Book review: All in this Together

Written by Gisela Stuart MP on 1 February 2016 in Culture
With the benefit of hindsight, so many of Anne Treneman's judgments turned out to have been right.

After over a decade of being The Times’ Parliamentary sketch writer, Ann Treneman – like John Major – decided to run away from the circus.

She’s taken the easy way out and is now the paper’s theatre critic. Gone are the days of reviewing the stage performances of a play which is not only still being written right in front of you, you sometimes can’t tell whether it’s a drama, a farce or a comedy. Lines badly thought out, third rate deliveries, incredible plot lines – she traded all this in for a life of greater certainty. Parliament is the poorer for her no longer looking down on us all

All in this Together covers the five years of Coalition Government. Nick and Dave in the rose garden.

Dave telling Angela (our Angela, not Ueber-Mutter) to ‘calm down dear’. Chris Huhne trying to work out just what all the fuss is about. Meryl Streep coming to watch the weekly madness that is PMQs.

Alex Salmond telling us during the Scottish Referendum that the Yes camp had approached the campaign with humility, only for Dave to blow it even though he had won. Michael Gove declaring that he had fallen in love with Diane Abbott.

Who could forget the day the badgers sneakily moved the goal posts? Not to mention the real question of the 2015 Labour campaign. No, it’s not ‘what happened to the Ed-Stone’; it’s ‘was the colour of Harriet’s battle bus pink or magenta?’ Phew, the question was answered by Harriet herself – it’s the correct colour she declared. So all was ok again.

But it’s not just the politicians who had to wonder what Anne Treneman made of them. Sir Richard Branson was said to have blown into Westminster, a gust of glamour, his white-blond lion’s mane blowing behind him, to tell the Home Affairs Committee his views on drugs. [He thought they should be decriminalised.


For someone who sat in the pit she looked down on, the book is a great read for three reasons. First, she writes well. Second, it’s not about her, and her starting point isn’t that we are all bad. And third, and most importantly, with the benefit of hindsight, so many of her judgments turned out to have been right.

Jeremy Corbyn gets one mention as a career peacenik and John McDonnell as a Labour leftie – but there is no trace that even with her powers of foresight she’d predicted that they would end up as the leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Chancellor. The closest she got to sensing the impending doom is when she said about Ed Miliband: “I have to admit that I hardly recognised Ed. He was that good”.

And then there is the Prime Minister losing his temper, or as she puts it “Dave struggling with his inner Angry Bird”. The wonderful way Osborne and Balls just irritated each other more and more. It started with words and mutterings and ended with a set of gestures – always tricky for sketch writers. And then came the day when the Prime Minister had to withdraw the suggestion that he and the Chancellor might ever have been tempted to listen to “the muttering idiot opposite”….. Boys, boys, get a grip and cool it!

We can still read her theatre reviews, but secretly and with a sense of loss some of us ever so often wonder “what would Ann have made of this”.



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