Keir and loathing on the campaign trail
The PoliticsJOE team bumped into Keir Starmer in Hartlepool
'Visit' means something different to a politician than to you or I. The word may evoke an image of your nan holding a cup of tea, your friends and their newborn, or a day out to some nearby tourist attraction. A visit, in political parlance, is a dance.
A handshake, a hardhat, sometimes also an old biddy, a smile, a wave, maybe a baby. The cast members rotate in and out to keep the audience interested but the routine is often the same. Directors try to impose choreography but sometimes, on the night, the PoliticsJOE team happen to be interviewing members of the public about an upcoming by-election and a helpful subject mentions they've just seen Keir Starmer strolling out of a hotel.
So there we were, hoping to clock off by seven, briefly submerge in the icy waters off Hartlepool Sea Front, grab a tinny and a chippy and get an early night but Sir Keir, and Labour's candidate in Hartlepool Dr Paul Williams, had other ideas.
We asked Starmer to explain why - when faced with possibly the most incompetent government in living memory - his party was behind in the polls, as well as the potential of reviewing cannabis' legal status, as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has proposed. He didn't answer either question, instead dropping flatpack remarks about the people of Hartlepool's desire for more jobs and a pay rise for the NHS.
The entourage flooded into The Harbour View fish and chip shop and onto a table with a young family. We waited and joked with his security.
An hour or so later they finished up and we asked about reports that a fourth police officer allegedly fathered a child with a woman while undercover. His answer was, more direct. But just know that throughout the whole process, and as I write this now, I am still wearing swim shorts under my jeans.