From the heart of a Labour general election victory to the gladiatorial word battles of BBC’s Question Time, award-winning comedian, writer and broadcaster Ayesha Hazarika has long experience of the hurly-burly of life political life.

Now the former political advisor to Harriet Harman and Gordon Brown is on tour with her new hit show, Girl on Girl – The Fight for Feminism, and she will bring it to Swindon Arts Centre on November 10.

Ayesha took some time on the very first day of her tour to talk to the Adver about her extraordinary career, the benefits of not being an MP - and the aftermath of her bruising recent appearance on Question Time.

“I was on Question Time last week, and it is a tough show to do. There was another woman on the show. It’s very aggressive, and afterwards I got so much abuse on social media – on my weight, my appearance, the colour of my skin, asking how I dare to challenge those great men,” she says.

“I am so used to social media abuse now, I get it often, but it spikes when I do Question Time – it’s such a watched programme. It’s a blood sport, very aggressive.”

She says that over the 48 hours after the show she was deluged with messages from people calling her fat and ugly, and ridiculing her – angered by her being a woman with strong opinions.

“Even one lovely male friend of mine was like, you were a bit shouty on Question Time. I was with other female journalists who all rounded on him, and said, you would never say that to an angry man.”

Ayesha was born near Glasgow and grew up on the outskirts of the city. She went to Hull University to study law, thinking she wanted to be a lawyer, then proceeded to Westminster University to do a postgraduate course in journalism and politics. From there she joined the civil service and worked as a Government press officer. Friends and colleagues urged Ayesha to try stand-up comedy, because she was always making them laugh, but at the outset Ayesha wasn’t so sure.

“Stand up was very blokey. It was like they were suggesting I should be an astronaut or a cabaret singer,” she recalls. “But one of my friends found a course for aspiring stand-up comedians. I did it. They don’t teach you how to be funny, but give you confidence and are like-minded people. You learn about the open mic scene.”

Other alumni of the course include comedians Rhod Gilbert and Greg Davies. Ayesha used what she had learnt to develop her skills.

“After that, I got the bug,” she says. A Whitehall press officer by day, a stand-up comedian by night, she persevered and honed her skills, and aged 24 was talent-spotted by an agent.

Isn’t it scary standing on stage, and facing an audience who expect you to make them laugh?

“Yes it is. And it’s still scary. It’s daunting. You feel vulnerable. You have no costume to hide behind, no props. At the same time, it’s brilliant when it does go well. A one-woman show is different from doing a 15-20 minute club set. A one-woman show is more personal and thoughtful. You are trying to tell a story or make a point, or to take the audience on a journey, so there’s an extra level of vulnerability.”

She says: “But when people connect with it, it’s an amazing feeling, when people get what I am trying to say.”

Ayesha left the civil service and worked as a special advisor on the 2005 Labour election campaign. She was a special advisor on women and equality issues for Harriet Harman, and worked on the drafting of the Equality Act, updating equality laws, including the need for an analysis of the gender pay gap. She was a political advisor to Gordon Brown and worked with Ed Miliband following the Labour defeat in the 2010 election, when he was leader of the opposition. This experience led to her writing a book, Punch and Judy Politics: An Insider’s Guide to Prime Minister’s Questions.

“I always said I would like to be an MP but that didn’t work out for me,” she says. “With hindsight, that’s probably a blessing. In some ways you have more freedom. I can say what I want to say. It’s quite liberating. If you want to be successful in politics, you have to get up the greasy pole and toe the party line.”

Her new show is a consideration of contemporary feminism, and she explores the way women’s debates are presented in a way that makes them look trivial. “Men are allowed to disagree with each other, with wisdom and respect and status. Women are presented as arguing about what they are allowed to wear or how much sex they are supposed to be having. You don’t see men set up to argue about that.”

She adds: “Everyone is looking for that viral clip – ideally two women arguing about something ridiculous. It’s cheap entertainment, and for the men in charge, it reduces us to irrelevance and the status quo remains the same.”

Perhaps things are changing – a recent episode of Politics Live featured a line-up of women, all experts in their field, having a serious and respectful debate. Ayesha says we should not get too excited about that. “Let’s not go over the top. One programme does not make a revolution – and there was such a backlash against it on Twitter.”

Girl on Girl – The Fight for Feminism comes to Swindon on November 10. Tickets are £15.50 with concessions available. To book, call 01793 524481 or visit