It was a glittering occasion. Mayoral bling was plentiful. Dinner jackets, lounge suits and “long evening and short cocktail dresses” were the order of the day. The food was fine; the red wine excellent. The company and generosity thereof outstanding.
But our fellow guests will forgive me for observing that the most interesting twenty minutes was the witty declamation of Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the RSA, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Back in 1992, he stood as parliamentary candidate for the Leamington and Warwick constituency, so his audience at the Town Hall consisted of many who had actively campaigned against him as well as his agent at that time and several who voted for him: “vote Labour with no illusions” was our rationale at the time. He also worked as Chief Advisor on Strategy to Tony Blair, a role which probably united the entire room in opposition to this aspect of his career, given that Blair’s strategy was to stay in power long enough to feather his nest for decades to come.
Matthew Taylor is, of course, the son of Laurie Taylor, the ubiquitous sociologist and broadcaster, a man whom I have met twice. The first time was at a Marxist seminar at the University of York sometime in the late ‘60s; the second was at a corporate convention – NCR I think – at which he was the keynote speaker and I had written every other presentation. I observed to him on the latter occasion that we had both travelled a long road in a short space of time, and he had the grace to smile ruefully. As did I.
Such a journey is common. Amongst soixante-huitards, it is the road well-travelled. Laurie Taylor is by no means the only one I have met along the way.
But as I encountered more and more councillors at the Town Hall, many of whom had been in and out of their seats according to electoral responses to policies beyond their control, I felt just a tad humbled.
They have not sat at home bemoaning the state of the town, the country and the world. They have tested their opinions in the public domain and worked for what they believe. And for every councillor who was involved in the granting of the licence for a sexual entertainment club or for the closing of LAMP, there are many who have contributed positively to the town and who have, like the Mayor and Mayoress John and Jane Knight, raised awareness and funds for charities such as One World Link, Leamington Children’s Centres and Shopmobility. (£3700 was the total for the Civic Dinner.)
Maybe we – I mean I - should learn from their example.
Today from the everysmith vaults: 2014 is one of those rare years in which I have not seen Bob Dylan live and in concert, so I have been listening to some of the recent shows (notably those in Australia earlier in the year). He has found his voice and his enthusiasm. Again. A remarkable late flowering. And the Complete Basement Tapes is only a couple of weeks away …