may 5, 2010, eve of Polling Day. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and wife Sarah are at Blackpool Tower, rallying troops and talking of Labour’s £40m commitment to tourism regeneration.
They are leaving on a high, for history will record these as the dying days of this Labour hierarchy. Our picture shows Sarah listening intently to her husband, flanked by supporters, background bedecked with bright red Labour balloons.
Next day the balloon goes up. With no outright mandate to rule, Labour is dealt a lethal blow by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance – dubbed unholy in Barnsley of late.
If there were rats in the Number 10 flat prior to Coalition cat Larry moving in as mouser, Sarah is not telling.
Today she is back in Lancashire at the behest of Kirkham bookseller and Fylde Independent councillor Elaine Silverwood to win votes from women for Behind The Black Door (Ebury Press, £18.99), the inside story on Downing Street.
The memoirs reveal that three days after visiting Blackpool, Sarah vowed “we will not pack up one thing.”
Three days later, they were gone, linking hands with six-year-old John, and four-year-old Frazer, skipping merrily at his father’s side, leaving Number 10. Their number up.
Sarah’s at another tower today, Hoghton Tower, for afternoon tea with readers, not just of her book, but her million followers on Twitter. The book’s already half-price online, as is Tony Blair’s autobiography A Journey. How the mighty fall in price.
The event’s a coup for Elaine, who brings best seller Joanne Trollope to the Lindum Hotel, St Annes, tomorrow, and has sights set on Joanna Lumley.
Having been granted, genie-style, six questions for Mrs Brown, the first batch come back marked “too political”, her publicist pointing out she is not a politician, and will “not comment on policy.”
Out go questions about the likelihood of Labour’s return to the Winter Gardens, or funding threats to Sure Start, as surely Sarah, a champion of Sure Start, and convinced family support works, will have an opinion on cutbacks?
Instead I ask which women inspire her. Sarah’s president of PiggyBankKids and patron of other children’s, and women’s, charities.
The cause closest to her heart, as global patrol of the White Ribbon Alliance, is the campaign to “end the scandal of women dying unnecessarily in childbirth in the poorest countries of the world. We know it can be done, numbers are steadily falling where there are trained health workers, good equipment and supplies, available transportation and the feeling that saving a woman’s life matters.”
She singles out “my mum Pauline Macauley, inspirational head of an infant’s school when I was younger, and seeing the difference that the right support for little ones can make has made me a passionate believer in Sure Start. And she picked up her PhD a few years ago – in her 70s! More recently I’ve been inspired by Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Graca Machel in her support for Nelson Mandela and for women’s and children’s rights around the world.”
Sarah’s memoirs share a few secrets on which serialisation rights turn, such as her shrewd assessment of George Clooney; the astonishing tackiness of Number 10’s official gifts to Nelson Mandela (chocs and Number 10 teabags!) until Sarah stepped in; what it’s like to pose with a supermodel; pick up the pieces after a savaging by the tabloids or Jeremy Clarkson’s “unpleasant remarks”, or muster the courage to present her husband to the conference.
She tells me: “If you really believe in a cause, you can focus on that and not on yourself. When it came to conference that was the cause I believed in most of all – the country needed a Labour government, and a government led by Gordon. I was very nervous but meant every world I said.”
Alas, dear diary, there is one telling reference to Blackpool: “Gordon is taking full advantage of the honeymoon period enjoyed by all new PMs, when everyone lets you get on with the job unencumbered. He kicks off with Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and announces that the plans for the super casinos are no more, which is greeted with much delight by the general public. A mini-Las Vegas is not on its way to Blackpool, at least not yet.”
Which goes to show that even in Labour’s upper echelons (with the possible exception of John Prescott’s soft spot for the Millennium Dome) Blackpool was seen as the dead cert for the supercasino that ended up dead in the water of the Manchester ship canal.
While unprepared to discuss Labour’s return to a venue where Blair broke into a sweat and thanked Blackpool for the “free sauna”, Sarah concludes: “We visited Blackpool many times for Labour Party conferences over the years. Gordon and I came to the Blackpool Tower the day before the general election to support Gordon Marsden, and I’m delighted that Blackpool returned him to Parliament.
“I have vivid memories of organising a big reception in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom with Chris Smith and his String of Pearls Orchestra that was jam-packed with politicians, journalists, and charity workers, all listening and chatting away. That’s one of the things I love most about Blackpool – it’s a place where everybody mucks in and mixes happily together.”
Just don’t mention politics...