Not your typical Fringe show, Iain Dale’s All Talk With series is an intimate deep-dive into the world of politics; a chance to see what political figures really think, away from the cameras and scripted scrutiny of Westminster. Sat in the front row of the Cromdale Theatre in the Edinburgh International Conference centre, you could not feel further from the tensions that arise at the despatch box every Wednesday, or the morning round of interviews where ministers are (seemingly unethically) pitted against each other.
It’s not often you get the chance to see a politician be their authentic, unedited selves; but this is how I would describe Angela Rayner, not just while she was sat in front of an audience of a few dozen political enthusiasts, but throughout her entire political life. Rayner has a remarkable story – pregnant at 16, taking night classes at her local college, working night shifts as a carer – and this is something that the tabloids in particular love to turn on its head. But shouldn’t it be refreshing to have someone with real life experiences (not just someone with an education that cost thousands or a career handed to them on a plate) to be in a position of power where real change can be made to benefit ordinary, working people?
Throughout the discussion, Rayner was unapologetically herself; she was relaxed, down to earth and had a great sense of humour. Dale, a broadcaster on LBC and a former Conservative candidate, asked all the questions you might expect. He focused primarily on Rayner’s background and her journey into political life, how she deals with media storms, and the importance of having working-class people in power, before taking questions from the audience.
The responses Rayner gave were striking, and as I sat there listening I realised that I could potentially be sat in front of the future Prime Minister. She showed genuine anger and frustration when talking about how inaccessible life is for working-class people, how society is constantly telling working-class people their place. She mentioned that when people she knows back home get any kind of official letter through the door, they turn to her first because they have no trust in the authorities and she is the only figure in authority that they really know. Rayner highlighted that working-class people had no trust in police, doctors, government officials or anyone from ‘authority’ because they have been intentionally separated by society; They’re not people like you, she said, they’re people who do something to you.
Speaking about her career in politics, Rayner explained that she has always had to earn respect and trust from her colleagues, simply because of her background and the fact she is a woman. She pointed out that had Boris Johnson been placed under the same level of scrutiny as herself, he wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near parliament, never mind being handed the keys to Number 10. This led to a round of applause in the audience, who all seemed equally furious with the current state of British politics.
Taking questions from the audience (myself included), Dale focused on the potential of a second Scottish independence referendum as well as the climate emergency. As a presenter, he was particularly skilled in keeping the conversation flowing, yet I couldn’t help but squirm as he made a few side comments towards Rayner; he joked that she didn’t know how to count, for example, and also appeared to mock her accent on occasion. I thought it was brilliant that there was a space at the Fringe where working-class people are given the space to talk and engage in politics, and Dale encouraged this to a point. But there was an equal sense of ‘separate-ness’ from his part that completely contradicted everything Rayner was saying. It was almost as if he was applauding the fact we are now at a point where people like Rayner can be in politics, but at the same time saying, Isn’t it amazing that people like you are speaking to people like me?
Despite this, I left the show feeling inspired by the future of politics; the fact that working people are now uniting and demanding change, and above all feeling like Angela Rayner is arguably the most exciting and genuine person in politics right now.
‘Iain Dale: All Talk With’ continues at the Cromdale Theatre at Pleasance at EICC with guests such as Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir Starmer, Dr David Starkey and Jess Philllips. Dates and times vary.
Image “Official portrait of Angela Rayner” by Chris McAndrew is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0