THERE is a new member of the "one name club", that elite band of individuals famous enough to do without a surname. To Madonna, to Elvis, to Prince, to Beyonce, can now be added "Greta".

The 18-year-old Swede, formerly known as Greta Thunberg, environmental campaigner, was treated to the kind of reception normally afford minor rock royalty when she arrived at Glasgow Central on Saturday for COP26.

It was “Greta” this and “Greta” that from the media and fans as the school striker turned slayer of prevaricating politicians made her way out of the station, a ring of police in tow.

She was not hurrying off to get an early night before a tour of the Sunday politics shows. Given her pick of the programmes, she had already chosen the one with the biggest ratings. You don’t get to be a member of the one name club by backing away from the spotlight, so The Andrew Marr Show it was. In a further nod to her now “we’ll come to you” status, she had pre-recorded the interview a few days ago at the Natural History Museum in London.


Marr’s show and Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday were among the London and international media decamping north for COP26.

Phillips had to make do with a spot in the press area of the conference’s main arena which, given it was 08.30 on a Sunday, was hardly buzzing. There were a few snags, only to be expected, perhaps, when busking away from base, such as the main guest, Alok Sharma, president of COP26, wandering into shot before he was introduced.

Marr, in contrast, had it easy like Sunday morning, the doors to BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay being thrown open to him. He had all the comforts of home – same studio furniture, signage, etc – and a great view of the Clyde, the Squinty Bridge and the Finnieston Crane.

Perhaps it was the feeling of being snug inside while the rain battered the windows that prompted his toasty praise of the host city during the newspaper review. Glasgow, or rather its council, he told viewers outside Scotland, had been getting a rough time of it in the press for presiding over a city strewn with rubbish and infested with rats.

Yet Marr, who was born in Glasgow, had formed a different impression while wandering again around the dear green place on Saturday.

“It was absolutely beautiful. It was sunny, looking clean, busy, it was friendly, there were demonstrations but they were cheerful and colourful. The city was looking really great.”

Susan Aitken, the SNP leader of Glasgow City Council who was criticised this week for blaming the state of the city today on Mrs Thatcher, could scarcely have asked for better.

Marr kept the Greta interview till last, with Alok Sharma, who would usually take top billing as a member of the Cabinet, appearing first.

As in Glasgow, press, supporters, and police had surrounded her on arrival at the Natural History Museum. Inside, Marr and a small crew were waiting. She had nothing with her save for a water bottle at her feet, and certainly no notes, yet her poise and confidence would have been the envy of a politician three times her age.

This was a different Greta to the one that has on occasion appeared in the past. There was no scolding, no “how dare you” speeches, no feeling that the pressures were perhaps becoming too much for one teenager.

The new Greta, the one seen recently singing and dancing to Rick Astley’s Never Going to Give You Up, was relaxed and smiling. Diplomatic, too. Gone was the Greta who mocked world leaders for indulging in “blah blah blah” instead of taking action. She still called out their shortcomings, but she did so in general, not personal, terms.

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That said, she was not afraid to court controversy. Asked about protesters who blocked roads, much to the fury of drivers, she said as long as no-one got hurt such actions were okay.

“Sometimes you need to anger some people. Like, for instance, the school strike movement would never have become so big if there wasn’t friction, if some people didn’t get pissed off.”

People in the UK, Sweden, and any country where there were clear rights to protest, had “more responsibility” to demonstrate on climate change, she said.

Referring to China, she told Marr: “It makes you just feel so grateful that we are actually able to protest and that just puts more responsibility on us who actually have the right to protest, to use that right.”

While she criticised China for being “out of touch” in still building coal power plants, she warned that there will always be other countries to blame for not doing enough and urged the world to work together.

She said: “It’s more important that we need to work together internationally and globally to make sure that everyone does this transition, not the least pushing China who are still building coal power plants which today is quite out of touch with reality if you ask me.”

Ending on a hopeful note, she added: “We can always prevent things from getting worse. It’s never too late to do as much as we can.”

Confident, informed and charismatic, it is not too much of a stretch to see the teenager in office herself one day. She had “thought of the possibility” of running in Sweden, but added: “No, at least not right now.”

Never saying never: what a very politic thing to do.