This election is a swindle. It is a fraud on the electorate. We are asked to vote for one man, Blair, when he has explicitly said that he will not serve a full five years, and the chances must therefore be that the Labour machine will try, at some point in the next few years, to insert Gordon Brown. That would be utterly outrageous, not just because he is a gloomadon-popping, interfering, high-taxing complicator of life, but mainly because he is a Scot, and government by a Scot is just not conceivable in the current constitutional context. Not only is Scotland full of rotten boroughs, where Labour MPs are returned by relatively tiny electorates but, as I never tire of saying, we English MPs can be overruled by Scottish MPs on very controversial questions, affecting our constituents, when we have no corresponding say over those questions in Scotland, and those Scottish MPs themselves have no say over those questions, so that John Reid, Scottish Health Secretary for the so-called UK, has no say over health questions in so far as they affect his own constituents. Some say this is just inside-beltway stuff. They are wrong. It makes English audiences roar with anger, and it explains why Gordon Brown makes so many speeches about ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’. He’s not really interested in British values. He’s worried about his personal political disability as a Scottish MP, and so he should be.
I was baffled to find a hunk of white marble in my rucksack, and then I remembered that my friend Elfyn Llwyd MP, leader of the Welsh Nats, had looted it when we were in one of Saddam’s pulverised palaces. To be accurate, he was in the process of looting it when he was interrupted by our young Foreign Office minder. ‘I don’t think that is appropriate behaviour from an MP,’ said the youth. Elfyn thought, and I agree, that this was a touch snotty. I don’t see how the FO can approve of initiating a war that has cost the lives of 17,000 Iraqi civilians, and blown this palace and much else to kingdom come, and then baulk at the removal of one Elfyn Marble. But Elfyn instinctively passed it to me.
On the subject of marble retention, Lady Thatcher seemed in sparky form when I met her at a recent party. Only one thing was troubling her. She wasn’t quite sure what she was going to be doing in the campaign, and at which barricades she would be asked to give her rallying cry. ‘Normally they give me a timetable,’ she said wistfully. Let us hope that a battle-plan has since been devised for this biggest and most venerable of Tory guns.
I am indebted to frontpagemag.com, a neocon website, for details of the exciting touristic itinerary they are offering Britophiles in London. After the Crown Jewels and the Changing of the Guard, the party goes to the House of Lords, where ‘we will be greeted by a Lord’. OK, folks, hands up. And what’s it worth?
Like hundreds of his Balliol pupils, I was shocked and grieved by the early death of Oliver Lyne, who taught us Latin. With his moustache and droopy fedora, he had the air of some French secret policeman. But you only had to spend an hour with him, talking about Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid or Horace, and he so brilliantly manipulated your groping opinions that you not only came out feeling quite clever, but also that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, more important and universe-unlocking than Latin love poetry. Admittedly he once tried to throw me out of his room, saying, ‘I am not going to teach you with you sitting there all drunk and crapulous.’ I dimly formed the thought that I could not logically be both drunk and crapulous at once, but somehow it wouldn’t come out.
That is the genius of the Oxford tutorial: no matter how idle, moronic or incapable you are, you are entitled to one-on-one instruction from a leader in his field. Now, as James Howard-Johnston recently reported in our pages, that system is under threat. And it gets worse. I am told that Mods — traditionally the longest exam outside the old Indian Civil Service — is to be reduced from 13 three-hour exams to a weedy ten, and the kids no longer need to have read the whole of Homer! And they want to move the classics section, all those fantastic, sebum-stained, dandruff-filled volumes, out of the Bodleian. They must be stopped.
Running round Highbury the other night I came across the sprayers. You may not know it, but while the city sleeps the council-funded sprayers are at work, scouring the gum-lichened pavements with superpowerful jets of water. They stand in sou’westers, while clouds of spray drift across the street. It seems to take about five minutes per blob. It is like restoring the Sistine Chapel. Wouldn’t it be cheaper if we all just took up smoking?
I had a dream that someone was nicking our firewood and woke to find that the neighbours had been burgled. It happens the whole time in this part of London. It’s routine. The cops are round in the morning like the milk or the post. ‘We know all the burglars in this area, but we can’t do anything about it. They just convince the powers that be that they won’t re-offend, and then they are let out almost immediately.’ How long before some lefty lawyer has had enough, and becomes the Tony Martin of Islington? The Spectator will support you.
One of the simultaneous joys and pains of parenthood is the moment of il sorpasso, when — whichever way you look at it — a child overtakes you at skiing. I find it very hard, however, to fight my competitive urge, and I was pursuing a ten-year-old through the slush when I did a complete forward somersault, landing first on my head and spraining my neck before bouncing the right way up and popping something in my ribcage and then weaving on slowly in total defeat, like a dog hit by a car. There was a cheer from the ski-lift overhead (these things always happen under ski-lifts) and appreciative shouts of ‘pee-pee head’.
Sitting next to a Chilean-Dutch banker on a freezing chairlift, I found myself rhapsodising to this stranger about England in April. It is the most beautiful country on earth, I said, while he stared impassively ahead through sleet-covered goggles. You should see it, I said: the blackest, thorniest, runtiest twigs suddenly burst into jets and sprays of bloom. Coming back, I can see how right I was. As Catullus et al pointed out meaningfully to their girls, it doesn’t last long.
There is no greater terror for a Tory candidate than to forget or scramble our ten key words, so that we reach the juddering climax of our speeches with calls for ‘more immigration’ or ‘cleaner policemen’. I have no embarrassment, therefore, in reminding you that our simple and immediate objectives are: cleaner hospitals, more policemen, controlled immigration, school discipline and LOWER TAXES.