Saturday, 8 May 2010


Whatever happens after Thursday's debacle it is not my fault. For the first time in half a century I did not vote. Mainly because "Che sera sera", the future is not up to me.

I came to instant indecision watching the "X Factor" in which three second-rate minds auditioned to become chief of the tribe but I decided not to intervene for another reason. A party of civil servants, anxious to set up the machinery of a hung parliament, decided to examine the system at work.
Five countries are prospering under balanced government. Our next door neighbour Scotland is an excellent example. Our mandarins with a glad cry set off for the sunny climes of New Zealand. It was hardly the shortest distance between two points. On arrival they were presented with a manual explaining how to build your own Balanced Parliament. Why didn't they have one sent in the post? Or indeed "tak' the High Road"? We are promised a new super clean parliament but it is patently too early to sell the trough.

In the event, it was the election everybody lost. Clegg committed Hari Kiri when he offered an amnesty to illegal immigrants. Neither of the other parties discussed the prospect of national bankruptcy, brought even nearer when the Dow Jones Index dropped a thousand points on Election Day. Not that it matters that nobody won. Whatever party is elected it will inevitably transmute into a Conservative government. I was tempted to vote Liberal but could not support a party desperate to take us into Europe with indecent haste and which believes in the discredited Euro. After a referendum, of course. I have leaned not to trust promises of referendums.

The most overworked image of the election was the Elephant in the Room. So many crowded into the electoral room I looked vain for Sabu, the Elephant Boy. I wouldn't have been surprised to find his merry little face. Among the experts who were lined up to be interviewed were Bruce Forsyth, Joan Collins, Piers Morgan, a drunken and aimless Amis and others too innumerate to mention. For intelligent comment and criticism there was only Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

Cameron's spectacular vote loser was the admission to Paxman that there would be major cuts in Nothern Ireland and the North East of England. The least offensive policies were those of the Labour party. Brown, a son of the Manse, may be an honest and caring man. He claims to be at every opportunity. His trouble is that he is unlucky and we know what Napoleon thought of unlucky generals. Blair beat him to the succession; when he scrambled into power we were immediately visited with foot and mouth disease (which may or may not be God reprising his trick with the Plagues of Egypt); he sold our Gold Reserves at the bottom of the market and laid the trail for our current problems. His continuing history is a sorry one. The gaff in Rochdale was unimportant. Everyone makes them and the voting public should have been warned when we learned Murdoch's Sun had offered the spurned widow £25,000 to put her name to rude remarks which were to be written for her by Sun employees.

I was at a St Leger dinner in Doncaster Guidhall when the chairman of the race committe Alderman Cammidge proferred Elizabeth II a tureen of vegetables with the words "Have some cabbage, Queen. It's good for the complexion."

Alas I was not present when the very regal Queen Mary rushed from the Royal Train on a visit to Peterloo to examine the royal convenience. As she emerged, a Mayor said sympathetically, "Your Majesty'll feel better for that."

That was never reported. Nor did I report the obscene language with which Prince Philip answered my polite query about his score in a Polo match in Little Budworth. And it would not have occured to me to report my exchanges with Aneurin Bevan.

After Brown's gaffe much was made of his efforts to find out who had included the bigoted widow in the people to whom he talked. The greater gaffe was the admission that the so-called random meetings politicians have are orchestrated by minions who pick the people who will shake hands days before a visit.

A noble friend of mine who is high in the Masonic Hierachy was loaned a Royal car to take him to a function where he was acting for an absent Royal. The car arrived at his house the day before and did a trial run of the entire journey, including comfort stops, lunch and tea breaks. When Princess Margaret subsequently stayed overnight with him he was even told the brand of lavaory tissue she preferred. Only a man as unlucky as Brown would find a woman who had not been vetted and rehearsed by his staff.

Personally I think the party which lost the most was the BBC. For tribal reaons I watched their coverage and was appalled. Millions of people watch Talent Spotting Contests: therefore, said the Suits, we must replace the election coverage with a General Entertainment. Rehearsed, of course, and worked from an agreed script. Unfortunately they got the timing wrong. The whole embarrassing performance began an hour early, long before the first result. The action was set in a studio dressed to represent the Star Ship Enterprise. Only Dr Spock and the delectable Lieutenant Uhuru were missing. For a very long hour the only bone they had to worry was a hypothetical poll. The studio toys would have been more at home in a Christmas store grotto. There was a virtual parliament with Alice in Wonderland dominoes and a swingometer which seemed to baffle its luckless operator. No point in criticising the Dimblebys: like the poorly talented they are always with us. They are there by virtue of being Dimblebys.

By any professional standard, the two "lions" Humphrys and Paxman and their cub Evan Davies were abysmal. They had no interviewing technique to speak of. They are so besotted with the game of politics they have become contestants themselves. The only subject which interested them was the prospect of an unbalanced parliament when the only balance the listeners wanted to hear about was balancing the books.

Byron's epitaph for his dog, Boatswain. Sent by reader Sarah Thomas, for which much thanks

"Near this spot Are deposited the Remains of one Who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery If inscribed over human ashes, Is but a just tribute to the Memory of BOATSWAIN, a Dog, Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803, And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808."

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor's art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below;
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen
Not what he was but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is all his master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone, 
Unhonour'd falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth;
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power,
who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who perchance behold this simple urn, 
Pass on - it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend's remains these stones arise; 
I never knew but one, and here he lies.


Here's a solution from a concerned friend to all the controversy over full-body scanners at the airports. A booth that you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you.
It would be a win-win for everyone, and there would be none of this argument about racial profiling. This method would eliminate a long and expensive trial.  Justice would be quick and swift. Case closed!

That from reader Brian Hitchen. This from reader Chris Sheridan:

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled.
  Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be  tempered and controlled.  The assistance to foreign lands should  be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.  People must again learn to  work, instead of living on public assistance."   Cicero   - 55 BC. What have we learned in 2,065 years?