(This was also published in the Huffington Post)
For fourteen years, comedian Janey Godley ran a bar in the Calton area of Glasgow’s East End. These were the Trainspotting years and, at the time, the Calton was as quiet and lawful as modern-day Somalia. You would not want to go there. Beatings, stabbings, even crucifixions. Literally.
Like me, Janey does not drink – well, maybe to toast births and marriages and on other very rare special occasions, but not regularly or even socially.
So it will be interesting to see what stories she tells of bar room characters and drunkenness when she appears on the BBC4 Timeshift documentary The Rules of Drinking this Wednesday.
Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark mentions encounters she had with Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and James Callaghan. But my favourite story of hers involving a politician is about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and it is not in the book, because it took place after the book ends and after the Trainspotting years.
It happened in the early 1990s when Gordon Brown was Shadow Chancellor and there was a local Labour Party event.
He came into Janey’s pub to buy drinks for the Party faithful and there was a poster in the bar advertising bottled beer at £1 per bottle.
He looked at the poster and ordered 14 bottles; Janey charged him £25.
He paid the £25 without comment.
She reckoned this meant one of two things.
Either he could not count.
Or he did not have the balls to stand up to a barmaid in Glasgow’s East End.
Either of those, she reckoned, made him unfit to be either Chancellor of the Exchequer or Prime Minister.
Janey is a shrewd judge of character.
Someone has Tweeted me suggesting that the £25 was on expenses and that Gordon Brown did not give a shit. But this would mean he was fraudulently claiming expenses he was not due. Surely a UK MP would not wrongly claim expenses? I cannot believe that could ever happen.