I spent the post-election debacle, like everyone else, glued to the television. I was terrified that I might miss Adam Boulton beat a man to death and there was the constant risk of missing another Gordon Brown (remember him) resign. Every time the podium was placed in front of No 10 we would race back from the kitchen, Pot Noodle in hand, ready for action.
Of course the news I really wanted to see never actually happened. I wanted Brown to glue the locks and then clamber on to the No 10 roof with a shotgun and start blasting away at the Sky News copter. Aided by his comrade-in-arms Ross Kemp, he would manage to keep everyone at bay until a naked Kay Burley abseiled on to the roof with a knife between her teeth. Meanwhile, down below, Boulton would lead an entry team into the building where he would set about waterboarding Alastair Campbell in the Cabinet room.
Eventually I tired of watching from a distance. I packed my bag and set off for London to be a coalition tourist. Soon I found myself on College Green enjoying the almost carnival atmosphere that is a rolling news political event. For the political anorak it was like Glastonbury – "Oh look, there's Michael Heseltine. All right, Hezza?" It was a safari through our political past, spotting the grand old beasts of yore – ooh, double whammy – Neil Kinnock and Ann Widdecombe.
I was pleased to see that I have at least left one imprint on the British political scene. In the late Nineties I spent a lot of time fooling around in the background of live broadcasts from the Green during the John Major resignation fiasco. We had a gang of Mexicans who claimed to be "Miguel", Portillo's cousins who had come over to support his leadership bid. The Mexicans would dance and make lots of noise and were a colourful addition to the chaos.
For a while I wandered about dressed as a chicken that would regularly be seen swigging from a bottle of Scotch before collapsing. I can't remember what the comedic point of this was but it alarmed Michael Ancram enough for him to suggest, mid-interview with Adam Boulton, that an ambulance be called.
We turned up at the next round of votes a couple of days later to find that the broadcasters had tried to stymie us by putting up scaffolding upon which they had put platforms. The idea was that they could still get their background of Big Ben but without any dancing Mexicans. We had to think fast. We called a local school of performing arts and asked if they had any acrobats? They did.
Two hours later viewers were startled to see first the head and then the slightly precarious body of a Mexican appear on screen. He was at the top of quite an impressive human pyramid. This was the final straw, the police were called and we were removed. This time the platforms were much more elaborate. The BBC effort resembled some sort of creepy black command centre. It had tinted windows and possibly a couple of laser guns scanning the area.
I walked on past College Green and up Whitehall. As I approached Downing Street, Newsnight's resident terrier Michael Crick roared past me in hot pursuit of William Hague. Meanwhile, outside the gates the police had cordoned off an area beneath a tree. Some anti-war protesters had climbed up and were conducting a tree-in. One of them spotted me and started shouting: "Hello, I'm in Downing Street. It's rubbish!"
I moved on, slightly embarrassed. He was wrong though, it wasn't rubbish: it was the full extraordinary circus of our democracy in action.Reuse content