westminster posse, he went all Peggy Mitchell and yelled: “Get out of my pub.”

Why? Because Rod is furious about the lockdown restrictions and feels Sir Keir hasn’t challenged them robustly enough.

There followed an unseemly scuffle — in front of assembled local media — between 54-year-old Rod and Sir Keir’s security minder. Oh dear.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rod’s views and methods, for a Labour leader already facing accusations of being ineffective and failing to gain traction with voters, it wasn’t a good look.

Despite the pub issuing a later statement that “Rod’s opinion is his own”, the damage was done.

Worse, around the same time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pictured enjoying a hassle-free pint at The Mount pub in Wolverhampton.

Taking to the streets is a high-risk strategy for any politician because, unlike Westminster where advisers routinely assure them of their brilliance, the public aren’t quite so relentlessly sycophantic.


In 2017, after PM Theresa May was accused of hiding from the electorate, she decided to engage directly with the public on a walkabout around Abingdon in Oxfordshire.

Only to be confronted by a voter with a learning disability who was upset by benefit cuts.

“Do you know what I want? I want my disability living allowance to come back . . .  I can’t live on £100 a month. They just took it all away from me,” said Kathy Mohan as the PM feverishly clutched her handbag and tried in vain to interject with a few wooden party political reassurances.

But perhaps the most memorable encounter of all was in 2010 between then PM Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy on the streets of Rochdale.

It was a Labour stronghold so, presumably, his aides at the time felt it was safe to abandon the usual, pre-arranged chats with hand-picked loyalists and feel the unexpurgated love of the local electorate.

However, 65-year-old Gillian — who had merely popped out to buy a loaf of bread when she encountered him — was having none of it and told him her family had been lifelong Labour voters but she was now “ashamed” of saying so.

What followed was reminiscent of Monty Python’s “what have the Romans done for us” scene in Life Of Brian.

After the then PM delivered a mini party political broadcast about what Labour had done in improving the NHS, financing the police, bettering schools and advocating fairness for hard-working families, Gillian replied with devastating simplicity: “I don’t think it’s happening in Rochdale.”

She went on to mention her concerns about immigration.

But, rather than recognising that he was failing loyal Labour voters like Gillian, the PM got in his car after the exchange and, forgetting he was wearing a Sky News microphone, was heard describing her as “a bigoted woman”.

And there you have the stark disconnect between what’s considered important within the Westminster bubble and the views/worries of those living outside it.

Rochdale subsequently voted 60.1 per cent in favour of leaving the EU and the party’s majority was dented substantially in the 2019 General Election while other left-leaning strongholds in the once “red wall” fell to the Conservative Party.

Regardless of which party you represent, when you mingle among the masses and resemble a fish out of water, you’re getting it badly wrong and will suffer the consequences in the voting booths.

Kate’s heartfelt words for tongue-tied hubby

KATE WINSLET says her husband Edward Abel Smith “has difficulty pronouncing certain words”.

She adds: “It’s absolutely adorable and slightly heart-breaking, but he’s so earnest and determined that he’s going to get the word right that it becomes some of the funniest things you will ever hear in your life.”

Apparently, he once spent ten minutes trying to say “Dustin Hoffman” but it came out as “Dustmin Hoffbin”.

My good friend and near-neighbour Deborah has the same problem and it has provided our circle of girlfriends with hours – actually, years – of entertainment.

Her favourite designer is Jake Marcobs and she was a huge fan of Mob Bunkhouse’s comedy.

But my absolute favourite was when she spent 20 minutes trying to remember the name of an actress she admired.

“Got it,” she finally declared triumphantly. “Hilda Stilton.”

Tilda Swinton; I can only apologise.

Helen’s shock death

THE death of Peaky Blinders actress Helen McCrory came as a shock.

Yes, because she was just 52.

But also because – in a world where over-sharing on social media is commonplace – she kept her illness secret from all but her close friends and family.

A sack load of money

JOSE MOURINHO is to receive a reported £16million payoff from Tottenham after being sacked as manager.

It follows payouts of millions from various other clubs that sacked him because, presumably, they were unhappy with his results.

What I know about football could be written on the ball of a gnat’s foot, so if any Premier League club would like to employ and, inevitably, sack me for poor results (with a large payoff), then you know where I am.

Allow us to mourn

THE Queen sitting alone in St George’s Chapel highlights the plight of others who have had to endure the funeral of a loved one while socially isolated from those who could offer comfort in their hour of need.

Meanwhile, parks and pub gardens are packed with people enjoying the sunshine and brushing past each other on the way to the loo.

It’s illogical and unfair.

Just like the school sports teams unable to play outside matches while every patch of grassland is now being used by people playing local football, and numerous other contradictions.

When rules stop making sense, that’s when public goodwill goes out of the window and resentment sets in.

With just four Covid deaths registered on Monday and the vaccination programme working well, surely it’s now time for the Government to allow mourners some semblance of “normality” when saying goodbye to loved ones?

Hand it to Duke

LORD Tebbit recalls when his wife Margaret – paralysed by the IRA Brighton bomb – was anxious about being seated next to the Duke of Edinburgh at a palace banquet because of her difficulty using cutlery.

He says: “The minute the first course arrived, he handed his cutlery to the footman and then ate the entire meal with his fingers . . . Margaret could then do the same.”

Among the acres of tributes to Prince Philip, for me this anecdote stood out as the mark of the man.

Grumpy postman

ROYAL Mail says it’s investigating the behaviour of a grumpy postman caught muttering profanities on door-cams in Walsall, West Mids.

At one house, he can be heard muttering “f***ing s**thole”. At another, he shoves a parcel through a letterbox while seething, “They’re never f***ing in.”

What’s to investigate?

It would be different if he was swearing directly at someone, but he’s talking to himself and has no idea his mutterings are being caught on camera.

Who among us hasn’t vented frustrations under our breath, safe in the knowledge that no one can hear us?

So any repercussions will move us one step closer to George Orwell’s Thought Police becoming a reality.

He’s got floors

MARRIED couple David and Claire Burke have finally moved in together after 20 years of living apart.

Claire, of Wetherby, West Yorks, says: “I have been surprised by how unbothered I am by David’s little quirks . . .  such as him leaving his underpants on the floor.”

Early days, Claire. Early days.

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