Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

One reason that Nick Clegg's impact remains strong is the power of numbers. At the last election, Labour retained office with an enormous overall majority, but only 9,562,122 votes.

You have to go back to the era before women had the vote to find such a small backing for the party which won outright. Worse, you will never find such a low proportion of those entitled to vote producing the victor. Last time, only 22 per cent of the total electorate voted Labour. In 1992, the Conservatives got more than 14 million votes, and in 1997, Tony Blair's New Labour got almost as many. So if, next week, any party gets an overall majority with fewer than 10 million votes, people will doubt its legitimacy. Yes, the system will 'work', and a government will be formed, but protest will not be stilled. If David Cameron is Prime Minister, he would be rash not to find a way of assuaging the anger.

The morning after Greece's debt was given junk status, I rang an English friend who is doing up a house in Corfu. The night before, he told me, he had gone round with his Greek agent to the local ironmonger to inspect a metal table there. The ironmonger's elderly assistant showed him the table, which he decided he did not want, and then fell into discussion with the agent about something else. My friend's attention wandered.

Suddenly he noticed that the assistant was waving a spanner menacingly under his nose, and shouting 'Twenty-nine years at sea! I was 29 years at sea!' So my friend turned to his agent, who was laughing, and said, 'What on earth did you tell him about me?' 'I told him, ' said the agent, 'that you were Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, and that you had come to take away his pension.'

Many more Greeks will be waving their spanners soon.

It is said that four out of ten people who will actually vote in this election are over the age of 55. It illustrates how strange the subject matter of modern politics has become that they have hardly been mentioned. Is it too late for a party to notice them?

I once asked a duke how his family had managed to survive the very large death duties they incurred after the war. 'Well, you know, ' he said, 'we were very lucky.' 'Lucky' is the word invariably used by grand people when referring to their own wealth. I heard Nick Clegg telling Andrew Marr last Sunday that he was very 'lucky' in his upbringing.

Thus he proved just how posh and rich he is.

A couple of years ago, Rowan Laxton, the head of the South Asia desk at the Foreign Office, was reported for screaming insults about the Israelis while exercising in the gym of the London Business School. He was suspended from the Foreign Office, but not sacked. (His appeal against a criminal conviction for his words was recently successful. ) This week, it was revealed that Steven Mulvain, a member of the four-man Papal Visit team at the Foreign Office, had produced a memo suggesting that the Pope, when he comes to Britain in September, should launch a range of 'Benedict condoms', and open an abortion clinic. Mr Mulvain has not been sacked, nor has the more senior official who decided to circulate his memo to 10 Downing Street and other departments for serious consideration. At least two questions arise. The first is: why does the Foreign Office employ people who enjoy mocking and insulting foreigners? …

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