COMEDIAN and lifelong socialist Jo Brand believes beleaguered Labour leader Ed Miliband is in a ‘no win’ situation as he battles to establish his political authority.
Ms Brand was speaking before delivering the annual South Shields Lecture at Harton Technology College.
She was invited to give the address – following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Tony Blair and Bill Bryson – by the Labour leader’s older brother, town MP David Miliband.
And Mr Miliband listened as the comic and writer analysed the Labour Party’s current dilemma.
She said: “There are qualms about Ed’s leadership, but my feeling is the press is so demanding of political figures that if you’re not a combination of Mr Universe, with the intellectual capacity of a Stephen Hawking, they’re not happy.”
Earlier in the day, Ms Brand went on a whirlwind tour of the borough.
She officially opened the new multi-million pound accident and emergency unit at South Tyneside District Hospital and paid a visit to Phoenix House drug and alcohol treatment centre in South Shields.
As for the annual lecture, she revealed that Mr Miliband, a friend for a number of the years, had given her just one piece of advice – ‘don’t make it too dry or academic’.
She added: “Public speaking is not too far removed from stand-up but my first experience of it at school was a disaster.
“I went out and said ‘we’d like to wish you all a well warm come’. After that I decided I’d better stick with comedy.”
Ms Brand wasn’t worried about the reception she would receive at the South Shields school hall.
She added: “I find the further north you go, the more appreciative reception you receive.”
Later Harton Technology College headteacher Ken Gibson revealed the guest of honour had pledged to arrive on stage ‘riding naked on a unicycle’.
It was a threat she failed to deliver on as she entertained the capacity audience with recollections of her career, childhood and her political beliefs.
Fulfilling a lifelong ambition to introduce Top of the Pops, she revealed how she mercilessly taunted pop star Michael Bolton over his ‘dodgy barnet’, cursed David Dimbleby when he put her on the spot over European politics on Question Time and had an infamous run-in with Carol Thatcher on TV’s The One Show.
And she went on to reveal that it was Carol’s mum, ‘The Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher, who had caused her the most consternation.
She said: “The greatest political disappointment of the 20th century was our first woman prime minister. That woman coloured the whole of my 20s and 30s.”
Despite her socialist credentials, Ms Brand went on to reveal that in her early years she had right-wing leanings, adding: “I was a Tory at seven.
“I asked a teacher at school what the difference was between Labour and the Conservatives.
“She said that Labour wanted to change everything.
“At the time I lives in an idyllic Kent village and was very happy.
“I didn’t like the idea of change.
“I went home and told my mother ‘I’m a Conservative’.
“She virtually fainted!”