Brexit made Mother a political junkie. It put the drama back into democracy and the ping-pong into Parliament as far as she was concerned. Last year, she consumed five to six hours a day of political Brexit badinage like a teenager drinking birthday shots and went cold turkey on her usual diet of daytime war time movie re-runs without any regrets.
She studied select committee meetings in a quest to understand what will really happen to the country after Brexit and shouted along to the drama of the set piece debates in the Commons. Most of all, she fell in love with PMQs, which is still her ‘appointment to view’ programme of the week.
‘I don’t know why they keep criticizing it for being like Punch & Judy, darling. It’s far more vicious and much, much more entertaining.’
She’s admitting something most of us don’t have the courage to accept. PMQs is popular precisely because it is a bear pit brawl.
‘Is Bercow on today?’ she says ‘I do so love to hate him. Suffers classic short man syndrome. Like Napoleon,’ she says.
‘He’s left Parliament,’ I say.
This is bad news as far as Mother is concerned. She worries the new Speaker won’t be the same value for money. Worse, things may slip back to the boring old days of faux politesse and stupefying procedural interventions. Bercow going is like ‘Dirty Den’ leaving Eastenders who will be the new bad boy?
‘It’s the end of an era,’ she says sadly.
In the absence of Bercow, she now gets her dose of politics from the Daily Politics because she adores Jo Coburn, who is the sort of daughter she’d have wanted if she had ever had one.
‘She knows how to keep them on their toes,’ she says admiringly, as she dips into a pack of Ritz biscuits, her snack du jour. According to Mother, keeping people on their toes is a skill every girl should learn at an early age.
‘Got him on that! That’ll teach him for not giving a straight answer.’
She likes the way Coburn let’s the panelists trade blows, too.
‘She knows how to get them to do her dirty work for her. Well done,’ she applauds.
I can’t remember Mother ever being interested in politics before now. But I do remember once going out with my father to deliver leaflets for the local Conservative Party. I think it was February 1974. After one road he gave up and dumped the leaflets into a bin.
‘Too cold,’ he said. ‘Let’s go to the pub.’
I was slightly shocked. My dad was a political litter lout. But I was flattered: he wanted to hang out with me. I replay the memory to Mother. Is it true?
‘Probably.’ She says. ‘Given the choice between the pub or politics, there was only going to be one winner. Ted Heath lost that election. It was probably your father’s fault.’