Peter Rhodes on the sacking of a TV legend, forgetting your times tables and a curious encounter with a Chancellor
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
A proper majority. A proper mandate. A proper Government, able to rule without hindrance from awkward rebels or truculent Speakers. Just like the old days, isn't it?
Today has the feel of that day in 1997 when millions of Brits voted for a party they had never dreamed of supporting and delivered Tony Blair and New Labour to Downing Street. This time, the votes went the other way, from Labour to Tory, but there's the same sense of the nation pulling together. Whether it will live up to today's Tory slogan of “The People's Government” remains to be seen.
And how fortunate Boris Johnson was to be pitted against Jeremy Corbyn. Under the right leader, Labour could have nailed this General Election. They chose the wrong leader. It wasn't their ludicrous Brexit policy that sank Labour nor even the wild promise of massive public spending from the magic money tree. It was having a leader who had posed with IRA supporters, sung the praises of despotic regimes and was endlessly mired in the stench of anti-semitism. Corbyn says he will stay on as leader to oversee yet another “conversation.” The only conversation many of his bruised, battered and resentful MPs want today is the one that begins with: “Clear your desk and go.”
In the meantime, real life goes on. The roofer is due to start repair work at Chateau Rhodes next Wednesday, December 18. He quoted for the job nine weeks ago but has been overwhelmed with work. The wettest autumn for years has been a disaster for farmers but a bonanza for roofers fixing leaks. The media tend to seek out bad news which may explain why we have seen so many TV interviews with distraught farmers but not a single interview with a jubilant roofer. It's raining tenners . . . .
Boris Johnson's encounter this week with the reporter who tried to show him a mobile-phone image of a boy lying on a hospital floor took me back to an interview with Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor. Brown was banging on about investment in the West Midlands. I handed him a copy of that day's newspaper with a headline about soaring unemployment. Brown swept it away with his arm. It seemed a vain and aggressive gesture. Did it tell us that the Chancellor cared nothing for the jobless on our patch? Not exactly. We discovered later that Brown's failing vision (he had a detached retina as a lad) was so bad that day that he couldn't even read the headline. What looked like a gesture of hostility was actually embarrassment.
Peter Purves is upset at being taken off the C4 reporting team for Crufts. He says it's pure ageism because he's reached 80. So how much is that in dog years?
If this election campaign has taught us anything, it is surely that lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 would be a mistake. As a rule, kids know little about anything, especially history. How can it be right to offer a vote to people who only arrived on this planet in 2003 and don't know what the initials IRA stood for? Indeed, it might be wiser to raise the minimum voting age. Sixty seems fair enough.
The mathematician Professor Hannah Fry, presenting the Christmas lectures for children at the Royal Institution, says she forgets her times tables “which is embarrassing when you're trying to work out the bill in a restaurant.” Maybe she was taught the tables too late. At Kington Mixed Infants, they were drilled into us from the moment we arrived, aged five. In those days, your times tables always ended with a nod to our peculiar currency, thus: “Twelve twelves are One hundred and forty-four / One hundred and forty-four pence make twelve shillings.” Guaranteed to embarrass your children in restaurants.
I was surprised to see Prof. Fry described in one report as “flame-haired” - by a woman reporter. Tut, tut.