Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

One of the several advantages you have over me is that you know what was in the Budget. The best insight I can offer is a glimpse just an hour ago of the man of the moment. I refer, of course, to Derek Wanless, the very ex-NatWest banker whose intellectually incestuous report on the NHS for Gordon Brown was unhelpfully published hours before the Chancellor's statement. I am pro-NHS and would like to believe the gloomy (Arise, Sir Derek?) Wanless when he says that health care will cost less in 20 years' time if we, as well as our wallets, get more involved in our own health instead of remaining 40-a-day couch potatoes. Fewer vices, more exercise, that sort of thing. If all goes well, waiting-lists could be down to two weeks, though there may still be a shortfall of 25,000 doctors in 2020, when even the editor of The Spectator will be 58 and worrying about his prostate.

The Tories are cheering up (at last) because they think that Iron Gordon's leap from the closet as a naked `tax and invest' social democrat will prove to be a fatal exposure when public services fail to justify his cash infusions. It is far too early to say who is right. But London's buses are certainly getting better under his friend, Mayor Ken. Summoned to a Japanese restaurant near the Guardian's Clerkenwell HQ at short notice the other day, I covered the 2 1/2-mile journey by Tube and bus in 16 minutes. What's more, since my kids gently demolished my 30-year prejudice against season tickets, it was free. A cab, if available at that hour, would have taken much longer and cost at least 7.

The Tate Gallery, above Porthmeor beach in our ancestral metropolis of St Ives, is also a public service of sorts. It is proving a welcome Keynesian pump primer, boosting year-round takings for B&Bs, hotels and increasingly upmarket restaurants in a lovely town I have known all my life. Our clan (35 of us this year) always spends Easter there, and this month we were delighted to sample the smartest new restaurant yet. Located in the old lifeboat house, it's called the Alba, presumably after the still occasionally visible local shipwreck immortalised by the primitive painter, Alfred Wallis. Since my Cornish grandmother's name was Wallis, I once asked Tom Wedge, my twice-torpedoed uncle, if we were related. Certainly not, he replied with a shudder. Wallis's Alba is in the Tate close to a newly-arrived seascape by J.M.W. Turner, the first proper painter to discover St Ives. I enjoy Cousin Alf's stuff. But Turner is better and raises the tone of the Tate's often-indifferent exhibitions.

I came home early from Cornwall to go to Texas with Tony Blair. Having seen George Bush, Snr, at close quarters in the 1980s I was struck by how much more at ease with himself is George Jnr, the prodigal son who wasn't meant to end up president. In human affairs that is generally a good sign, so keep an open mind. 'Shrub', as Texas Dems dubbed him, even called ITN's John Sergeant 'a fine lad' without being introduced and allowed the Prime Minister to refer to him in public as 'George', which is definitely lese-majesty in this elective monarchy. How nice, too, of Mr President to allow Cherie's mum and babysitter, the redoubtable Gale Booth, to stay in one of the converted barns on the (very modest) ranch at Crawford (pop. …

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