Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Gifts That Keep On Being Given

There is a strange story I came across today about the ludicrous convention of gift giving between heads of state.

Quite rightly, in this country and America the recipient doesn't keep the presents, which get warehoused or hung on a government building's wall or quietly burned at the weekend, or if unsuitable for burning, become landfill. Some may circulate the globe being surreptitiously passed on, like a dodgy bottle of Romanian Merlot.

We no longer set sail for the South Pacific with looking glasses and enamel brooches to woo the savage chief. Desalination plants - yes, bartered for new trade agreements and other progressive economic things. But we have enough tea sets, thanks. And a breeding pair of rare piebald Bactrian camels - you're too kind, but really - no.

The greaseball Sarkozy, when Chief Frog, gave the Obamas 'several Hermes bags' among other items valued at 27 grand. SEVERAL - it is clear that he wished Michelle to pick her fave and keep it, yet he must have known that protocol denied her the opportunity to do so. It tells us , I think, that Sarko was probably not so honest about giving up all the gifts his visitors gave HIM..

And what was our own dear Prince of Wales doing giving them a 15-piece TEA SET? Isn't this exactly the thing that causes a certain type of Brit-baiting American (including Obama, I think) to put on a fey lah-di-dah English accent and mime drinking tea with their little finger sticking up in the air? Come ON, Charles - use your imagination. A collection of Prince Albert rings and chains, perhaps, or a few antique golf clubs from St Andrews, given that Obama spends more time on golf courses than any US President since Eisenhower.

I think the whole racket should cease immediately and be replaced with imaginative charitable giving. If they want to indulge in a  little private cumshaw, given personally and privately, that seems a much better arrangement. They probably do it anyway when they get to know each other well enough, like Ron and Maggie, for instance.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Available for Work

I have no idea what this man's politics are, and it may be wise not to pry too deep, lest we discover.........

I can't help thinking that he sings from the right hymnsheet, however, and Idle, as can been seen above, is a close personal friend. I see him as a classic aspirational hard worker, one who takes complete responsibility for himself, yet whose teamwork and leadership are of the highest order. Now that his glorious competitive career is over, perhaps he can be encouraged to throw his hat into the ring for a safe, um, Tory Edinburgh seat (Malcolm Rifkind's old constituency springs to mind), and become, by stages, Minister of Sport, Culture Secretary, Chairman of the British Olympic Committee and eventually supremo of the IOC itself, if Seb Coe has vacated it and Ben Ainslie is not by then the heir apparent. It is high time the upper reaches of sports administration were purged of the corruption and cant that has held sway too long.

Sir Christopher Hoy is the man for the job. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Toot on His Own Trumpet

As we walked through Grosvenor Square to the tube this morning, the flags were at half mast. Diplomatic protocol and all that (except the Argies in Brook Street, natch). Then we got to the Marriott Hotel on the corner. Four flags: one Union Jack, one Eurotrash blue thing, two corporate flags, all hanging from the top. ‘Wait here’, I said to my colleagues. I walked across to the doorman and told him that his was the only Union Jack within a mile (maybe within a hundred miles) that was not at half mast, and would he kindly tell the concierge. ‘I’d rather you told him yourself sir’, he hedged. So in I went and asked the concierge if he was proud of the fact. He went slightly pale, and dived for his telephone. ‘Thank you, sir’ he said.


There was something about the bearded cretin, resting upon his mountain bike whilst expostulating by megaphone to the crowd, that prompted me to break my return to the tube station and listen to his idiocies. The main thrust, it seemed, was that Thatcher was a witch and £10m might have been better spent than upon her funeral, particularly in the light of the current austerity.

Idle readers, I must admit that I may have been claret-fuelled, the after-funeral lunch at the Stationers’ Company beside St Paul’s having been more than agreeable. I rolled a fag, waited until a spirited East End woman had finished haranguing him, and then waded in.

I started with the unverifiable (and probably false) statement that the BBC had made more than £10m selling the television rights to 170 countries around the world. He didn’t disagree, so on I strode. Why, I asked, did Marxists like him oppose a ceremonial funeral for a democratically elected prime minister and global statesman, when despotic/Marxist countries the world over spend significant percentages of their annual national income on hero-worship and demagoguery? Furthermore, was he even born when Thatcher came to power? Did he understand the context of the times?

‘What makes you think I’m a Marxist, or a socialist?’ he asked.

'Well, You’re certainly not a capitalist, are you?’ I replied. ‘Are you any type of "ist"? I’ll tell you what you are – you’re a nihilist. You believe in nothing, which is why the people you are speaking to on your megaphone have not the slightest respect for you. Good luck’.

Idle turned on his heel and loped off to the underground railway, to a spontaneous round of applause from a couple of dozen Ludgate Hill spectators. It was thrilling.


The Marriott flags were all at half mast as I passed them twenty minutes later.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Only One Place to Be

Idle will be on Ludgate Hill at St Paul's for the passing of the gun carriage. He will wear a hat, only so that he can remove it. Afterwards, a guest of the Stationers' Livery company at their grand hall beside St Paul's for the funeral and lunch.

I have pondered the life and death of Margaret Thatcher this week. I recognise that not everyone can laud her; even the best politicians operate under the eternal Law of Unintended Consequences. But so great was the disaster she inherited, so perilous the economic danger, she had no choice but to administer the medicine. It was bitter to swallow, much more so for some than others. Be in no doubt that it had to be swallowed, however. It took supreme courage, nerve, tenacity and forbearance to see it through. And having  survived to lead three Parliaments, she was able to influence the world, as one of the two greatest statesmen of her era. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of millions of people are now free who were not and might never have been, had it not been for her unshakable belief in freedom and the human spirit.

Margaret Thatcher was a titanic, heroic, necessary figure. Thank heavens she was there when needed.

I thank whatever gods may be
For her unconquerable soul


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Blast From the Past

Good to hear from Conrad Black, a bit of a rogue but someone who got completely fitted up buy the appalling US justice system and shouldn't have served a single day of porridge.

Here he is on Margaret Thatcher. I laughed long and loud at the first sentence of the following:

She formed her judgment of Germany when the Luftwaffe (in what must rank as one of the greatest long-term strategic blunders of World War II) bombed the town of Grantham, where teenage Margaret Thatcher lived. And she formed her opinion of Americans from the U.S. servicemen, black and white, whom she and her family invited home for dinner after the wartime Sunday services in her local Methodist church. She was always grateful for America’s deliverance of the old world from the evils of Nazism and Communism, always supported the right of Israel to survive and flourish as a Jewish state, and never went cock-a-hoop for sanctions against what she called “the evil and repulsive” apartheid regime in South Africa, because she did not “see how we will make things better by making them worse.” She was a practical person of unswerving principle.

A sound man, is Conrad.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Greatest Living Briton Post Now Vacant

No obvious contenders from today's political cast.

Thank you, Maggie. Courageous, splendid, dedicated and above all, RIGHT.