Why a standup gig at Edinburgh is the perfect summer job for a jaded MP | Joanna Griffin and Lola Stephenson


Parliament rises for recess tomorrow and the MPs will swap the daily commute to Westminster for breakfast in bed – whether to opt for soft or hard boiled eggs, their only pressing concern. They can stop worrying about leaky cabinet meetings and finally get round to fixing that leaky tap in their downstairs bathroom, or shoot straight off to their holiday pad in Tuscany. But this August, why not Airbnb their second home, pack their kids off to a Eurocamp (while they still can), and hop on a train to the Edinburgh festival fringe to put on a show?

There’s a risk that a one-star review could crush their fragile confidence before all those autumn coups but a sellout run could boost their popularity and have the masses chanting their name at A Popular Music Festival™.

Alex Salmond, after losing his seat in the last election, is leading the way, filling the gaping career void with a show in the Scottish capital. But what’s stopping serving MPs from doing the same during this pause in proceedings? After all, there’s no restriction on second, third or fourth jobs. And they can meet real members of the public in dingy bars and basements, and more importantly, get endless practice in dealing with hecklers in preparation for campaign season.



Alex Salmond is putting on a show at Edinburgh. Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Would Theresa May have dared to use the “fields of wheat” punchline had she tested it out on a rowdy crowd above a pub beforehand? Would Gordon Brown have called Gillian Duffy a “bigot” if he was well-seasoned in handling unruly audience members? And would Jeremy Corbyn have needed to check his iPad on Women’s Hour had he mastered the art of line-learning through a street performance of King Lear?

Lembit Opik, an ex-MP unafraid to show off his cheeky side, tried standup in 2010 but it’s not a path well trodden by the political classes. Strictly Come Dancing has had its fair share of flamboyant politicians showcasing their extra-curricular talents; maybe this year Edinburgh is the place for them to shine. Being grilled on Question Time by an angry public sector worker about pay caps should prepare you nicely for the stage and an audience in the single figures (if you’re lucky).

MPs will also feel right at home canvassing support for a show with PR paraphernalia brandishing their own face, as is customary for marketing at the fringe. They’ll have a wealth of photoshoot material left over from the election ready to hand out for their press release. Where better to exploit the cult of personality and propaganda than a festival where the streets are paved with posters and beer-sodden flyers clog the gutters? 

If you’re an MP seriously considering this proposal, there are some pitfalls of which you will need to be aware to avoid damaging your honourable reputation. In particular, you will need to be careful about which shows you endorse as a punter during your down time. Being papped in the back row of a late-night burlesque performance with scantily clad dancers could end up as front-page news in your constituency’s local paper. And however you justify it to your party, employing your nephew to operate the lighting for your show will be seen as nepotism in the workplace.

Most crucially, you’ll need to survive on a tight budget to get through the month and as a public servant, will have tricky questions to answer if you’ve tried to claim a deep fried Mars bar or a bottle of Glenfiddich on expenses. But please be reassured, the excessive drinking culture of the fringe is not too dissimilar from parliament – another place of employment adorned with onsite bars.

If, like us, you are struggling to fund your Edinburgh experience, you could always consider getting a part-time job, perhaps flyering for a student physical theatre production, doing hair and makeup for another MP’s show – or editing a London newspaper. This will give you extra credibility when debating the issues surrounding zero-hours contracts and people who need multiple jobs to scrape by.

While we’re on the subject of jobs, if there’s any MPs out there who have been inspired by this, and are on the lookout for someone to help write their show, we are available for hire. Whether you want a complete ghostwritten script, need to knock your half-written draft into strong and stable shape or just some help to make it appeal to The Many Not The Few, then we’re your women.

Lola and Jo will be performing at the Edinburgh fringe in August



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