Insights from the UK and beyond
Should Joanna Lumley be allowed to dictate Gurkha policy?
While Gordon Brown increasingly draws comparisons to the mortally wounded bull gasping his last at a Spanish corrida, one personality at Westminster has been putting on a show of decisive policy-making that has brought the bloodthirsty crowd to its feet.
Totally at ease with publicity, absurdly photogenic and much loved amongst the electorate at large, actress Joanna Lumley — AbFab’s Patsy to the younger ones, The Avengers’ Purdy to more seasoned TV viewers — has provided Westminster watchers with an object lesson in how to get things done.
She has led the charge for the Gurkhas from the start, corralling the press, harrying ministers over their right to settle in Britain and even holding private meetings with Gordon Brown when she felt it was time to go to the top.
Yesterday was perhaps her finest hour as she handbagged the hapless immigration minster Phil Woolas in the Westminster offices of the BBC as the cameras rolled, reportedly extracting more concessions from him.
It was a stirring performance and one which has only served to underline the apparent weakness of the government.
But should an unelected lobbyist really be allowed to have such an influence on policy?
This is after all an immigration issue and surely no government would take on such a formidable combination as Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas and risk all the negative headlines if it did not feel the issue was important.
Is it time for Patsy to exit stage right and leave the issue to our elected representatives?