What to read into Tom Watson's resignation as Labour's election co-ordinator? And what to read into his recommendation of Drenge, a band that the MP for West Bromwich East appears to have stumbled across in between putting up his tent at Glastonbury and his mud-baked epiphany in the Healing Field that there's more to life than politics?
Watson is a man who loves symbolism. So it turns out that Drenge are a band of two brothers – just like the Milibands. What's more, their surname is "Loveless" and, well, we all know the story of David and Ed, don't we? And, get this, one of their songs is called "I Wanna Break You in Half" – which could be a metaphor for what Len McCluskey is trying to do to the Labour Party. But I'm sure this is all a coincidence.
Anyway, back to his resignation: Watson insists that Ed Miliband can rely on his loyalty. Friends say he has had enough of the continuing pressure over his role in the Falkirk candidate selection. Despite his retreat to the back benches, I am sure he will continue to be a force in the Labour Party machine. Apart from his front-of-camera role in goading Rupert Murdoch, when it came to Labour he was always happier behind the scenes.
However, I was struck by one line in his colourful resignation letter – besides the endorsement of Drenge, of course. He said: "I feel like I've seen the merry-go-round turn too many times – whereas the Shadow Cabinet's for people who still want to get dizzy." This might be a convenient alibi for someone who still has questions to answer over Falkirk. But many MPs also talk of wanting to step off the spinning merry-go‑round. Tom Harris quit as a shadow minister last month to spend more time with his family. There are others in all three parties considering the same move.
And why shouldn't they? This may sound like an odd question, but is the most effective use of an MP's time doing politics, all the time? Isn't it better for democracy that the people who represent us are on top of "real life"? Watson was Labour's elections campaign co-ordinator, but the newly liberated MP may discover more about how Miliband can win the next election if he drags himself away from Westminster. And so would all MPs.
At the same time, the revelation that nearly 150 MPs have been given permission to claim expenses to fund their children's travel and other costs might seem shocking. This kind of perk is not available in the private sector. But most jobs in the private sector don't require an employee to work from two geographical locations. It is hard enough having to haul children around the country on holiday, let alone every Friday evening and Monday morning. We should want our MPs to have lives that are as normal as possible, including spending time with their children, if they have them, so they can understand how the rest of us feel.
In 2001, a young Labour Party adviser toured branches of Asda supermarkets across the country to tap into what the nation was really feeling. This aide was relatively unknown, so the tour took place without TV cameras. By his side was his elder brother, who happened to be one of Labour's parliamentary candidates. Yes, their names were Ed and David Miliband. Back then, they were the Drenge of politics. David is now gone from Westminster. But Ed could do worse than quietly pitch up in a few Asda car parks over the next 22 months and listen to what shoppers are saying. It doesn't get so dizzy out in the real world. And Watson? He is, he tells me, spending this weekend playing Lego with his children.
My diamond-studded diva
I might try some Lego with my daughter this weekend, too. But tomorrow evening, I am going to the Royal Opera House to see my heroine, Angela Gheorghiu, in Puccini's La Rondine. I saw her in Tosca a few years ago when, at the final curtain, the soprano received 17 standing ovations, flowers tumbling on to the stage from the gods. With her shimmering, diamond-studded stage presence, she is the closest thing the 21st century has to a 1930s Hollywood goddess. When Gheorghiu claimed last week that her former husband, the opera singer Roberto Alagna, was violent to her during their marriage – an allegation strongly denied by the tenor – some said that this would damage her "brand" as a strong woman. But I believe it will do the exact opposite. One critic called her "silly and sad". Yet what if her claims are true? Yes, Gheorghiu is prone to diva-like tendencies (although if you can't be a diva in the world of opera, where can you be?), but this does not make her claims any less valid. We do not know the truth, but doesn't she have a right to speak about her private life? When she takes to the stage tomorrow evening, and I hope she still will, I and thousands of others in the audience will be cheering her to the gilt-edged rafters.
Dave's barbie or Mick's glee?
I can just imagine David Cameron's barbecue for Conservative MPs on Thursday. Dave at the coalface, or rather, charcoalface, in an apron, brandishing tongs, cabinet ministers ferrying burgers to backbenchers. As he showed with Barack and Michelle Obama two years ago, the PM loves a good barbie. But I don't care how warm it gets this week, I'd rather sit down at a table to eat, so if I had a choice it would be breaking pane toscano with Nick Clegg and Mick Jagger at La Famiglia, where they dined last week. Lib Dem members are excited about this new coalition – and have started a campaign to get the Rolling Stones to play at the party's Glee Club at this year's conference, with the hashtag #jaggeratgleeclub. If Mick is considering this, though, I should warn him: he'd be playing alongside Lembit Opik on harmonica.
Let's get ready to party
Party conference season is still more than two months away, but thoughts in Westminster are already turning to the three-week decamp to Glasgow (Lib Dems), Brighton (Labour) and Manchester (Tories). Hotels are booked; party invites are being sent. Book publishers are jostling over which of their books will be the hit of the season.
Surely this has to be the memoirs of Damian McBride, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor. Last Thursday, at the moment Tom Watson resigned, McBride was writing about the then junior defence minister's 2006 resignation, which triggered the coup d'état against Tony Blair. The merry-go-round keeps spinning.Reuse content