This article is from the June 2012 issue of Total Politics
Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North since 1997. A politician who cracks jokes at every opportunity but remains deadly serious on the issues that matter to him. He is now shadow minister for Northern Ireland.
The restaurant Red Lion
The upstairs dining room of the Red Lion, the Whitehall institution that is a favourite of all political types. The food is best described as classic British pub grub.
Main course Gammon, two eggs and chips for two.
We drank Draught cola and coffee.
Troublesome constituents I’ve got this guy down the road from me – one of these odd people who writes to politicians. [Adopts nasal voice] “I happened to notice you walk down the road at 7.15 this morning and I thought, ‘What kept you?’” He once wrote: “I was perusing the Daily Telegraph list of [expenses] villains and I noticed you neglected to claim any second home allowance even though you’re entitled to do so. What kind of idiot of you?”
Power One of the things you discover about politics in Westminster very quickly is it’s nothing to do with party, it’s nothing to do with seniority, it’s all to do with power. And you can have people who don’t do anything but they’ve got the power, they’ve got the juice that works. Lyndon Johnson famously said: “Power is where power goes.”
The hunt to get in the local paper It’s got far, far worse. Gerald Kaufman told me when I first came in: “There is only one question you can ask the PM, everything is completely otiose, and it is: ‘Would the right honourable gentleman like to remind the House of his latest triumph?’” When you got all this ridiculous stuff: “The PM will be as glad as I am that the new sewage works extension opened last week.” How do people still do it? A bunch of the new Tories are almost as bad as we were in 1997.
Funny late MPs Tony Banks was probably the last MP to convulse us in laughter. Cecil Parkinson, when he’d been done for hiding the salami. We had a debate on the floor of the House on xenotransplantation. Banks said: “I might put in a bid for Cecil’s plonker.” One of the Tory whips said: “I think you’ll find it’s a bit worn.”
Cameron’s anger We have noticed that he goes to cerise, to rose, to a deep scarlet. And his hands start to shake. But then, having Nadine Dorries behind you and Ed Balls in front is not the sort of place any civilised kind of human being would want to be. He probably thinks: “What’s the point of this?”
Life at sea I was a seaman for about three years. I joined when I was 15 and a half. When you’re 18 you have to sign on until you’re 22. I thought, ‘Sod that.’ I loved it, particularly because my generation was the first ever not to fight a war. I’d always wanted to be in the armed forces but it was just a silly time. In the late 60s, women had stopped wearing bras and were doing things that would have made Casanova’s wig fall off. I thought, ‘Do I really want to spend my time in a life in a grey, funnelled war canoe with 645 hairy-arsed matelots [sailors] when the place is full of petunia-scented Kaftan-wearing minxes?’
Starting in politics I won a by-election at LSE in 1982 against Danny Finkelstein of the SDP. This was the height of glitter in every sense of the word. He covered his posters with Pritt Stick and then put glitter on top. His slogan was “Fink, Fink, vote for Danny”. My big rivals were the Let’s Bomb Hartlepool Now Party, the Party of Nothing at All Party, and a guy called Keir Hopley who’s now an incredibly senior mandarin at the Ministry of Justice.
A very handy pint or pub lunch seconds away from the Houses of Parliament and government departments.
Not suitable for
A posh lunch where closely-guarded secrets are swapped away from prying eyes.
Main courses start at £5.95.
You can’t book a table at the Red Lion. Arrive before the 1pm lunchtime rush to ensure you get a table