I not naughty, you naughty!

October 8, 2023

“Daddy, my crayon has broke,” said Leon.
I’m going back to when my boys were toddlers. I’d wound back my business and kept a few clients, to look after the kids while my wife continued her NHS medical career.

“Oh dear, how’d you do that, son?”
“It broke on the wall.”
Alarm bells ringing in my head, I dashed downstairs to find Nelson in full Neolithic cave-art mode. Navy blue Crayloa on magnolia emulsion, Celtic swirls decorating the wall on the stairs.

Crayons were confiscated, boys calmly but sternly told of the seriousness of their actions. A courtroom drama ensued in which Nelson introduced the plot twist, “No I not naughty. You naughty!”

Mr Sunak’s speech at Conservative Party conference reminded me of this. Someone has made a terrible mess of Britain, he said! We need change, he said! Vote for me, and I’ll fix it, he said! All the eloquence of my toddler son: “I not naughty, you naughty!”

I’d hoped we’d seen the end of toddler politics when Mr Johnson resigned. Yet toddler politics is proliferating. Sir Keir is demonising the Conservatives’ actions – with some justification – but then adopts their polices! Taxing work higher than unearned income. Punishing kids with more than one sibling, denying them a welfare safety net. Increasing privatisation in the NHS. “No I not naughty. You naughty!”

It gets sillier. Presumably dismayed at his failure to outflank Sir Keir to the right, Mr Sunak has started making up nursery yard bogeymen. I will protect you from having seven recycling bins! I will protect you from taxes on meat! And I promise I will never, ever, make you share your car with strangers! I’m not exaggerating. He literally said this.

How do you parody that? If you re-elect me, as Independent Mayor for the expanded North East devolved authority, I hereby promise I will not make you hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose, buy a jumbo jet or bury all your clothes.

You may have missed it, but Sir Keir Starmer made a speech last week in which he praised Margaret Thatcher’s approach to law and order. Yes, actually, literally. I wonder what the Hillsborough families think of that. Crime, rioting and drug addiction rocketed under Mrs Thatcher.

It’s a slash and burn approach to truth. No wonder only 11% of people trust Mr Sunak to keep his promises, according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll. Mind you, only 21% of people think Sir Keir will.

As someone who’s striven to build trust by working cross party, putting delivery ahead of political game playing, I’m saddened that there’s so little trust in Westminster politics.

Part of it is the expenses scandal. And ongoing sleaze. The common complaint, “they’re all in it for themselves.” Dinner with Rishi Sunak in Manchester would have cost you £3300. Dinner with Keir Starmer in Liverpool is £2520. It’s naked cash for access.

Outside of Westminster, voters are already choosing another option. Independents, Greens, and a slew of local community parties are winning up and down the country, many of them ex-Labour. Don’t get me wrong – there are some good people still in the mainstream parties, too. But Westminster politics is undermining them.

Some of my campaign volunteers were leafleting in Durham this weekend. One of them messaged me, “My most used line of the day was ‘I’m not Labour or Tory’ to which they replied, ‘Ok I’ll talk to you then.’”

“I’ve donated to your campaign,” an older gentleman told me in the street just this weekend. “I want the Tories out, but I’m not that hopeful Labour will change anything.” I get stopped in the cinema, at a café, on the Metro, at the shops. Every time I go out people tell me the same thing.

Over 100 local people turned up to hear me speak in Wallsend last Thursday. It’s been the same in Morpeth, North Shields, Hexham and Newton Aycliffe. Next Thursday I’m in Durham, then South Shields, Chester-le-Street, Stanley, and Gosforth over following weeks.

If you ask me a question, I’ll give you a grown up answer. You don’t even need to buy a bag of chips.