One of the more-entrenched bits of modern mythology, one even peddled by the man himself, has the late George Best at the Savoy, in bed, slurping champagne with at least one beauty-queen.
Room service delivers yet more supplies of fizz, addresses himself to Il Maestro and says, “Ah, George! George! Where did it all go wrong?”
Ditto the Labour Government
If we are to believe the opinion polls, the Great British Public has fallen out of love with Labour. The doom-sayers (and they are everywhere) take the next general Election as a foregone conclusion. Why bother with the democratic niceties, they imply?
Yet, when the sands of time run out, and the temple is laid low, what will be the historical retrospect on these dozen years? Will it be the memory of those first two years, when conservative inertia was the order of the day? Or the scars of George Bush’s ignorant war? Or the current obsession with trivia, the “sleaze” factor of MPs, of all parties, at the trough?
Or will it be the decencies that have been achieved? The rise in living standards across the whole community? The constitutional changes that devolved power to the other nations of the UK? The Northern Ireland settlement? The (yes, still incomplete) reform of the House of Lords? Minority rights? The restoration of some pride, purpose, local politics and progress in our metropolises? The minimum wage, the investment in the basic public services of health and education? The quantifiable facts that more people are living longer and healthier, and being better educated? The partial rescue of public transport from the hands of private exploiters?
What it won’t be is the obituary that was the mantra back in 1964, when Malcolm was first involved in electioneering for Labour: thirteen wasted years of Tory rule.
Aw! yawn! Why bother?
As Joni said:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you dont know what you’ve got
Till its gone ..
And, on past performance, Tories will soon have:
… took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A leg and a half just to see ’em.
It’ll be dressed up as an “economy measure”, with arguments that “there’s no reason why the public purse should subsidize tourists and rubber-neckers”. But it will, once again, be discriminatory and part of their class war.
Malcolm hears it already, breathed through the G’n’T fumes at the suburban golf club:
“Dammit, why should the standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons have access to our culture?”
How long did it take the “liberal” Ted Heath of the mid-’60s to regress to being Selsdon Man? And the Selsdon Group is still out there, true blue in tooth and claw, presided over by John “Vulcan” Redwood.
It took Thatcher some time, for all of the later rewriting of history, to achieve full spittle-frothing neo-connery, and not without considerable opposition from within her own Party. It is worth recalling that she was talking to the 1980 Conference, eighteen months after first occupying the pottie of state, when she resorted to Ronald Miller’s script:
“You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”
The John Major government was just five months old when “Black Wednesday” brought down the economic shutters. When, with the Budget later today, Tories scream for blood over the Keynesian policies of recent months, let it be remembered that in August and September 1992, the Tories spent £27 billion of foreign reserves in trying to save Major’s arse.
Perhaps, then, all Tory Government revert to type.
And that is why Malcolm put that J.P.Horabin poster from 1931 at the top of this post.
Essentially, the division between the two Parties is, as it always was, common humanity versus the cult of the individual. Just as young Malcolm did each week, long years ago in Wells Church Hall, both sides may have recited the Cub’s Promise to Akela:
I Promise to do my Best,
To do my Duty to God and the Queen,
To keep the Law of the Wolf Cub pack,
And to do a good turn to somebody every day.
The difference is that the Tory-to-be heard the cry of the opportunist lone wolf: the young socialist endeavoured to do that good deed every day.