On the fringes of the Rally called by the Labour Party in Parliament Square to launch the summer campaign to dethrone Boris Johnson and, just after his big black motorcade has nosed past us like a mini me version of Trump’s, his brother, the tall, slim, cool one with the humour bypass, resplendent in a bright blue suit, strolls through the clusters of Labour members gathered underneath the statues of Millicent Fawcett and Nelson Mandela. One of our possible GLA candidates gleefully gives him an earful about how embarrassing it must be to have such a racist brother and he gives her a cold stare as though she is something he has just trodden in – that frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command*. Further on he is ambushed for a selfie by a member with a sense of humour and they pose briefly together under the unfortunate statue of General Smuts.
Last Saturday I walked past Tom Watson on a traffic island on the Bayswater Road; heading into Kensington Gardens with a subdued and anoraked young woman in tow. His face was blank, transparently unreadable in a poker faced fugue – working out his next political move while his legs worked on auto pilot.
In April I found myself standing behind Frank Field on the escalator at Euston. He had the hooded eyes and pursed mouth of a man who distrusts his own flesh- tightly wound into himself – a neat, elderly medieval monk in tweed.
Last summer on the platform at Westminster tube I came across Grant Shapps – a walking alias – an aging youth, tieless in an expensive camel overcoat – talking on a mobile phone as though he were arranging a liaison, or a hit, and knowing he could get away with it.
At Kings Cross last month I ran into John Prescott – actually ran in to him – as I made haste to get out of a car on the Victoria line (having been absorbed in reading and forgetting where I was and what I was doing) just as he ran on; so we collided in the doorway. Both of us instinctively moved to the left to avoid more damage. He didn’t look happy but no punches were thrown, or – this being the tube – words spoken.
*Shelley – Ozymandias