Magazine article The Spectator

Big Girls Don't Cry. nor Do Conservatives

Magazine article The Spectator

Big Girls Don't Cry. nor Do Conservatives

Article excerpt

Eton apparently taught Matthew Pinsent very little. It is all well and good to be able to row a small boat very quickly, but nothing excuses blubbing like a baby - or, worse, a foreigner - up on the medal podium in Athens. We would all much have preferred that he had come last than triumphed and consequently subjected us all to such wet public embarrassment and humiliation. Not that he's alone among the horribly named 'TeamGB'; they've all been at it, sobbing their little hearts out when they win, or come second, or come last. The team headquarters must be dripping with warm salty water. We may trail Ukraine in the official medals table, but we're up there on the podium for freestyle weeping and synchronised sobbing.

This, at least, is the view from some quarters. Our newspapers, having briefly tired of sexual intercourse and its inevitable ramifications, have for some days been asking the question: where did all this crying suddenly come from? And should it be stopped? There was a letter in the Daily Telegraph earlier this week from a chap who pointed out that the Duke of bloody Wellington didn't cry. Nor did Nelson. Nor did Kitchener, when he was whupping those darkies. Why, then, should it be allowable for someone whose greatest achievement is merely to row quickly? And would that Kitchener were among us today! Actually, the Telegraph correspondent didn't quite say all that - I made some of it up. But that was the gist of his fulmination.

I have been in a politically confused state for some years now. When it comes to voting, I am unable to know which of the two bewildering plans to Offer parents real choice' in education is the more fantastically stupid and irrelevant, the Tory or the Labour. Neither plan seems to be conservative or socialist in outlook, so far as I understand them. The two policies over Iraq bewilder me even more, to tell you the truth. And the minuscule difference in spending and taxation between Oliver Letwin and Gordon Brown scarcely justifies the energy expended on a trip to the polling booth. As a result, I am lost, not knowing where I stand or to which party I owe even instinctive allegiance. Which is why I've been delighted by the brouhaha over Matthew Pinsent (and Paula Radcliffe) blubbing for Britain on primetime TV. Because on this issue, there is at last clear blue water: New Labour approves of the crying, the Conservatives think it absolutely ghastly. So much has been evident from the last few days of press speculation and comment. And indeed, you can all too easily imagine Tony Blair crying. It wouldn't surprise me if he cried every time he watched the Little House on the Prairie - but you couldn't say the same thing about Michael Howard, could you? If Michael Howard won an Olympic gold medal, he'd stand on the podium looking vaguely satisfied and a little puzzled at the fuss.

A few years ago the Daily Telegraph, under Charles Moore's stewardship, ran a rather wonderful editorial called something along the lines of 'Forty ways to tell if you're a Conservative'. It was a bit like those selfrevelatory quizzes women like doing in Cosmopolitan. In it, readers were asked if they concurred with a list of statements; agreement indicated a Conservative frame of mind. One of the statements was: 'I do not know what guacamole is. …

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