When a stray ‘hen’ asked me to go on a selfie I felt flattered but in my heart I knew she could do better.
I’d just alighted from Ed Miliband’s battle bus covering his campaign in Chester and North Wales that day and it just so happened to pull up outside the aptly-named Westminster Hotel early on Saturday evening .
The hen, complete with obligatory pink sash, was outside having a sneaky cigarette but inside the hotel was the full clutch of hens and the bride-to-be herself.
“You can have a selfie with me,” I said. “But Ed Miliband’s on that bus so why don’t you get a selfie with him?”
No sooner than you could say ‘tequila slammer’ and a full-on female army of vivacious and attractive young things had arrived, issuing demands with more force, but admittedly less menace, than Vladimir Putin – a good test for any wannabe Prime Minister.
Ed’s spin doctors, whose instinct is to control everything, were nervous at first but then a metaphorical glint appeared in their eyes because the rule book tells them that spontaneous and natural adulation offers the best publicity of all.
Many of the events earlier in the day had been staged, featuring enthusiastic party members – all the parties do it – with journalists corralled by our keepers to ensure we show off their man in the best light.
At one point I had a minor fall-out with Miliband’s chief aide Bob Roberts when he demanded to hold my camera as I videoed the Labour leader . When I stood firm he told me there was no time for my questions. Fortunately Miliband overruled him.
But now Bob was negotiating with a group of excitable and possibly tipsy hens outside the bus. He had to focus like I had to focus – in my case quite literally.
A video of geeky Ed Miliband being worshipped by screaming young fans felt like such a clash, and so unexpected, it just had to work even if in a cringey way.
First, bride-to-be Nicola Braithwaite was allowed on the bus and emerged full of near hysterical exuberance. And when the coach door opened behind her, it was no longer just a bus door, but a gateway into political showbiz, offering a glimpse of their awkward hero standing there waving – only the dry ice was missing.
The ladies, the #Milifans, had landed on Planet Ed but what fascinates me is that even in this hyper state, they were able to organise themselves – turning their backs on Edward almost in unison and demanding ‘Selfie, selfie!’ before raising camera phones in the air.
After returning to the deserted office I uploaded the video to the web and went off to watch a Johnny Cash Tribute act.
My good feeling about all this was confirmed the next day when the phone rang off the hook with media organisations asking for permission to use the footage. Now I hear it will feature on this week’s Have I Got a News For You and the Graham Norton Show. Ed has been invited to the wedding and the bride has gone public saying she’s voting Labour.
In hindsight those spin doctors who tried to shut me down must be glad I came along for the ride. Well, it’s all good fun but actually what I really wanted was more time to question someone who has ambitions to be our next Prime Minister.