POLITICS begins a return to normal today when Sir Keir Starmer reveals how Labour would tackle the energy bill crisis. (Spoiler: freeze the cap at current level of £1971).

You might wonder why it has taken so long to announce the policy. Well, Sir Keir has been on holiday. Then he had a VIG (Very Important Gig) at the Edinburgh Fringe. Every politician who is anyone has been hanging out in Edinburgh.

Keir Starmer, Nicola Sturgeon, Anas Sarwar, Ruth Davidson, Angela Rayner, Jeremy Corbyn, Jess Phillips: just a few of those lining up to show the wittier side of themselves.

What used to be a handful of aspiring performers has become a stampede. Some may see this as a sign of a healthy democracy at ease with itself. For others it is a case of attention-seeking, to use a phrase of the moment, going too far.

You won’t find the media complaining about the stories generated, including Liz Truss asking Scotland’s First Minister how to get into Vogue; what Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar thinks Boris Johnson should do next (“p*** off and do something else”); Angela Rayner’s attitude to indyref2 (wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole); and Keir Starmer’s nickname for Boris Johnson (“the bull*******”).

Nicola Sturgeon enjoyed her appearance so much she was back for seconds on Saturday, this time with Times Radio. She took swipes at Boris Johnson (“a disgrace to the office”) and Liz Truss, again, for calling the FM an attention seeker. “A bit silly,” said Ms Sturgeon. She also met Basil Brush, who tweeted a picture with the caption, “Two small feisty gingers together!! Boom! Boom!”



The politics events have been well attended. One audience member at a recording of the For the Many podcast with Iain Dale and Jacqui Smith said the queue was like something out of a comic book convention.

So such events are popular, tick, and relatively newsworthy, tick. For politicians, the “audience with” format is just another way of communicating with the public. And anyway, what is the harm in showing a lighter side of politics, particularly after the last few years?

Fair enough, but there is another side. There is the risk of politicians becoming too relaxed and saying something they shouldn’t. Swearing might fit the mood of the room on a sweaty afternoon in Edinburgh, but in cold, hard print the next day it looks childish and OTT. There’s a line, besides, between being amusing and appearing flippant.

Some politicians, when you see them in action in Edinburgh, clearly think they are natural born stand-ups when, as any professional comic will tell you, it takes years of slog to make something so difficult look easy. If you are wooden at the despatch box you are not going to appear any more relaxed on a stage (see Keir Starmer).

There are exceptions. Gordon Brown was thought to have Keir Starmer in mind when he spoke recently about the need for urgent action on soaring prices. “Time and tide wait for no-one,” growled the former Prime Minister. “Neither do crises. They don’t take holidays.”

He could scarcely have a go at Starmer over Edinburgh because Brown, too, has appeared on the Fringe this year, in his case with the stand-up Matt Forde in his Political Party show.

Brown, much to the delight of Brian Logan, the Guardian’s reviewer, was a comedy revelation. “He told us stories about Berlusconi fretting about his makeup as the global economy burned, about Mandela’s illicit drinking at his 90th birthday party, about the differences between Putin and Alex Salmond (“One is a dictator who will stop at nothing …”). The point about the multi-tasking Brown is that he made his Fringe appearance, and put forward a plan to deal with the fuel bill crisis, within days of each other.

Brown is also retired from day to day politics. He doesn’t have constituents to serve and represent. Are those politicians who appear on the Fringe taking time off to be there? Hard to imagine someone waiting for help from their MP or MSP would be too pleased to see them on stage in Edinburgh.

If the country is, as every forecast says, facing a dreadful six months to a year ahead, what is any politician doing faffing around in Edinburgh?

At the risk of sounding po-faced, there is a general point to be made here. If the UK has learned anything from Boris Johnson it is to beware joker politicians. One day a buffoon on Have I Got News For You, the next day a knave proroguing Parliament.

The Fringe still has two weeks to run, and it can do so happily without politicians. Back to the day job everybody.