James Forsyth talks to insiders in Washington and London about the biggest dilemma facing the next Prime Minister — and finds that, as much as Brown might like to break free of an unpopular conflict, his options are severely limitedGordon Brown could administer the coup de grâce to George W. Bush’s presidency. If, following the expected visits to Iraq and Washington in the first weeks of his premiership, Brown were to announce that British forces would be pulled out of Iraq by March 2008, then the already fragile support for the war in the US Congress would finally snap.
At the Prince of Wales’s 50th birthday party at Buckingham Palace, Sir Geoffrey Cass, who was then the chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company, presented Antony Sher to the Queen. ‘He is one of our leading actors, ma’am,’ Sir Geoffrey whispered into her ear. Her Majesty frowned, paused for a very long time and finally said, ‘Oh, are you?’A string of words, mercifully unuttered, formed in Sher’s head.
Since the late Victorian age there have been two prime ministers who have come close to nervous breakdowns while in Downing Street. The first was Anthony Eden, dosing himself on mind-altering drugs so that he could relieve the gnawing pressures of his own insecurities and the pressures of the Suez crisis in 1956. Last year diligent research by the former foreign secretary and medical doctor David Owen found that Eden during his spell as premier was taking the powerful narcotic drinamyl, a combination of amphetamines and barbiturates, which badly undermined his judgment, reduced his coherence and made him paranoid.
Sitting opposite Ed Miliband MP in a large and airy office, the sort of office that befits the Minister for the Third Sector, I suddenly have the surreal impression that I’m at the doctor’s. It’s the medicinal green of the carpet but, more than that, it’s Ed’s demeanour. There he is on the sofa, all clean and healthy-looking, like a man who jogs and who knows how important it is to stay hydrated, and concerned too — leaning forward, his eyes bright with eagerness to fix things.
Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him.... Despite ...overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machineguns and much ammunition.