Ayesha Hazarika

Ayesha Hazarika

Ayesha Hazarika: Tales From The Pink Bus

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Andrew Duthie

Glasgow-born Ayesha Hazarika spent over a decade in the corridors of Westminster, working for some of the Labour Party’s most senior figures – Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband among them. Released back into a life of ‘watching The Daily Politics in my pants’, she has returned to her stand-up roots to spill the beans on what went on in the run-up to the 2015 General Election campaign.

Hazarika announces herself as rusty, and it shows; less in the handwritten notes and lack of structure than in lazy gags about Tom Watson’s weight and Nigel Farage’s new moustache.

Several early jokes wouldn’t pass muster on Mock The Week, so it’s a relief when she switches focus to her accounts of how the political sausage is made. Just when you think she may have peaked with an (admittedly spot-on) impression of Natalie Bennett honed at the party’s ‘debate school’, her anecdotes from the Miliband era have the audience – including Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and the party’s sole remaining MP in Scotland, Ian Murray – equally amused and despondent.

As the subtitle suggests, much of her material concerns Harman’s fabled battle-bus, designed to woo the nation’s disenfranchised women but remembered as a luminous piñata that Labour’s critics pummelled with ease. Hazarika provides a warts-and-all account of the idea’s conception, which sadly doesn’t solve the mystery of why nobody anticipated the bad press. However, her account of the project’s successes – escaping the London bubble to connect with over-stretched care workers, for example – are genuinely engaging. By the end of her post-mortem, it’s hard to blame those on the bus for the car crash that followed in May 2015.

Little is made of Labour’s current woes, but her feelings are made clear with a wish to return to the ‘glory days’ when Gordon Brown was caught calling Gillian Duffy a bigot. It’s no matter; the build-up to the last election (with a nod to Brexit) is more than enough to cover.

The bus may have been perceived by some as an embarrassment, but the fact that Hazarika ‘regularly attended meetings where there were more men with beards called Simon in the room than women’ is a far bigger problem. She might not be a natural stand-up, but hers is a story worth hearing.

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Published: 19 Aug 2016



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