Days after his Brexit blunder, Barry Gardiner was back on the Today program. But how did a man known for jokes about forgotten toothpaste get here?by Marie Le Conte / April 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
There is an anecdote everyone will have heard if they’ve spent enough time around people who used to work for the Labour party. It goes like this:
It was the last day of Labour conference in Brighton, at some point during the Blair and Brown years, and Barry Gardiner walked into a room full of aides. “Does anyone have toothpaste?”, he asked.
One of the advisers did, and handed him the tube. “Oh thank god,” he said, “I’d forgotten mine at home and I’ve been brushing my teeth with soap for three days.”
Beyond being obviously amusing, the story is, according to people who know him, “classic Barry”; though always nice enough, the man who has spent the past 16 years hovering around the Labour frontbench isn’t always aware of the world around him.
They were proved right last week, when a recording emerged of Gardiner rubbishing his party’s six Brexit tests as “bollocks” and calling the Good Friday Agreement “a shibboleth” in a private meeting in Brussels.
His skin was saved by Corbyn and the shadow secretary of state for international trade and energy and climate change will live to fight another day. But how exactly did he get here?
After all, Gardiner hardly is the stuff Corbynites are usually made of. Elected in 1997, the Brent North MP didn’t spend his formative parliamentary years objecting to the leadership from the backbenches.
He became a parliamentary under-secretary at the Northern Ireland office in 2004, held a similar post at the department of trade and industry a year later, then moved to environment, food and rural affairs.
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