Long ago, Michael Crick became a verb. To be Cricked is the experience of being chased down a street/corridor/escalator/alley by the Channel 4 News correspondent, under a hail of questions.
Normally the treatment is reserved for politicians in trouble of some sort – embroiled in some scandal or other, or facing a question they don’t want to answer.
Last night, though, the subject of the Cricking was Mike Watkinson. He isn’t an MP or a famous name, but a Conservative Party press officer.
Perfectly reasonably, Watkinson was in attendance at a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Nuneaton. For obvious reasons, political parties like to keep track of what their opponents say, particularly when that opponent has a track record of nutty comments on just about every topic under the sun.
Every party does it – when Labour gleefully attempted to get Lord Freud sacked for his comments about the minimum wage a couple of years ago it was in response to a recording of a fringe meeting made by an undercover Labour researcher (a recording which, incidentally, Channel 4 News were happy to pursue). Theo Bertram, a former adviser to Blair and Brown, last night recounted an amusing incident when he had gone undercover to see George Osborne speak, only to find he was the only person who had turned up.
All of which made this a pretty pointless Cricking. Chasing a press officer round a Nuneaton car park to ask if he was “embarrassed” to have been identified, or if he was “going back to London now”, when he was simply doing his job doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.
Watkinson’s response, on the other hand, was textbook. He simply stood up, walked to his car, got in and drove away. While it must have been acutely uncomfortable to make that walk with a camera and a microphone in his face, the footage of him doing so is far preferable to getting into some kind of row with Crick. He must have known there was no answer, however reasonable, which would have made the reporter say “Ok, fair enough,” and leave him alone – so he took the only sensible course available. Plenty of politicians, with far more experience, have performed much worse under similar circumstances.
For services to the Conservative Party – not only of bearing up under fire but of sitting through Corbyn rallies in the first place – he deserves a medal.