A terribly Orwellian tableau today in Sainsbury’s Bloomsbury this morning. A poor chap with a vacant look on his face and bottle of wine in hand was standing next to the pernicious self check-out machine pathetically bleating ‘I need authorising’ ‘I need authorising’ as the dread mechanical voice parroted back ‘authorisation needed’. That was a low point on the evolutionary spiral if ever I saw one.
In other news, former Fleet Street dodo News of the World’s editor Andy Coulson appears to be going down for an endemic and illegal campaign of phone hacking waged against minor royals and D-list celebrities. Calls to mind that classic Julie Walters line in Personal Services when the Cynthia Payne character was told she would be jailed: ‘I only go down for a price dear, and I doubt you could afford it’.
Such is our cynicism towards politicians, the police and the fourth estate that rumours are already circulating that Coulson took the bullet for the team and has only gone down for a price leaving his predecessor Rebekah Brooks to roam free in the Cotswolds with her Murdock millions to keep her warm. Nobody’s come out terribly well from this dismal little soap opera. Prime Minister Cameron deserves tar and feathering for appointing Coulson as his chief spin doctor despite the stench of criminal activity clinging to Coulson like a cheap suit.
I doubt Mr Cameron would come out half as well from today’s Prime Minister’s Questions if that heinous gonk Ed Milliband didn’t sound as if he’d still got bacon fat in his fillings while wrapping his flubbering tongue around accusations of negligence and incompetence. Still, if Mr Cameron’s recent activities in Brussels are anything to go by, I don’t think he’ll go down in the history of great British statesmen.
Don’t you find today’s politicians are pygmies compared to the big beasts of our childhood? I don’t doubt there were as many Machiavellian plots in Margaret Thatcher’s administrations but at least the knife-wielders were subtle. The present lot go about plotting and debriefing with all the finesse of the Marx Brothers. The trick I believe is to shadow former Conservative Chief of Staff Michael Dobbs’s fictional Tory PM Francis Urquhart as played by the late, great Ian Richardson.
The BBC’s House of Cards trilogy was simply television drama at its best. Urquhart – or FU as he is known – commits multiple murders, entraps his cabinet like cats in a bag and deposes a king (based on the supposition that Prince Charles ascends to the throne) before – spoiler alert – he is felled by an assassins’ bullet ordered by his Lady Macbeth spouse played with brittle British poison by Diane Fletcher. I don’t doubt Dobbs’s scripts were based in part on true stories suppressed by the powers behind the Palace of Westminster.
I don’t see many sons of FU in the present administration or the opposition since Lord Mandelson has shimmied off into the shadows but George Osborne might rise to the challenge should the opportunity arise. Eyes like knives, Mr Osborne so department of no surprises that he was the Iago whispering words of encouragement when Mr Cameron was considering giving Coulson his second chance at No 10.
Parliament used to be a stage for tragedies of Shakespearean scale. I will never forget the assassination of Margaret Thatcher at the hands of her cabinet. The Lady showed immense dignity but was unable to forgive or forget; her catastrophic fall and loss of power arguably contributing to the mental decline. Still, Lady Thatcher bowing out was certainly more edifying than Tony Blair dropping his party like a hot brick as soon as he knew it was time to make a quick getaway.
If Parliament had cojones, I do believe Mr Blair should be indicted for grossly misleading the House about weapons of mass destruction and leading Britain into an illegal war. The irony of his being appointed Middle Eastern peace envoy is absurdist and his multi-million pound consultancies briefing corrupt governments and absolute dictators distasteful to the extreme. Should Hilary Mantel want a new anti-hero to lionise once she’s finished the final Thomas Cromwell novel I couldn’t think of a more suitable candidate than Mr Blair. Over to you Craig Brown for the parody…
Oh Christ! Glastonbury is looming its ugly head again. This means over 700 of the BBC’s finest will be decamping to glamp and get down with the kids at what is emerging as an event entirely hijacked by the middle aged and middle class. Apparently the English National Ballet and Dolly Parton are performing this year. Nothing camp about that. Personally I’d rather paint my bottom blue and run naked down Savile Row than frolic in the mud at ‘Glasto’ with Jennie Murray and Evan Davis.
Are you going to Masterpiece this week? Masterpiece has to be one of the most important art, antiques and fine jewellery showcases in London if not the world. La Farmer and I might zip round like whippets tomorrow afternoon before a sharpener at the Caprice bar. Masterpiece is one of the few elegant marquee events that isn’t so oversubscribed that you have do do a Luis Suarez and bite anyone who gets in between you and the Wartski stand.