Gordon Brown, Wendy Alexander, the Miliband brothers and Jack McConnell are among a generation of politicians still young enough to make a comeback as part of a new centrist party, writes Kevan Christie.
I saw a former Prime Minister in the gym at the weekend but in the interests of national security I won’t tell you who it was.
This famous Raith Rovers supporter and son of the Kingdom was accompanied by two men who looked like they could kill you with their thumbs.
I seemed to be the only one who noticed “He Who Shall Remain Nameless’ (HWSRN) cutting a dash on the cross trainer, while the younger gym members posted selfie pictures on their Instagram pages and took sips from their protein shakes.
I must admit the arrival of the man who handled the aftermath of the 2007 Glasgow terrorist attacks with such aplomb and dealt with the financial crisis – to which he may or may not have contributed – a year later knocked me for six.
His presence fair disrupted the usual workout of 30 minutes of uphill walking on the treadmill while listening to New Order’s greatest hits – and they say men can’t multitask.
Anyway, his arrival and the new BBC programme Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil in which David Cameron gets booted from pillar to post like a giant Ribena berry between the likes of Merkel and Sarkozy got me thinking about retirement.
Not my retirement, rest easy readers, but the retirement of politicians.
It seems like there’s a lot of mostly 50 to 60-something “talent” out there who are busy working on other things, side hustles if you like, when they could still be involved in politics.
Labour seems to have been hardest hit by this with the loss of David Miliband, who quit the rough and tumble and headed to the US in 2013, not long after losing the leadership election to his bacon-butty-bothering wee brother Ed.
Surely a Bros-style documentary chronicling the demise of the brothers’ relationship followed by a reconciliation and the inevitable comeback tour beckons.
When pigs fly.
David has gone down well stateside, and is something of a media dahling among the liberal elite in his role as president of the International Rescue Committee.
He’s being touted as the next leader of a centrist political party in the UK which may give millions of people currently wandering in the political desert something to vote for.
Ed, rightly or wrongly, cops the blame for opening up membership of the Labour Party to anyone willing to pay their three quid. Not a bad idea in theory, but oft cited as the principal reason the Bolsheviks led by Jeremy Corbyn were allowed to seize power.
Corbyn, who at 69 is two years older than HWSRN, and four years old than Tony Blair, yes I’ve mentioned the B-word, is living proof of the old adage “if you hang around the barbershop, you’re bound to get a haircut”.
At 65, Blair is still seven years younger than Donald Trumpet but has the small problem of the Iraq War to contend with every time he opens his mouth. I for one can’t concentrate on anything he’s saying – and he has been speaking a lot of sense on Brexit – without a giant “WAR CRIMINAL” klaxon exploding in my head.
The decision to take us to war with Iraq in 2003 continues to haunt the Labour Party. That and the perception of taking the electorate for granted, especially in Scotland, has left them to endure years in the political wilderness.
David Miliband will be hoping the public give him the benefit of the doubt if he does return, when he says he voted for war based on the belief Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction. He would certainly bring a bit of experience to proceedings and would be a much-needed voice of reason in these turbulent times.
Quite rightly, there’s no way back for Blair but talented performers like Yvette Cooper need somewhere else to shine and a new Centrist party could be the answer.
Of course, there’s a host of chancers who have ridden off into the sunset having got a bit of the old politics on the CV. George Gideon Oliver Osborne is one.
The 47-year-old manchild was last seen chilling out in his new £3 million sky-chalet in Verbier.
Then there’s Sir (what?) Nick Clegg, 52, who has been telling anyone who’ll listen how nice and responsible Facebook is while he trousers a hefty sum and they reportedly pay 13-year-olds for access to their web activity.
Excuse my prejudices but I’m not having guys who appear to dye their hair to hide the grey bits, surely an anachronism today, and, like crown green bowlers under the age of 30, they’re worth the watching.
Knighthood-avoiding “Call Me Dave” Cameron is bound to be struggling as it’s reported he’s finally let the builders into his Cotswolds pile after 15 years of planning. Expect some Alan Partridge-style chat with the workies as 52-year-old Dave explains to Polish labourers why they may end up being sent home post-Brexit.
Scotland is a different story, in that I’m struggling to think of anyone who used to be in politics who is a loss to the profession, HWSRN aside.
Douglas and Wendy Alexander are still in their 50s and Jack McConnell is only 58 – so a new Centrist party might be attractive to a generation of former politicians who may or may not still have something to offer. That nice man Willie Rennie might even be persuaded to jump ship if a Centrist party were to take off.
Whether the ex-politicians want the grief of the social media circus that the job now brings is a different story. I haven’t mentioned any SNP politicians as they’re still in power and enjoying everything that goes with it – for now.
But my point is that a schism in the Labour Party, the rise of populism – and I include the SNP in that – and the Conservatives lurching to the right towards Jacob Rees-Mogg and his mates has opened the door for a new party.
As I left the gym, I couldn’t get the former Prime Minister out of my head. Does he buy his own tray bakes or have them delivered?
I know he’s busy with charitable projects but he’s just one of an increasing number no longer in the political arena who would bring a sense of maturity to the current shambles.
Forget retirement – it’s time for comebacks.