Friday, May 11, 2007

The first day of the rest of our lives ... and other clichés

Malcolm recalls the well-known story of the couple with horse-mad (but personality-opposite) twin daughters. For their birthday, the girls were given ponies. Overnight, the couple left the saddle and tack in one bedroom, and a pile of dung in the other.

Next morning, there was gloom in one bedroom, as the pessimistic daughter fingered the traces, bits and leather, trying to figure out what the catch was. The other girl, the optimist, was whooping with glee as she heaved manure around, saying, "With all this crap, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere."

The latter's feelings approximate Malcolm's daily riffle through the Times.

Malcolm is sure every other blog-artist in sight has spotted the chart on page 13:
The alternation of party in power goes across the columns, going back in time over Blair, Thatcher/Major, Wilson/Callaghan, Heath, Wilson, Churchill/Eden/Macmillan/Home and Attlee. The rows down then ask: "More Jobs?" "Fewer Unemployed?" "Better health results?" "Better education results?" "Lower crime?" "Economic growth every quarter?"

The whole graphic appears under the strap headline:
"There is only one Government since 1945 that can say all of the following:
more jobs, fewer unemployed, better health and education results,
lower crime, and economic growth in every quarter — this one"
That, of course comes from Tony Blair's speech. No amount of shilly-shallying (and the Times inevitably fills columns with ordure) can deny that boast.

And, to be fair, though it was not, by any means, a unanimous and rapturous cheer
... even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
The Times first (and only! Now, there's class!) leader went the distance:
He has not, even his most uncompromising enemies must acknowledge, been an inconsequential leader. Let history have the time and space to consider him and the Britain he had headed for the past decade. The historian has, after all, the immense advantage of being, as Friedrich von Schlegel correctly observed, “a prophet looking backwards”.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph is predictably vindictive, but Bill Deedes is allowed a more gentle perspective as their resident incarnation of Schlegel:

How few leave 10 Downing Street with laurels, I reflect, as Tony Blair at last starts to pack his bags. Not even Churchill could do it after winning a difficult war. In 1945 he paid the price of being the fourth head of a coalition government with no appeal to the post-war generation.

Most of them in my time have gone, as Blair is going, amid defiant cheers from their remaining admirers, boos from detractors and faint relief from a largely indifferent electorate.

Malcolm senses that the mood of the chattering classes, those "opinion formers", has shifted, and seismically rather than subtly, in the last couple of days. This is Iain Dale, no less:
The next two months will be dominated by one man - Gordon Brown. For the Conservatives, it will be like going back to 1997 when no one, not even their mothers, wanted to hear from them. The media will ignore their every word, no matter how relevant. It's Gordon's time and Conservatives had better get used to it.
It was the latest Sunday Times that was puffing:
Cameron 'on course' for No 10.
Ha! Doubtless, at this point, Malcolm should quote Harold Wilson about political weeks. Instead, he offers this attempt to source the Wilson quotation:
Attributed. quoted in Sayings of the Century, “Prime Ministers: A Word from No. 10,” Nigel Rees (1984). When asked by Rees in 1977, Wilson was unable to remember when or even if he had uttered this dictum always associated with him. Rees suggests the words were probably said in 1964 shortly after Wilson became prime minister. A journalist recalled Wilson saying, “Forty-eight hours is a long time in politics” at a party conference in 1960.
Dale's "two months", though. That's a political lifetime. So, Cameroonies, do not ask for whom the bell tolls ...
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