So the story kind of goes like this. There was once a young black boy who studied economics and politics, spun his way to become a spin doctor for a political party, joined a local media organisation bringing politics to the people, became a champion of the people, was voted in by the people, lived as a Peckham legend, later became Lord Mufasa of Peckhamshire with his very own wing in the esteemed Peckham Library where for decades children would study his feats during Black History Month.
Or so it should've been. That is, were it not for the immovable force that was Harriet Hurricane Harman. She'd apparently occupied the seat since she was six. A time when children could legally be bonded in holy matrimony. (I believe this is still common in upper-class circles but nobody notices because only the gentry read the marriage section of broadsheets so nobody cares. Just so you know.)
At the time in question, Harriet had been promoted to deputy leader of the Labour Party. A double whammy. This lady was not for turning let alone leaving her seat. She was in her pomp. For the meantime it seemed Black History Month would remain Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, drumming and famines. Much the poorer I thought. I sipped on my latte.
So I watched from the wings planning and plotting. I did everything to make myself electable. I drank in the local Wetherspoon's to support local drinking, used night buses instead of taxis - even the ones that went through Elephant and Castle (!), went to boring town council meetings where councillors would labour (no pun intended) through steering committees to form focus groups to debate a proposed six-million-pound modernisation programme Operation Change Front Page Font, acronym, acronym, acronym. In short, life was shit-balls.
That was until I hatched the plan of the century. I'd phone Harriet's press people and arrange to interview her for my Peckham Radio show. Perhaps our repartee could paint me as the natural man-in-waiting. The heir apparent. We'd walk around the town chatting to people, have the people ask us questions, I'd ask her questions, maybe one or two innocent ones like 'when are you leaving', 'isn't it time you moved to another seat' and so forth. We all knew that any rejection of this wonderful offer to spend a Friday afternoon canvassing opinion outside Peckham Library would amount to casual racism. The papers would've had a field day. These were the days when a paper could call you a RACIST in bold red, 400-point-size font, and apologise in font size 8 on page 28, 8 full months after the public had fully digested your racist ways.
This was it. Mama didn't raise no fool. Strike time. Operation: Peckham Tour.
Harriet and her PA turned up promptly that Friday afternoon. She could have been enjoying a sunny cocktail or two on the Westminster lawn; instead here she was. The famous Peckham Square.
But from the outset the scenario was bleak. There was bloody barely anybody around. We were literally chasing shadows. Even worse, nobody seemed to know who Harriet was. But worse still, when they realised who she was, they had no idea this was their MP. So they had no idea why we were approaching them. This was proving to be a disaster for us both. My plan was making us both look silly and desperate. Far from being the man-in-waiting, I was beginning to feel more like the lady-in-waiting, running around behind Harriet cajoling people to partake. How could I showcase my political gravitas if we couldn't get past disparate and prolonged episodes of 'guess the face'? Somebody needed to hear the soliloquies I'd been rehearsing for a week.
In the end we seized upon two young girls who almost threw their chips in the air when we pounced on them from both sides. I thrust the microphone to their unprepared faces. As you can see, they were really quite thrilled. And Harriet too was having the time of her life at this point. We got a few choice sound bites and decided to leave the square at that. Cut our losses.
I thought we'd quickly move to the next part of my fun-filled Tour de Peckham, a jaunt through the fish and fresh meat district of the lively Peckham market, a chance to meet the common man. The library had been one thing but this was going to be something quite different for our Harriet. Now this would be a great time for me to shine as I had a natural touch with the common person. I wanted to do the kind of piece John Simpson does in a bustling street market in a hitherto unknown part of a distant land.
Alas, Harriet's enthusiasm had taken a bashing. The Right Honourable Lady took a look up the frenzied high street then glanced for mercy at her PA, her eyes narrowing as though prompting the PA to come up with something quickly. She didn't. Harriet looked again, then finally back to my enthusiastic face and said: "Errr. I seem to have brought the wrong shoes."
I was crushed. I pondered for a second if it would be gentlemanly to offer to carry the Honourable Lady through the market on my back. I then immediately considered the visual implications and possible ramifications of a white MP riding a black man like a horse through an urban marketplace. Riots have been started for less. I had to accept that my fun-filled Tour de Peckham was dead. My fun itinerary would never see the light of day. Those Peckham market traders would never know how close they had come to seeing their hero. And Harriet Harman.
What had made Harriet change her mind I would never find out. I've since pondered what her special market shoes looked like, and whether her PA was ever sacked for forgetting them. Perhaps that sideways look had been to say: I told you we should've brought the market shoes Grommit.
Anyway, Peckham and Shoegate would soon have to wait. There was other politicking to be done at the time. Ken Livingstone was the only one NOT laughing as the cirque de Johnson rumbled into town driven by Australian fire-starter Lynton Crosby. And a certain young black senator was beginning to make waves in the labour unions of Chicago. I knew what I had to do. I packed my bags, got my papers and set off for the centre of progressive politics. Camberwell.