Lord Acton: "the magistrate of history"
I heard on the radio yesterday morning that the Queen’s speech is read from sheets of goats’ vellum, and that the ink with which the speech is written takes three days to dry. And I remembered that the conclusions of Vatican II, the modernising ‘reforms’ of the Church under Pope John XXIII, were published in Latin.
If the medium is the message, we’re in serious trouble.
Which is not to say that I believe tradition and modernity to be polar opposites. I can understand why some may believe that tradition is a catch-all word for all that they despise, that a reference to tradition is a means of bestowing an illusion of permanence on a policy, an ideology, or anything which is transient or contingent.
But if I believe in anything, I believe in history. And, as Henry James pointed out, “it takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition”.
It is difficult to mention even a little tradition without prefixing the word with the qualifying phrase, ‘time-honoured’.
Is it so? Is tradition time-honoured? Or is it merely ‘time-worn’?
There is some truth in the statement that tradition only becomes tradition when it is, effectively, dead; when it is finished as a progressive force. But I am not clear (as my friend Rick Gekoski would say) whether this is useful when comparing it with modernity, or its cousins modernism and post-modernism.
Bob Dylan, for example, was and is an exemplar of modernity and modernism. But as Michael Gray has pointed out, he works most successfully within the tradition of the pre-war blues. He recreates, re-interprets, re-invents the genre for us. In approach and attitude, tonality and structure, our greatest modern poets – Eliot and Auden - have worked within a tradition, the Metaphysical, which was established centuries before. And Wordsworth and Coleridge, revolutionary in politics and poetry at the time they composed Lyrical Ballads as both of book of verse and a manifesto, were working within a long-established tradition of the ballad. I will leave it to my commentators - Geoff, Chris, Charlotte and Ken - to point with accuracy to parallels in the world of art.
We are not dealing with opposites at each end of some linear progression. Modernity, in reacting against a tradition, continues that tradition, re-forming it and thus creating a new tradition against which a new generation can respond, react and renew.
It is a continual and continuing process, and is thus – in my view – time-honoured. If the tradition is worthy, it gains new life. Otherwise, it has no validity, no attraction, and it dies.
So why is the Queen still reading from goats’ vellum? Come to that, why is the Queen still reading a speech at all? And why is all this arcane Black Rod nonsense still going on?
Well, there may perhaps be some truth in another of Lord Acton’s aphorisms: that the authority of tradition serves as a restraint on absolute power.
If only …
Today's listening: correspondence between Rick Gekoski and Kazuo Ishiguro as to whether Dylan's 'lost' song I'm Not There (1956) should qualify for inclusion in Rick's book Lost, Stolen or Shredded has prompted me to return to the complete Basement Tapes and that sublime song in its original, one take version.
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
We were reminded of the truth of Hartley’s aphorism yesterday when six of us took a cab into the deep south of Warwickshire to eat in the 1970s. Our destination was a restaurant called The Butcher’s Arms, a quite beautiful building in a small hamlet, which has an iconic reputation amongst a certain class in that part of the county.
It was an illuminating experience, in which we appeared to be playing minor roles in a comedy of town and country manners, a latter-day re-write of She Stoops To Conquer.
This is not intended to be a restaurant review, although for the record I note that the wine was excellent and not unreasonably priced, and that the food was not excellent and not reasonably priced.
What was interesting was the atmosphere, the culture, of the establishment. If we had on the journey engaged in flippant thoughts that we may perhaps épate le bourgeois, it was clear from the moment we entered the bar that we were as much on display as the expensive, sports and vintage cars in the car park.
The restaurant is unashamedly, even proudly, a throwback to the ‘70s. When it opened, it was the height of fashion, a destination for Coventry captains of industry, the lawyers and accountants, the masons and landowners, the councillors and aldermen of the county. Today, it is a refuge for a class whose time has come and gone. The conversation is of trips to Spain or Antigua. The service, if one is admitted to the inner circle, is fawning. The menu is reassuringly familiar.
The only things that are even slightly risqué are the Pirelli calendars which adorn the walls of the lavatories.
Yet it was yesterday and is regularly full, even over-full.
I suspect this is because there is no alternative. No other establishment caters for this clientele. And so, regularly and frequently, the rich but not famous gather together to celebrate themselves and their lives and their way of life. Importantly, they can do it away from the hoi polloi, from those who – like the six of us – do not share their values.
It would be unfair to say that we were unwelcome, but we were not welcomed. We watched the fawning service on the other tables, but did not experience it. Wine was not offered to us to try, but merely deposited on the table. The waiting staff, so ubiquitous for others, failed to make eye contact or acknowledge that, as later arrivals were presented with their main courses, we had yet to order our starters.
It was a salutary experience for all of us. Accustomed to a milieu which is multi-racial, multi-cultural and all-embracing, this exclusiveness was alien to us. We did feel as if we had stepped into a foreign country. We did feel that they do things differently. We did feel excluded.
This was not a class issue. It was not even about some Weberian complication regarding status.
What we had done was stumble into a cult.
We were watching a form of ritual, a kind of Masonic practice which only adepts are able to appreciate.
Today's listening: Rick Gekoski on Radio 4. I intend to review his new book Lost, Stolen or Shredded when I have given it due consideration. Watch this space.
This time last week, I watched the Patriots’ Day game and, the Sox having then completed a series against each of their American League East rivals, returned to my computer to give you my thoughts on those first dozen games.
I had barely written the first sentence when the breaking news banner on my screen brought the news of the Boylston bombings. With millions of others, I watched the news feed on BBC24 with horror and helplessness, appalled by the event itself, humbled by the bravery and kindness of strangers.
I have, in the past, stood in that place, at that time, on that day, to watch the runners complete the marathon, an event which helps to define Boston and Bostonians in particular and, because it is held on the anniversary of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, the US as a whole.
The bombing was an attack on the very best traditions of America, the founding traditions. And it was a terrorist attack. Whatever we subsequently learn about the motives of the brothers involved, it is their actions which are terrorist in the true sense: the use of violence to achieve a political end.
I have long debated this policy, with friends, comrades and myself. I have studied Robespierre and Danton, the architects of the Reign of Terror in 1793. I have read a great many self-exculpatory essays and memoirs. I am working on a fiction which addresses the actions of the Weather Underground in the US and the Baader-Meinhof Group in Germany. It becomes increasingly relevant each day.
Robespierre said: “If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government in a revolution is both virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless.”
Mark Rudd said: “We have to be like Captain Ahab. We have to become monomaniacal and take the harpoon of righteousness and kill the white whale of imperialism.”
These statements are separated by nearly two centuries. One is from the state, the other against the state. But they have a great deal in common.
Both start from the premise that the speaker is right. Absolutely. 100%. No doubts. And certainly not self-doubt.
And from that position, the logic and the progression is inexorable. And so is the high and the self-justification. Andreas Baader spoke of “the wild glory of terror”, and Ulrike Meinhof said: “If one sets one car on fire, that is a criminal offence. If one sets hundreds of cars on fire, that is political action.”
I am aware that there are differences of degree involved here: that the Boylston bombings (and 9/11 and Oklahoma amongst others) were aimed indiscriminately at people, whereas Weathermen and the Red Army Faction made (most of the time) institutions their targets.
But I am not convinced that there is a significant distinction between any individual, group or government which adopts violence for political ends, or those who fill their rhetoric with images of death.
And I would remind them all of a conclusion of Bill Ayers, with whose objectives I agreed once, but who wrote in his memoir Fugitive Days:
“We had devolved from freedom fighters into criminals, from political radicals to minor technicians of illicit crafts ...”
Today's listening: Bizarrely, you might think and might be right, the Steve Miller Band. But early stuff - Sailor and Brave New World.
As St Thomas Aquinas said, “Beware of a man of a single book”. And as Disraeli said of a political opponent: “He only had one idea and it was wrong”.
No, I have no intention or desire to add to the millions of words already written about the life and death of Margaret Thatcher; suffice to say, I was totally opposed to her as Prime Minister and her passing makes no difference. I won’t mourn her but neither will I be opening the champagne.
What interests me now is the way in which this aggressively philistine politician came to define an era and impose a political ideology on a country which claimed to eschew the very thought of ideologically-based politics. The
‘-ism’ named after her owes nothing to her, of course. It comes from the Chicago School of monetarist economists and was filtered through a series of easily understandable sound-bites for her by the likes of Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman. It was clear at the time that this was a classic case of “a little learning”: she got the gist, but not the science; she got the style but not the substance.
This was the essence of the ideology which is called Thatcherism: a simple and simplistic idea wrapped up in a great deal of (often military) rhetoric.
But this was not the sole reason for its success. The real appeal for those who voted in 1979 was its negativity. Monetarism was against the Keynsian consensus. It was opposed to a welfare state, opposed to a voice for working people, opposed to the concept of society itself.
Such positions would have been impossible had the Joseph/Sherman/Thatcher triumvirate read novels, or visited the theatre, or listened to music. But they didn’t. The remorseless syllogistic logic of monetarism had no mitigating influence, no empathy or sympathy for the victims of their policies, for those outside the circle.
Hence the proposal for a “managed run-down” of Merseyside. Hence the refusal to accept that the fans were not responsible for the tragic events at Hillsborough: they brought it upon themselves. Hence the cuts in arts funding, the milk-snatching, the bloody parade of appalling triumphalism which came after the Falklands and hundreds of other examples.
I doubt whether any of those involved in the 80s had read Keats. If they had, they might have paused at the opening of the Fall of Hyperion:
Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave
A paradise for a sect.
These fanatics destroyed a country, tried to destroy a class, but succeeded in creating a temporary paradise for their sect. “Is he one of us?” is a tacit admission of the existence of a sect; “Not for turning” is a proud boast that the single-minded pursuit of their kind of paradise was the plan.
I doubt, too, whether any of them had read much Bertrand Russell, to whom I have returned briefly after my foray into Wittgenstein’s Proposition 7. He was, he said, “fanatically opposed to fanaticism”.
That sounds, in a word which will be alien to the proponents of Thatcherism, reasonable.
Today’s listening: Vaughan William's London Symphony. A favourite of Jill, but not sufficiently well-established in my playlist. May reconsider.
I live in a town which has recently been named as the 46th best place to live in the country. And even though the nomination emanated from the dreaded Murdoch press, I still feel a sense of pride that my adopted town has been recognized for “all the benefits of a large town, and none of the disadvantages”.
Leamington Spa (I never use the Royal prefix and I know no-one who does) has certainly changed significantly since I arrived in 1970. Then, it still bore a passing resemblance to the town portrayed by John Betjeman in his poem Death in Leamington Spa:
Oh! Chintzy, chintzy cheeriness,
Half dead and half alive.
Do you know that the stucco is peeling?
Do you know that the heart will stop?
From those yellow Italianate arches
Do you hear the plaster drop?
The stucco is still peeling and the plaster is still dropping in many of the Regency townhouses and Victorian villas, and there remains an air of chintziness if not cheeriness in certain parts. But, and this is the element to which The Sunday Times is doubtless referring, there is an increasing vibrancy in the town, and it stems not so much from the council as from the residents themselves. The music scene, the literariness, the intellectual life, the bars and restaurants – all have grown from within over the last forty or so years.
Back in 1970, when I arrived, there was a small hippie underground, the development of which which has provided the initiative for projects such as the reclaiming of the Dell, struggles such as the fight to save the Pump Rooms and the local football club, and events such as the Peace Festival, which was started way back in 1978 and is now the longest-running free festival of its kind in the UK.
This underground was hidden from the casual visitor and, indeed, from the majority of inhabitants who were at the time voting in droves for Dudley Smith just as they had voted for Anthony Eden. But down in the Old Town, south of the river, in the CV31 postcode, there were record shops and second-hand book stores; there were good pubs and folk clubs; there were even Black and Asian people.
It was in this part of town, the other side of the railway tracks, that I chose to live initially, venturing north to work, shop and, from 1976, to drink in a newly-opened, funky wine bar called Wilde’s.
The Peace Festival is still going strong. The Dell hosts an annual community party which attracts more people each year. The Pump Rooms is not a private care clinic as the council planned but a library and art gallery. The music scene is flourishing. And Wilde’s, now in its 38th year, currently hosts the grandchildren of its first customers.
But around these, much has changed and is changing. The bourgeoisification of the town is pretty much complete with the closure of the manufacturing companies AP and Ford. The chain stores and the restaurant chains have moved into town. The famous Regent Hotel, in which the young Princess Victoria stayed, is now a Travelodge and a Wagamama. Independent shops, for which the town was famous, have closed and a new Mall built in the centre, with another major development still threatened despite the Planning Committee’s refusal and the plethora of empty premises in the Parade and adjoining streets.
So is Leamington the 46th best place to live in the UK? I have no idea. But I do know that’s it’s been a great town in which to enjoy life and bring up kids.
And I know that we can only keep it so with vigilance.
Today’s listening: Heard some great sets recently, especially from the Bob Phillips Band and Clayton Denwood in the Mondays Unplugged season in Wilde’s. And it was Clayton’s rendering of Friend of the Devil that sent me back to the early ‘70s Dead shows. Not that I need a lot of prompting!
Where's the beef?
For me, especially at this time of year, Triple A refers not to creditworthiness, but to minor league baseball in general and the Pawsox in particular. So one might assume that I have little interest in the shenanigans of international finance.
But I am fascinated by the news that, according to credit rating agency Moody’s, the economic unit that is Great Britain is less credit-worthy than the US sub-prime mortgage market in the halcyon days of the Bush administration.
Is this a problem? You wouldn't think so from the comments of the egregious Osborne, our Chancellor, who is pretty blasé about it all.
At least, he is now.
It matters to me, and my family, and those I work with. But then, I’m no economist. The problem is, nor is George Osborne.
When Labour was in power, it was the imminence of a downgrading that drew his critical ire. His Tory manifesto claimed that “we will safeguard Britain’s credit rating with a credible plan etc etc”. When he took over as Chancellor, the retention of the AAA rating was down to him: “Britain is a safe haven. Our country’s credit rating has been affirmed” he boasted in July 2011.
So what now? Well, it would seem that he is determined to continue with the failing plan of Thatcherite free market economics, ragardless of the verdict of the 'free' market.
This despite the fact that, each day, the case for regulation and proper economic planning is being made anew as the press (an example in itself, of course) reports yet another flagrant example of the excesses of what Heath famously called “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
There is no need to embark on another rant about bankers or the press or corporate tax avoiders. As my regular readers know, I’ve been there and done that. And right now, we have a more topical example, which is closer to the hearts of all us.
As a restaurateur, I know how expensive good food is. I open the invoices from our suppliers and write the cheques each month. I was baffled by the minimal cost of meat in Tesco across the road from us. I had assumed, naïvely, that you get what you pay for: that if, for example, one wants premium steak (and our customers do), then one must pay a premium price; if one is content with inferior cuts, then one pays significantly less.
Now we know that we’re not merely discussing inferior cuts, we’re talking about different animals.
The free market in foodstuffs created a situation which is ripe for exploitation by fraudsters. And they were straight in there. Hey, that’s the free market.
Exactly how free is something that we shall doubtless discover at the end of yet another enquiry. But we know, for example, that the essence of the free market, banking, was not free at all.
It was rigged.
I found it impossible to believe that Diamond and Hester et al were not aware of the Libor fixing. And I find it hard to believe that the bosses of our great monolithic supermarket hegemony were not aware of the provenance of the meat on its shelves.
In our restaurant, we know exactly where our beef comes from; we can track it back to the beast itself. Of course, one reason why this is so is that we care about it. We’re not philanthropists, but we do have priorities other than profitability. We care about the quality of our food, we care about the cooking of it, and we care about the way in which it is served.
But we’re one of those independents fighting against the tide. Because, as Dylan sang (and this is my less-than-seamless way of moving from Osborne to Dylan via baseball, Rick!):
“A lot of people don't have much food on their table. But they got a lot of forks 'n knives. And they got to cut somethin'.”
Take note, Osborne.
Today's listening: a lovely short set at Ash Grove from 1963. Jackie DeShannon accompanied by Ry Cooder. Reminds me of Beth and James, who are coming to dinner at Wilde's tonight.
It is somehow appropriate that the Saatchi Gallery should host an exhibition of Soviet and Russian modern art. Set in the imposing space of the Duke of York’s HQ in Chelsea, the gallery established by one of the major beneficiaries of Thatcherism and global capitalism is currently showing two very different but contiguous exhibitions of work from the first three decades of Moscow-based, post-Stalinist modern art.
What is interesting is the paucity of ideas from those who looked to mimic the west, and the accomplishment of those who wished to engage with Stalinist and socialist (they are different) realism in a modern, political and creative manner.
So the highlights for me were the mocking works of the Soks Art movement, which draw on pop art and socialist realism, and the nostalgic socialist realist works of which the Meeting of Two Sculptures above, by Leonid Sokov, is a favourite, as Lenin peers at a faux Giacometti.
In a single piece, we see the clash of cultures, the struggle between what is permitted and what is forbidden, the synthesis of old and new left.
This is art. This, below, is an easy, cheap, advertising idea.
Well, ok. But to quote Lenin legitimately, it is one step forward, two steps back.
One understands why it might have been conceived, even executed. But one fails to understand why the image sits on a wall in a gallery in London.
It's glib and it's facile, and it is a matter of concern that this kind of western icon has been appropriated by the new Russia and its non-conformist artists.
It's a mystery why the curators of the Saatchi Gallery believe it worthy of our attention and their very expensive wall space, unless it is to celebrate the ways in which an ex-communist state can so easily be absorbed into our own business of art.
It is from one form of conforming to another.
We spent the morning at the Duke of York's HQ. That evening, we were at the Duke of York's Theatre to see The Judas Kiss, David Hare's play about Wilde.
It was always a good play. But now, in this revival, with Rupert Everett as Wilde and Freddie Fox as Bosie, it is something of a triumph.
In this script, and in this performance, one sees both sides of Wilde: a man who will not compromise his moral integrity, and a man who is hell-bent on self-destructive martyrdom.
In the second half, he is a shrunken figure, but a brave and determined figure, whose wit and intelligence remain despite knowledge of his imminent betrayal.
The theatre is old and cold; the noise of the underground reverberates regularly. But the play is profound and cathartic. I commend it to you.
Today's listening: Miss Sold from the Swaps. We all know that this is a great live band, but they can do it in the studio, too.
Credit: the Guardian
Lord Patten is one of those people, so common in public life, whose inexorable rise defies the democratic process.
His success dates from the time he was rejected and ejected as an MP by his constituents; at which point his friends in high places gathered round and appointed him, successively, a European commissioner, governor of Hong Kong and, most recently, chairman of the BBC Trust. And yes, remuneration in each case is significantly more than the minimum wage.
Despite his conservatism, Patten has had a pretty easy ride from the left; principally, I suspect, because, as Dr. Johnson would say, he has not merely read a book, but read it through. He is plausible, a tolerable dinner party companion, and – as one of the Dimblebores characterised him this morning – a “shrewd old bird”.
Clearly, not shrewd enough. His appointment of George Entwhistle, by all accounts a decent man, was a misfortune. His dismissal of George Entwhistle, careless. Literally so.
As so often these days, in the face of a crisis, the cry of the establishment goes up: “deputy heads must roll”.
Which is not to diminish the egregious offence of Newsnight’s allegations against Lord McAlpine. As the subject of a current false and defamatory statement on the internet, I know how much the sheer injustice hurts. I cannot imagine what Lord McAlpine suffered as millions believed for 72 hours that he was a paedophile. Compared with the Newsnight allegations, my problem was petty and trivial and I am humbled by the dignity with which McAlpine bore himself during those initial hours after the broadcast.
The false and damaging statement was made without research or evidence. Disgracefully, he was not even contacted to be given an opportunity to deny the charge, which had spread virally across the internet before being formalised in a Nationwide broadcast. In the fuss about Newsnight, we have ignored the importance of the internet, where more people garner their information than from hundreds of Newsnight broadcasts.
I have recently stumbled across the website of an organisation called CUREE, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education. It is based, intriguingly, in Coventry - just down the road from where I am currently sitting. Its mission is to support and promote “the use of evidence by building bridges between academic research and professional practice”.
I am impressed by its objectives and its methodologies, and it occurs to me that the team at CUREE might establish similar organisations in other disciplines.
It is clear that Newsnight could do with a Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Journalism.
We could perhaps introduce a centre for political appointments.
And maybe there is also a role for a Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in restaurant reviewing.
An edited version of this post appears on Wilde's Things: a restaurateur's blog at www.wildes.uk.com
Today’s listening: Brothers by The Black Keys. Don’t know why this has evaded my radar until now, but I will be making up for lost time.
Over here, the last politician to ‘win’ a televised election debate was Nick Clegg, and we all know what happened then. Pleasant and plausible, he impressed enough people and subsequently won enough votes to play a leading role in one of the most unpleasant and implausible governments of recent times.
So I watched the debates between Romney and Obama with more scepticism than is normal, even with two American politicians in my face.
Yes, I am afraid that Obama is now merely another American politician. The tears of joy four years ago, the awed silence in Wilde’s as we relayed his post-victory speech over the net, the belief that ‘yes, he can’ – they are all long gone. He has not seized the moment that was presented to him, and although it is true, as one of my heroes, Water Mosley, points out, that he was like “a surgeon with a rusty scalpel”, he has disappointed profoundly.
The alternative is far worse.
Not because Romney is an ideologue. He is, of all the Republican candidates, the least ideological, although he has ‘balanced’ the ticket with one of the most ideological in Ryan. What he tries to do, in the context of Republican ideology, is become ideological. And that’s where his problems start.
The Boston Globe quoted a classmate of Romney at Harvard Business School. He was, then, a “driven pragmatist”. Each day he, pragmatically, adjusts. There has been no significant philosophical shift, because there has never been a significant philosophy in his life. On health care and gay rights, climate change and the economy, he has pragmatically adjusted and even reversed his views according to the prevailing Republican wisdom.
In his campaign for election as governor of Massachusetts, he claimed that “I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican, that I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive.”
That worked, then. But you can’t run against Obama, who is moderate and progressive, saying things like that. And you can’t gain the support of the anti-Obama electorate saying things like that. You have to be conservative. The driven pragmatist has therefore changed.
He is now, he says, a “conservative businessman”, and he is:
Pro second amendment
Pro less regulation
Pro lower taxes
Pro repealing Obamacare
Anti an amnesty for illegal Immigrants
Anti gay marriage
When these positions are held, not with genuine ideological fervour but with a cynical ‘pragmatism’ to win votes, that’s when you get very worried.
And how about this? Romney claims to support the Sox, but he invested in the Yankees.
Would you buy a second-hand car from this man?
Today's listening: Babel, the new album from Mumford & Sons. Frankly, a tad disappointed.
A life of privilege: Thrasher Mitchell
At about the time Andrew ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell was venting his boorish spleen at an unfortunate policeman, I was reading Salman Rushdie’s bitter, sweet, funny and profoundly serious memoir, Joseph Anton. Both attended Rugby School and went on to Cambridge, but their experiences and subsequent careers are very different.
Rushdie was not happy at Rugby. He was too foreign, too clever and not good at games. Mitchell, a "stern disciplinarian" who used his powers to beat younger boys, was none of these things: very English, not-too-clever, and probably good at games, although I have no interest in researching him further in order to establish whether he was captain of the XV and the XI as well as Commodore of Sailing.
What I do know, from hearing his admission that he swore and that he used the f-word “adjectivally”, is that he splits infinitives and doesn’t know the difference between an adjective and an adverb. And I suspect I know why merely being asked to use a different gate provoked such anger. At my school, not so distant from Rugby geographically and culturally, the shortest routes between houses and to chapel were the exclusive preserve of prefects. I received my first beating because, in my 13 year old naivety, I had presumed to go directly to chapel rather than take the circuitous and significantly longer road which was the lot of us underlings. I had dared to trespass on privilege.
But enough already. The real issue with Mitchell is that he called the policeman a ‘pleb’, and thereby betrayed his attitude towards what Rugby schoolboys would have called ‘oiks’, the townspeople, or ‘tanners’, the day boy scholars. In other words, those who were beneath them on the social ladder inside and outside the school. It is an attitude which is prevalent in this government, which has a plethora of millionaires and a majority of public schoolboys, a majority of which are old Etonians (who of course regard Rugby as plebs).
So much for the classless society of which ‘Dave’ Cameron has claimed to be an advocate.
There are parallels in the much-vaunted classless society on the other side of the Atlantic. The egregious Mitt Romney appears to say almost anything that comes to mind when on public platforms, but only when cloistered with his chums does he say what he really thinks.
And we now know that what he really thinks is that 47% of Americans are not worth bothering about. This is because they are "dependent upon government," "believe that they are victims" and "will vote for the president no matter what" .
He told his rich Republican backers that “my job is not to worry about those guys”.
This is the kind of language we have heard from Osborne over here, although Ant Cameron and Dec Clegg are more circumspect in their pronouncements. It is an overt statement of intent, the logical conclusion of the kind of attitude shown by Mitchell after a good lunch.
Romney, of course, is famous for his ‘gaffes’. But these are not – and should not be taken as – an indication of lack of intellect. They are the result of his struggles not to say what he means, because to do so would lose him the election. Cameron, Clegg and Mitchell have the same problem: outside their inner circles and dinner parties in Chipping Norton, they cannot say what they really believe.
Which is, that they have the right to govern and, more, to enjoy the Bullingdonesque privileges of their rank.
My 13 year old self instinctively rebelled against this. Exactly fifty years later, my 63 year old manifestation finds it totally abhorrent. In half a century, we can still not cross the great class divide.
Today’s listening: Time out of Mind and Love and Theft as I attempt to put Tempest into the context of Bob’s late flowering.