Steve Richards: Rock N Roll Politics, Soho Theatre, London


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The Independent Culture

Given that I'm currently embroiled in a bitter political battle against my local council (albeit with the hearty support of my MP) I might be Steve Richards' toughest audience member tonight, somewhat resistant to the idea that politicians are human beings, insecure and tortured by dilemma.

However, having worked in politics I can relate to Richards' central assertion in this show - a kind of spoken blog - that politics is not boring and that people should be as excited by it as they are angry about it.

Likening politics to rock n' roll might be a stretch - you could just about apply that to comedy - but, as a one-time political anorak, I too can understand the bizarre thrill of meeting one's first senior politician and understand how a gas fire burning one's leg wouldn't distract from that, a situation Richards found himself in as a student journalist meeting Roy Jenkins.

Describing his hour as "anti-satire", Richards, The Independent's chief political columnist since 2000 and presenter of Radio 4's 'Week in Westminster', develops his love of politics into a gentle defence of the politician's need to be strong in a crisis and decisive in times of of dilemma - the dilemma being the rock 'n' roll moment in politics.

The odds are stacked against the politicians, he says: "They are posh but don't want to be seen as posh"; they have to talk about Byron burgers and Greggs pasties rather than macroeconomics; they are tortured by Twitter and they have to endorse some appalling by-election candidates.  Worse still many of them "are not fully formed" and "are given big jobs far too young." Yes, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, he's talking about you.

One could almost have sympathy for these devils. Richards' reminders of hostages to fortune (for example Cameron's request to him to "text if you feel I have moved from the centre ground to the right") and moments of more intended wit portray the politicos as both vulnerable and human. Later on we are polled on some hypothetical dilemmas to graduate from sympathy to empathy.

Rather like a book festival talk with no book as a focus, Richards' hour is genial, comfortable and arguably more likely than even the best column to make the case for politicians and politics. It's a speakers corner moment, a back-to-basics way of extolling the virtues of people who, ironically, could stand to be reminded of what it is like to connect with their own audiences.