Is Michael Portillo going to experience some kind of conversion on the road to Rochdale in the north west of England?
I don’t think so. But he is being subjected to some uncomfortable historical facts in Series 5 of BBC Two’s Great British Railway Journeys.
He must be finding it hard to take.
21 minutes into Episode 3, Preston to Rochdale, Gillian Lonergan ambushes the former Secretary of State for Employment under John Major’s Conservative government, with a quote from the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society of 1844, the founders of the Co-operative movement:
“They actually said that if they could change all of production, distribution, education and government to co-operation the world would be a better place.”
The look on Portillo’s face is priceless, and the look on Gillian’s face is even better She knows she’s got him.
The following section about sharp practices that the Co-op aimed to stamp out clearly grates.
It’s as though he’s chewing bitter lemons, but then free markets don’t govern themselves do they, Michael?
I’m sure if he ever regains power he’ll remember his day in Rochdale.