Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

We are in a financial crisis which has been going on for more than a year. It is remarkable that, in all that time, no political leader has had anything much to say about it. In the United States, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama appears to have any understanding of what is going on. Over here, Gordon Brown's supposed gift for economic analysis seems to have deserted him. One hears phrases like 'the fundamentals are sound', and trembles.

David Cameron, pursuing the favourite strategy of keeping his party away from bad news, acknowledges the gravity of the situation without proposing remedies. It may be the right tactic, when in a hurricane, to lie as low as possible and wait for it to pass, but big political rewards do come to those who, people believe, have successfully diagnosed and treated economic malaise. That is why people have heard of FDR and Margaret Thatcher, and tend not to remember Warren Harding or John Major. At present, the only British politician with a reputation for economic thinking is Vince Cable, which makes one feel there is a gap in the market.

Under its leader from Kirkcaldy, the Labour party has become a thing of ill omen. Just as Macbeth is superstitiously known as 'the Scottish play', I feel it would be safer to refer to Labour from now on as 'the Scottish party'.

On BBC One's magazine programme The One Show last week, I happened to watch an item celebrating 'the Taggart of the wildlife world'. He is DC Dave Mackinnon, and from his police station in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, he scours the Scottish landscape for 'wildlife crime'. On the day The One Show visited, DC Dave was pursuing reports of a dead buzzard. Buzzards are a very common species of hawk, so you would think that not a day passes without a dead one being found somewhere in the Grampians, but off sped the detective, the television cameras and another police car with a second officer to assist. As the presenter said, they were 'treating this like any other crime scene'. A GPS reading found the bird which was, indeed, dead. On one wing, DC Dave discerned a small hole which he said could have been made either by a shotgun or a rifle (as if the impact of the one were indistinguishable from that of the other) or, he thought, possibly not. The bird was X-rayed, and then put in a bag and taken off to Edinburgh for a post-mortem. When this process was complete, it was decided that the buzzard had died of natural causes.

In the eyes of the unquestioning BBC ('Most of us find it hard to get our heads around the idea that people make it their business to harm animals and birds'), Mr Mackinnon was a hero in a war against game-keepers -- indeed, I have heard them promoting him on another programme on Radio 4. But it struck me that he should himself be arrested for the serious offence of wasting police time.

The Rectory Society, of which I am chairman, paid its first visit north last week. We visited the Old Rectory at Longford in Derbyshire and the Old Vicarage in Edensor. The latter is unusual in being a semi, one part of it occupied by Andrew and Bridget Flemming and the other by our patron, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who moved into it from Chatsworth after the death of her husband.

Both bits kindly let us in, so we were able literally to see how the other half lives. …

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