While Malcolm was swanning around Berlin, the Guardian seems to have expanded the Westminster digested column to a full G2 page. Somehow, too, John Crace’s by-line goes missing this week — though, not for the on-line version.
Crace on top form, then:
Cameron: … Now I suppose I’d better do something about my own party. Any thoughts on a bill that would show the country the Tories are totally united?
Theresa May: Gay weddings. We need to send out a strong message that the Conservatives are no longer the nasty party.
Cameron: Great plan. Sam’s very keen on it, too. Though we must leave plenty of opt out clauses for religions that don’t like gays so they don’t have to marry them if they don’t want to. If you know what I mean.
May: Of course. It would be remarkably intolerant of us to ask the church to treat gays equally.
Sir Roger Gale MP: That’s absolutely outrageous. May I just remind the House that I have been married three times, so no one is better qualified to speak on the sanctity of marriage than me. And quite frankly it is absurd to think that anyone other than a man and a woman should be granted such an honour.
Another traditionalist: Hear, hear! Adultery is an holy estate and not something that should be made available to a bunch of same-sex perverts.
Gale: Indeed, if we open marriage up to practising homosexualists then we might as well tear up the Bible completely and let every Tom, Dick or Harry marry his dog.
Yet another traditionalist: Steady on old boy! You’re losing some of the Tories from the shires here. They’re very fond of their labradors.
Gale: Or worse still, a member of their own family.
The Queen: Shut up, you horrible little man. There’s nothing wrong with marrying one of your relatives.
What Gale said in Tuesday’s debate was hardly less surreal, but even more deliberately offensive:
… if the Government are serious about this measure, they should withdraw the Bill, abolish the Civil Partnership Act 2004, abolish civil marriage and create a civil union Bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or relationship. That means that brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters would be included as well. That would be a way forward. This is not.
Jump across the staple from that Crace to Stephen Moss, on Revenge is rarely sweet. Another tea-time treat, listing the betrayed wives who have done so much to enliven social discourse:
There are dozens of examples of women in the public eye, or whose partners are in the public eye, who seek revenge. When Robin Cook left his wife, Margaret,she wrote a book detailing his alleged infidelities and heavy drinking. When the then Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik split with his weather-presenter fiancee Siân Lloyd in 2006 and succumbed to the charms of Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia – he called it a “meeting of minds” – Lloyd wasted little time in rubbishing Opik. “I regard our break-up as my lucky escape,” she said. “It is just a huge relief to be out of that relationship. He’s a fool when he’s in love and totally oblivious to the damage he is doing to his reputation.”
Journalist Maria Shriver reportedly took revenge on her former husband Arnold Schwarzenegger by leaking material on his infidelity and the child he had fathered with his mistress. Lady Sarah Moon avenged herself on her straying husband by cutting up his designer suits, covering his car with paint, and leaving much-prized bottles from his wine cellar on their neighbours’ doorsteps. Princess Diana exacted her revenge for her failed marriage in a gripping TV interview watched by 15 million people. More stomach-churningly, there are those stories that periodically appear about women who cut off the penises of their unfaithful husbands, which is taking an eye for an eye to extremes.
All of which, over 1100 words, is put in the literary contexts of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and particularly Francis Bacon’s 1625 essay, On Revenge. That last one is pungent, moral, uplifting, pertinent — and all in fewer than 450 words. Irish Leaving Certificate English introduced Malcolm to Bacon; and it’s a delight which has lasted over half-a-century. Ten minutes with Bacon can occupy the mind for hours thereafter, relishing the words, weighing the eternal truths. In the case of On Revenge, however, Malcolm guesses Bacon was building on the bare dozen or so words of the fifth maxim of the sixth book of Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
In the matter of Vicky Pryce seeing off Huhne, though, let’s hear it from Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince, chapter III):
… one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.