Burns Night

G had her first Burns Supper last night. Even though she was born in England, G has a Welsh mum and Scottish dad, so I suppose it's up to the two of us to make sure she grows up with at least a grasp of some of the traditions and customs of our respective home nations.

Which is why I ended up shovelling a meaty, oaty mulch into her mouth at teatime, as shown in the picture. G has generally got the hang of using her own fork now, but the haggis wasn't sticking to it very well, so she needed a bit of help.

I know some people would consider this child cruelty, but she cleaned her plate. So she can't have minded too much. Just wait until she's old enough to understand what the stuff's actually made of.


G is not a baby anymore. She's definitely a toddler. Although she's been on her feet for a while, her walking has really improved over the last few days. She can now happily wobble her way from one side of the room to the other and back again without even thinking about crawling. As this photo demonstrates, she's naturally very pleased with herself.

Yesterday I took her into the city as I was giving an interview on Radio Manchester about being a stay-at-home dad, and G's starring role during the recent by-election campaign. I left her outside the studio with one of the producers while I did my bit. Apparently, when she heard my voice, she walked over to the nearest speaker and started shouting "Dada!" Which at least proves her powers of recognition are improving along with her walking ability.

If you want to listen to the interview, you can do so here for the next few days. It begins at about 2:41.

The Pramgate Affair

G was at the centre of an actual political scandal this week. You could tell it was an actual political scandal, because it had the word 'gate' at the end of it. Let me tell you about Pramgate.

Nick Clegg made his third visit of the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election campaign on Tuesday. Me and G went along to cover the event for Saddleworth News. As he knocked on some doors with the Lib Dem candidate, watched by a huge collection of journalists and party workers, I hung around at the back with G in her pram, and thought I'd try to take a few photos when Mr Clegg eventually walked back towards us.

The picture above shows one of those photos, and also captures a moment seconds before controversy struck. Newsnight's Michael Crick was doing his usual thing of grabbing a few words with a politician while on the move, and sadly his cameraman (on the left) was going backwards, and wasn't looking where he was going, so bumped into G's pram. I shouted "look out!" and Mr Clegg, who we have met before, leaned over and asked if we were ok, which of course we were.

Later on, he spotted us again and came over for a quick chat. "She really does go everywhere with you, doesn't she?" he said. "Yes, but she just almost got run over by Newsnight, actually," I replied. Mr Clegg then walked on and told Michael Crick off: "You almost just ran over that baby," he tutted. And I thought that was the end of that.

So imagine my surprise as, when I checked my phone later that evening, I had dozens of Twitter messages from people asking me if G was ok. I was quickly able to establish what happened next. BBC North West Tonight had made a light-hearted feature of this whole 'incident' during Clegg's visit, and a left-wing political gossip blog had got the wrong end of the stick, and said it had heard a rumour that Clegg had actually kicked a baby during his trip to Oldham. It seemed that a lot of people already believed this to be true.

Before things got out of hand I issued a statement denying the Deputy Prime Minister had kicked G, which was itself deemed worthy of reporting by the Politics Home website. It described this as "2011's strangest political denial." But the denial didn't have much impact. With folk already describing the 'incident' as Pramgate, the biggest political blog in the country, Guido Fawkes soon decided to stick its oar in as well. "There's definitely some sort of contact," it intoned, after poring over footage broadcast by both North West Tonight and Newsnight.

G was the centre of attention the next day, the last of the campaign. At the Lib Dem event, visitor Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander spotted her and asked if this was the baby he'd been hearing so much about. Later, at Labour's last campaign event, several people jokingly asked after G, while one said his main reason for joining Labour instead of the Lib Dems was Labour's firm policy against baby kicking. No matter how much I insisted that Nick Clegg hadn't actually kicked G it didn't matter. History records that he did, and I suppose that's the only thing that counts.

At the count the following night, as it became clear Labour had won a more comfortable victory than expected, their campaign manager said he thought Pramgate had been the crucial moment of the last days of the by-election, which turned things in their favour. I'm fairly sure he was joking. But politics is such a strange business, you can never be sure whether someone's joking or not.

Britain's Most Political Baby

The by-election campaign in our area is now at full-tilt, with polling day now less than a week away. Over the last few days it seems like I've been constantly out and about following one politician or another to interview them for Saddleworth News. Since Mrs J went back to work on Tuesday, G has had to come everywhere with me too.

The picture above shows us in the snow in Oldham today, with the Labour candidate Debbie Abrahams and the Shadow Home Secretary, Ed Balls. Before I could ask him any questions, he asked me what it was like being the only dad at parent-and-baby groups. After that discussion, it seemed a bit bizarre to switch to doing an interview about policing and counter-terrorism, but I suppose that's to be expected when you mix babies and politicians.

Mr Balls wasn't actually the most famous politician me and G interviewed this week. Yesterday, we got a quick chat with none other than the Prime Minister himself.

We'd been told he only had a small amount of time for the media, but that didn't stop a horde of journalists and camera crews turning up outside the garage in Oldham that he was visiting. Only some reporters were going to be allowed in, but as the local media outlet doing by far the most in-depth coverage of the campaign, I was on the list. As my name was called I pushed G inside along with several very well-known journalists, who produced a variety of expressions ranging from confusion to amusement.

We had to wait a while for the PM, but even though G was well overdue her afternoon nap, she was beautifully behaved. She even remained in a good mood when ITN's political correspondent mistakenly took her for a boy. Further evidence perhaps that News at Ten's reputation for accuracy isn't what it was.

A few of us local journalists eventually squeezed into a room and waited for Mr Cameron to come in and give us a few minutes of his time. I was in the seat next to the PM with G on my knee, although throughout she seemed more interested in opening and closing a desk drawer which was right in front of her.

At one point, one of the other reporters asked whether the by-election was a referendum on the coalition, at which moment G started giggling at something. The PM said: "You've had your answer here. How old is she? 15 months and already laughing at that idea!" G certainly likes to make everyone know she's there, no matter how important they are.

Sadly only one photographer was allowed on the PM's visit so there aren't any pictures of us meeting him. However, here's one of us in the pub on Tuesday with UKIP's Nigel Farage. A slightly less significant political figure, but a party leader nonetheless.

A very pleasant chap, he advised me that he always took galoshes with him when campaigning to avoid ruining his shoes. I trust he buys British-made ones.

All of this has led to quite a few people suggesting to me that G must now be by far the most political baby in Britain. Not sure if she knows who to support yet though. I have a feeling that whichever party gives her the most brightly-coloured balloons might just sway her.

(pictures: Stuart Coleman Photography)

Bouncing Into 2011

Here's G playing with one of her new toys. We had some friends over for Hogmanay last night, and one brought a trampoline for G. As you can see, she's very taken with it.

G's confidence on the bouncy trampoline has coincided with a much greater steadiness on her feet. She's now happily toddling around the living room, a few steps at a time, rather than always getting back on her hands and knees to crawl.

Both the extra walking and last night's bouncing may have combined to tire G right out, so she didn't wake up until 10am this morning. Given that both me and Mrs J were feeling a bit rough after the night before, that was just as well.