OPINION - We are about to wake from eight years of sugar-rush politics with a jolt

 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

How will journalists live with no-drama Starmer? Since 2016, five long prime ministers ago, we have lived with it — Brexit, the day the news sped up and never stopped, Johnson, Truss, the death of Elizabeth II, the rise and fall of Sunak — and we are addicted. Now the narcissists, grifters and showmen are done (though I don’t include Sunak in that) and we face a lawyer who loves listening to people, and paperwork.

It will be different. The carnival of eight years is over, and we must adjust to a new reality which I hope will feel less like an awful, self-hating kind of entertainment, and more like functional — and therefore “boring!”, to quote Nadine Dorries, who screamed it at Keir Starmer in the chamber — government. It was narcotic, sure, but the country burnt down.

I hear Labour is fixated on policies that don’t cost money so how about this? Open up the national parks for wild camping: landowners have been spoiled for long enough. At the moment you can only camp overnight on Dartmoor, and that’s a loophole, and landowners tried to prevent it, because that’s what they do, and were defeated in the courts last year. To celebrate — and because a newspaper asked me — I went.

The carnival of eight years is over and we must adjust to a reality that feels like a less awful kind of entertainment

I’m not a natural camper: I hated Glastonbury — again a newspaper asked me — but I don’t take drugs. I think you need them for Glastonbury. I was awoken by someone peeing on my tent. I could see their silhouette. (It was a cheap tent). I was also irritated by the idea that spending £1,000 to get wasted is somehow a profound political act but even if I’d had someone to tell this, they wouldn’t have heard me.

But Dartmoor was different. I moaned at first with the weight of my pack — there is no point taking water, it’s too heavy, just boil it — and it takes time to get used to digging a hole for waste. (In fact, I will never get used to it). Do you take specialist camping food — it’s repulsive — or two pounds of sausage, and some chocolate? (If you go hungry, you will fantasise about eating the sheep). Paperbacks or Kindles? (Kindles). Torches or candles? (Torches). And coffee. And bug spray.

But it was beautiful. I’ve wanted to visit Wistman’s Wood, an eerie ancient landscape, for years: I would tell you about it, but I am not good at landscape. Still, I won’t forget it, and its shades of Middle Earth. (JRR Tolkien was good at landscape). I ached when I woke up in the morning, until I washed in the brook. If you handle the logistics and sink into the rhythms, it’s rewarding: transformative, even. Dartmoor is filled with pools and streams. Just don’t call it wild swimming, that’s insufferable. It’s swimming.

Almost 85 per cent of British people live in cities that overheat in summer, and more than four million British children live in poverty. I didn’t grow up in poverty, but the happiest times of my childhood — the times I felt the calmest, and the most myself — were spent outdoors, in woodlands. I moved to west Cornwall seven years ago, partly because it was so expensive to have fun in London: now I think it will give me another 20 years of life. When I go to London I marvel at the heat, the crush, the concrete. I sense that children, many of whom are disconsolate, overweight, and addicted to screens — need this. I think their parents need this. The countryside shouldn’t be a playground for the wealthy, and the bourgeoisie. Why do we accept that it is?

Wild camping is not expensive: you just need the kit (Glastonbury could donate the tents left behind), and the more you do it, the better you get at it. National Parks are close to great cities, particularly in the north: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, and the Peak District.

It won’t fix our children, of course, but it’s a start. Inequality and its twin, instability, have stalked this country long enough. The benefits of landscape are for everyone. Do one thing, do this.

Tanya Gold is an Evening Standard columnist