A vegetarian walks into a kebab shop...
That might sound like the start of some dodgy joke circulated by carnivores, but it's not. I'm veggie and do it all the time. So does Jeremy Corbyn, as evidenced by a steady stream of media coverage focused on his love affair with Archway Kebab. Just because we don't eat kebabs, doesn't mean we don't do kebab shops. That's where the falafel wrap comes in. I went to the famed shop to see if there was anything I could divine about the election result. Or just get to know Jeremy better, by eating his falafel in London.
I grew up round here; Archway was my local tube station. So all things considered, it's perhaps a little shameful that I've never stepped foot inside Archway Kebab. It's inside Corbyn's constituency, Islington North, a part of London where he's been the MP since 1983. It's no surprise that Archway Kebab isn't shy about promoting Corbyn's love of their food, to lure in locals. Many of them obviously rate him.
Archway Kebab doesn't look like your regular London high street kebab shop. Its sign is a more refined, streamlined thing the gaudy neon version offered by competitors (if that's what you're after, step across the street and head to Planet Kebab). And is it us, or are those letters printed on a Labour red background? A man with white hair and beard is painted onto the windows, depicted shaving doner meat. Not JC, but his other holiness: Santa. (Corbyn wouldn't touch a doner with a bargepole.)
I'm greeted by two jovial guys behind the counter. I order a falafel wrap, and ask them about their illustrious patron. "Ah yeah he's in here all the time," one of them says. He turns to his co-worker and says, "Go on, show him the picture you got with him."
After a little bit of teasing, my wrap-constructor gets out his phone, and finds said photo. And there it is. Jeremy behind the counter. Mingling with the people. But does he just come along for the photo ops though, or is he an actual regular?
"Nah, he's here all the time. Last time I saw him was a few months ago." It is plausible that the whole election malarkey has put the kibosh on the leader of the opposition's usual eating habits. (We hope he was living it up while he had some spare time on his hands during the illegal prorogation of parliament.)
Corbyn, I'm told, has his falafel wrap with all the salads. Well he is for the many, not the few. I go for the same combo and bite in. The onions bite back, like Labour's cutting edge tax policies(?). The wrap is spicy, like the hot new plans to deliver nationwide free broadband(?). The falafel tastes fresh, like Labour's plans to refresh the NHS by increasing spending by an average 4.3% a year(?).
OK, it turns out that there aren't many pithy comparisons to be drawn between a (pretty good) falafel wrap, a politician and his party. At least not as many comparisons as are out there between Boris Johnson and his infamous New Routemasters. Good job we're not the BBC.
It's only as I'm leaving Archway Kebab, that I clock a homeless man outside, on the floor in the rain. I also know that there are another two regulars outside Archway station, a short walk away, each evening. Labour's manifesto has promised to repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act that's still used to intimidate and move rough sleepers. Maybe that matters just a little bit more than a falafel wrap.