I beat Jeremy Corben.

 

I beat Jeremy Corben.

 

Not for the Labour leadership.  I’m from a different party.  Of course,  that didn’t stop Jeremy.

 

It was around 2000 when the member for Islington North sailed past me at least ten miles an hour faster than my thirty (there are no speed limits for bicycles).  We were, in fact, in a race and I had something of an advantage. I was riding a motorcycle.

 

It was during the brief time that I was a member of council of the British Motorcyclists’ Federation and I was sitting on Islington’s Sustainable Transport Round Table or one of its predecessors – so I was invited to a race of different “transport modes” from Archway to Old Street roundabout.  When I turned up two things struck me especially on seeing the local press. One was that I ought to have turned up in my van and got the press to photograph it for the publicity and the second that I wasn’t very welcome in what was basically an exercise to demonstrate the superiority of the bicycle. That a motorcycle can outspeed a bike over distance, even as in this case mostly downhill, seemed pretty obvious and only detracted from what was important (and it is important) –  the facility in London of the bicycle as an alternative to car, bus and taxi.

 

I knew Jeremy slightly from when I had campaigned against the pilot Red Route (don’t ask) that went straight through his constituency.  He has always been an excellent constituency MP (I also knew his colleague, Chris Smith of Islington South, who, I have often thought,  would have made an excellent Labour leader). We had a chat. What about? Furniture.  Jeremy was going through a divorce and needed some new furniture at a discount (no relying on parliamentary expenses for him, then).  I had a furniture shop.  Divorce is a dreadful business.  Whatever the emotional effect, it makes everybody poorer.  But if you are in the furniture business, let’s face it, it’s a godsend.

 

It’s from this divorce, I believe, that Jeremy gained the habit of not answering questions he didn’t like. A local radio man asked him why his children were going to a selective school.  It was an unfair question because it was Mrs Corbyn who had made the decision (in fact it is said to have contributed to the divorce) and the interviewer knew this and was hesitant.  Corbyn remained silent. The question was asked again, more sheepishly, with again no reply.  After a pause the interviewer moved on to another question as if nothing had happened. It’s a good technique in those circumstances but it must be disastrous against a confident and aggressive questioner.

 

Although the bicyclists gained an early lead I drew ahead of them and soon couldn’t see them behind me. It was then that I had a hare and tortoise moment and decided that, ahead as I was, I could detour up a short diversion to approach the finish point on the correct side of the road. I hit roadworks and when I finally got through I had been pipped. Second. Unfortunately, the spirit of competition had now seized the bicyclists, an appeal was made and the winner disqualified for riding on the pavement. I kept my head down and the guy who came third was declared winner.  As for Jeremy, I didn’t see him so I assume he made his appearance, started the race and then quietly fell out.  That may be indicative of something but then MPs have a lot to do.

 

What do I think of Jeremy ?  I think there is a job description for someone who holds the torch to preserve unsullied the spirit and soul of his party.  But that isn’t the job description of the leader.

 

The Islington Gazette wrote up the race with the rather ungraceful comment,  “It would have been a different result if they’d run it uphill”.

 

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