NOT that you’d know it from the report in the Evening Standard, but Sally Bercow’s speech was the shortest of all the speeches at Ken Livingstone’s Fare Deal rally in the Camden Centre in King’s Cross on Wednesday night. Her brief, smiley appearance lacked the wit of Tom Watson and the experience of Tessa Jowell – or even the right-on enthusiasm of Rowenna Davis, journalist, Labour coucillor, Sky newspapers reviewer. But it still bagged the headlines in our city’s evening read.
With her bedsheet photoshoots and ‘oops, did I say vibrator, naughty me’ interviews, Sally Bercow has been elevated to ‘celebrity’ status, under Big Brother definitions at least. But more than a couple of people at the CC were clearly wondering what Ken deep down really thought about the Daily Star Sunday columnist getting high billing on his stage. Morever, her appearance clanged just a teensy bit with Tessa Jowell’s attempts to paint Boris Johnson’s rival mayoral election campaign as simply being driven by money and celebrity endorsements. This laboured contrast in approaches between Team Ken and Team Boris became a theme of the night. Speakers, as per normal at these events, were trying to part supporters with their change (into buckets rattled by a man and a woman in chicken suits – on the basis that Boris counts the £250k he gets for his Telegraph column as ‘chickenfeed’) with repeated warnings that Johnson’s campaign is fuelled by glossy leaflets and soundbites from famous people. Tessa declared Ken as ‘the underdog’ and Tom Watson, the best speaker on the night, warned that although he was predicting a Livingstone victory – the campaign was ‘under resourced and underfunded’.
The large crowd, albeit with hardly any Camden councillors (yeah, I saw you Tulip and Sally… but not many more) turning out for a home patch gig, were told Labour would win back the city through good old fashioned, determined campaigning and people power. Not celebrity stardust. But in reality, the campaign films on the big screen were well edited, well produced – if they were pieces of paper, they’d certainly be glossy. And – waydaminute – wasn’t that Eddie Izzard, chief celebrity endorser of all things Labour, number one front row clapper, hanging out with Ken Livingstone at a Finsbury Park photo-shoot a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t count Sally Bercow as a celebrity, Izzard certainly is. Nobody is fooled, there will be a bit of famous fizz on both sides as May approaches.