Thursday, 4 October 2012
Mrs Angry goes to Manchester: Part One - Green tea and lobster on St Peter's Fields
Not really up north, Manchester, is it?
The North East, shoved right up in a corner of England, the last of England, between Hadrian's Wall and, yes, the North Sea: that's North.
Manchester is a European city, and the outer edges of Europe do not extend as far as say, Easington Lane, or Hetton le Hole, but look: there is a certain urbane glamour here in the centre of Manchester that gleamed, during the Labour conference, like the zircon diamond in a whore's bracelet.
Mrs Angry, feeling like a bit of a whore herself, was staying at the Radisson, a very nice hotel used heavily during the conference, backing onto the conference centre, and more or less adjoining the Midland, the official conference hotel.
Stumbling out of the taxi on to the steps of the Radisson and looking up, Mrs Angry found herself being eyed in a very cool and frankly rather unnerving manner by Eddie Izzard, who during the next couple of days seemed to spend quite a lot of time standing still on the steps of the hotel eyeing the world in the same curious manner. Perhaps he was rehearsing his speech.
The foyer of the hotel is deeply swanky, lovely soft lighting, enormous velvet sofas, and everywhere, wafting around the crowds of furtive, watchful men in suits networking and pretending to be awfully concerned about something, anything, in order to look very important, was a pervasive, scented aroma continually released into the atmosphere through the aircon: intended no doubt to sustain a zen like state of calm and spiritual thinking, ready for the heady debate of, no not debate, what was it, exactly? Not sure. There was of course a lot of talking, and not much listening, both in the hotel and the conference hall. Or perhaps the perfumed air was to disguise the smell of hypocrisy and naked, sweaty ambition seeping from the pores of the men in suits?
Waiting to check in, Mrs Angry sat for a few minutes in one of the restaurants, with possibly the most expensive cup of coffee in Manchester, or indeed the European Union. On Sky news, hello: a welcome sight: there was Barnet boy and Labour list's Mark Ferguson being interviewed.
And then, suddenly, sitting down at the next table, with two younger aides, was David Miliband. Their table, Mrs Angry observed naughtily, was lit from above by a most unusual ceiling light, chiffon draped and pleated into a peculiarly sphincter like form, clenched just above their heads, the light shining through in a probing, rather endoscopic fashion.
Miliband moved away from the table to talk to someone. Mrs Angry watched in amusement as his aides had an earnest, protracted, Thick of It type discussion about what to order from the menu.
Man: Tea: green tea. Pause. Long reflection. Shall we have green tea?
Woman, thoughtfully: Yes. Green tea. Pause. Long reflection. I think that might be good. Shall we?
Man: I think so.
Waitress: Would you like to order?
Man: Yes: yes - we think we would like green tea.
Waitress, unimpressed: Green tea? Just green tea?
Man: Yes. Just green tea.
David Miliband, returning: Have we decided what to order?
Man, nodding very seriously: David: we thought we might have green tea.
David Miliband: Green tea? But what shall we eat?
Looks at menu. Waitress arrives to take his order. By now Mrs Angry is finding it hard to contain her mirth. Checking out the room, and darting a look at Mrs Angry, Miliband shakes his head and says very loudly:
There is nothing on the menu, here, other than Steak and Lobster ...
Yes, thought Mrs A. And green tea. That would be, David, because you are in a restaurant named: The Steak and Lobster Bar.
Miliband stood up and announced angrily for the benefit of his audience, ie, Mrs A: "I Am Not In the Market for Steak and Lobster ..." and swept out, followed by his obedient aides, as Mrs Angry tittered, imagining that despite his commendably proletarian position on lobster, he was probably not heading straight for Starbucks across the road.
Not in the Market ... you Tories - sorry: blue Labour, new Labour, no: what are we now? (We had not realised we were One Nation Labour, see, on Sunday - this was discovered on Tuesday) ... the Market has to be dragged into everything, doesn't it? Outsourcing, education, healthcare: lunch.
The waitress turned up with a tray of green teas, and found an empty table.
On Sky, the story changed with perfect timing to coverage of Ed Miliband's comments earlier in the day about his brother's role in politics.
Mrs Angry amused herself with the thought that here in the Radisson Hotel, we were sitting in the carcass of the former Free Trade Hall, a Northern temple to market forces, but even more significant is something marked on a small plaque high up on the hotel frontage, probably unnoted by most passers by:
Here in August 1819, we are reminded, this spot was the location of the Peterloo Massacre, when a peaceful rally of 'pro democracy reformers, men, women and children' was attacked by a cavalry regiment, leaving fifteen dead, and six hundred injured. It is perhaps the moment in our history which marks the birth of organised political protest, and an organised resistence by the ordinary working people of this country to injustice, exploitation and the rule of privilege.
Here in October 2012, the political party which has inherited the mantle of our pro democracy movements is gathering on the same spot, breathing the perfumed air of a five star hotel, dining, or not dining, on lobster.
Will the Labour party conference really speak to the descendents of the generation that stood on St Peter's Fields, two hundred years ago, wondered Mrs Angry - or will the keen young men in suits be talking to each other, jostling for self advancement, while the party leaders look on from from the stage, as far away from the realities of ordinary life as the government of Lord Liverpool, and Lord Sidmouth, and Castlereagh?
to be continued, of course ...