I haven’t been able to write much this week, first because my business is to a large extent based on a mountain of work around the Budget, and second because I spent yesterday driving to Dorset and back on the rain-blasted A37, a road of constant accelerations and decelerations, tiresome enough to break any man’s spirit were it not enlivened by the yokel-sounding village names, such as Farrington Gurney and Binegar (Gurney Slade). Love those brackets. Pertinent to Gaw’s recent musings I did enjoy the scrawled but massive handwritten Somerset sign “Cider Here”, conjuring visions of a swimming-hole full of the stuff with gleeful rustics plunging.
I did catch a couple of political programmes on the gogglebox. The Great Offices of State is my kind of politics – long, long views, in which the politicians of the day are but passing pests in the night while faceless, rigid-backed civil servants run the country. This episode was about the Foreign Office. Old Etonians prowl dark leather rooms, patriotically formfilling, standing on burning decks, keeping Britain British in a hideous, irrational world. Frowning, they sift dud intelligence from the lamplighters and pavement artists (The only problem with the TV adaption of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is that it took the action out of Le Carre’s timeless shadow world and put it in a real one with cars and hairstyles). Robin Cook as Foreign Sec was remembered as a vandal who removed a big old painting from King Charles St in the name of ‘modernisation’.
Douglas Hurd noted a notable thing in the discrepancy between perceptions of Britain at home and in Europe. When he goes off to Brussels, the Foreign Secretary leaves the country as a craven compromiser, all too eager to sacrifice British interests to his Eurocrat cronies. He arrives in Europe as a bully and wrangler, wily, suspiciously well-briefed and determined to protect British interests at all costs and hang the rest.
Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellors ‘debate’ proved that we are living in a golden age of Tinkering Politics in which there is absolutely no ideological distinction between any of the main political parties. Vince Cable had nothing to lose and was therefore in the strongest position, but he blew it by admitting that even he, the great Lib Dem sage, couldn’t have predicted the scale of the banking collapse, even as the monkeys in the audience were poised to applaud him for predicting exactly that. He should have milked it – most people want to believe that people can predict things and therefore we can blame those who don’t, because they cannot compute the brute fact that we live in a hideous, irrational world. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter who wins the Election in the long run but you should vote Tory because they’ll have a second Budget and I’ll be quids in.