Unparliamentary Language: Wes Streeting
Agnes Chambre sits down with parliamentarians to find out more about the human side of politics. This week, Ilford North MP Wes Streeting (and his office roommate, Peter Kyle)
What’s your earliest childhood memory?
My earliest memories are from nursery. I was going to tell you about when I threw a saucepan at a friend’s head and accidentally cut her head open but I thought that would be inappropriate in The House magazine.
No, that’s completely appropriate – what happened?
We were just playing and I threw a saucepan and she didn’t speak to me ever again, which was really heartbreaking.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher and when I was elected as President of my university students’ union, I was in the final stages of my PGCE application. Had 27 votes gone the other way, I would have been a teacher.
Do you ever regret not being a teacher?
Yeah, I do. But that doesn’t mean, by the way, that I’m about to leave Parliament to become a teacher. It’s really important to get that out there at this time….
But I do have a pang of regret not being a teacher, although that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it at some point in the future.
What habit really annoys you in people?
Indecision, people who don’t finish the end of their sentences. What else annoys me... what annoys me about Pete? He’s horrible to me all the time.
Peter Kyle: He can’t think of anything annoying about me.
Do you ever get FOMO [‘Fear of Missing Out’]?
Oh my god, massively. I definitely have massive FOMO and round here that’s a big issue because there’s always so much going on at any one time. I found out Tom Watson had his 50th birthday and Jess Phillips was there, Anna Turley was there, Ruth Smeeth was there. I was having lunch with them and they were just talking about Tom Watson’s 50th birthday. Where was my invite, Tom? That’s my question....Sorry my parliamentary assistant is just explaining to Pete what ‘FOMO’ means because Pete’s quite old
Peter Kyle: No, it’s just because I don’t get any fear of missing out because I’m always invited and am quite popular.
When you’re feeling stressed or angry, what’s one thing that’s guaranteed to cheer you up?
Ruth Smeeth. Jess Phillips. Mainly people to be honest. [Peter Kyle audibly clears throat]. Oh, Peter Kyle.
Do you have an arch nemesis?
Peter Kyle? Not really though, I find it really difficult holding grudges so even when I’m annoyed with someone, I tend not to hold a grudge.
So you’ve never had any spats with any MPs?
Not since being elected. There’s this Twitter exchange between me and Clive Lewis when we were PPCs that always gets dredged up. He’d tweeted something about our dear leader former PM Tony Blair, basically saying ‘get off the stage Tony, stick to writing Christmas cards, you’re old news.’ I wasn’t a parliamentary candidate but Clive was so I tweeted saying ‘I’m surprised to see such a puerile tweet from a PPC’ which was slightly pompous. But Clive replied: ‘Don’t like it, don’t follow. Jumped up turd.’ And this exchange carried on for a few tweets. I think Clive dug himself into a bit of a hole, I held the higher ground.
Had you ever met?
No. And it was really funny the first time we met each other at a candidates meeting after I’d been selected, we’d patched things up and actually contrary to popular belief, we actually get along really well now.
Did you apologise first, or did he?
Of course he apologised first. Make sure you put that in.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
To share an office with Peter Kyle MP.
Peter Kyle: "He's really great – he never heckles."
Wes Streeting: No, the worst piece of advice was when Conor McGinn sidled up to me as a new whip and said “you should get yourself on the Finance Bill Committee because it’s a really good way to get your head around public finances, one of the most serious pieces of legislation that goes through.” I said ‘oh ok, that sounds interesting’…. Oh my god, even as a member of the Treasury Committee, there is nothing less interesting than the Finance Bill Committee. And yet I’ve managed to do two in the 18 months I’ve been here.
Was he trolling you?
Well, he’s meant to be a mate and he stitched me up, so bear that in mind about Conor Mcginn. He’s not to be trusted when it comes to bill committee recommendations.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
I was sat in this office and I had a fairly important meeting, and I was full of cold. I had some Lemsip in one of my ‘Sadiq Khan for London’ mugs, and the mug just broke at the handle and I had all of this Lemsip down my trousers, so basically looked like I’d pissed myself. I didn’t have a spare pair of trousers in the office, but the person I was supposed to be seeing 15 minutes later cancelled and I was really grateful.
There was another trouser-related time, where the stitching on the back of my trousers came undone in a rather unfortunate place and I had to rush out to buy a new pair from M&S but in the process I missed a vote – which is the only time I’ve missed a whipped vote without permission since being elected.
Did you explain what happened?
Again, there’s a common theme of Conor McGinn. I told Conor, thinking that he was my mate and I could trust him. Of course then everyone in the Whip’s Office knew about trouser-gate.
If you could have one trip in a time machine, where would you go?
I might take a time machine back to 2010 and tell David Miliband to do a bit more work on getting a few more second preferences. Or I might teleport myself to the Parliamentary Labour Party office on the close of nominations of the first Labour leadership ballot and as the final five nominations for Jeremy come in, stand there screaming ‘No, don’t do it!’ And wrestle them to the ground.
I think either of those two interventions might have made a fundamental difference to the direction of the Labour party, but we are where we are.
If you could have three dinner party guests, who would they be?
Jesus, Elizabeth I and Attlee.
What would you talk about?
The state of the world and what they make of it....Can you imagine, “Jesus, what do you think of Brexit?”
What would be the title of your autobiography?
Winning Against the Odds. As a kid who grew up on a Stepney council estate, on free school meals, made it to Cambridge, beat the Tories against the odds, survived against the odds, turned us around from this bleak right wing hegemony that we have in this country to a social democratic future – that’s how the book ends, by the way. We haven’t got there yet. We’ve got some way to go. At the moment we’re in chapter three of 77.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Ben Affleck. I’m not sure that’s true. Who would play me?
Peter Kyle: Meryl Streep.
Wes Streeting: That would be brilliant, I love Meryl Streep.
What’s something you’ve done once that you’ll never do again?
Peter Kyle: Won an election!
Wes Streeting: You cannot say that! Do you know what, he is horrible. If it’s not too late to do a boundary submission, I’m going to write my own version and do him in. One thing I’ll never do again? Probably have a social life.
Do you have any celeb crushes?
Oh my god, so many.
Peter Kyle: Meryl Streep?
Wes Streeting: No! Not Meryl Streep, you’re obsessed with Meryl Streep. Ryan Gosling is quite handsome but Ben Affleck is my ongoing celebrity crush. I think watching Armageddon was when I first started to realise and accept that I was gay.
When was the last time you made someone laugh, apart from during this interview?
At lunch, discussing the state of the Labour party.
What’s the last thing you dressed up as?
The Christmas before this one, I dressed up as Father Christmas. People suggested that since becoming an MP, I didn’t need to add extra padding, which is really rude, but one of the reasons I split my trousers.
When was the last time you cried?
Peter Kyle: Are you going to PLP?
Wes Streeting: Oh yeah, I’ll probably cry after that.