Tuesday 18 December 2007

Not you, Gordon

One of the curious features of the ageing process is that I have no idea where I was yesterday, or what I am supposed to be doing tomorrow, but I can recall the 1960s with crystal clarity. (I know it is the decade of which they say, if you can remember it, you weren’t there, but I don’t think that applies to children.)

Thus I was one of the few sad people who instantly spotted that last Friday’s “Name the Year” picture could not possibly have been taken in 1965, as claimed, since in the foreground was a 34A trolleybus heading for Walker; and any spotter could tell you (at scarcely believable length) that trolleybuses were withdrawn from that route on June 1, 1963.

A tedious obsession with buses and trains was by no means my least attractive feature at that stage of my life. I was also a bit of an attention-seeker. Clumping into the Akhurst carol service in over-sized wellies so that everyone turned to stare; holding onto the last note of “Away in a Manger” just a fraction longer than all the other boys; that sort of thing. I cringe to think of it now. But, in my defence, I was about six at the time.

Gordon Brown is 56 and he’s still doing it. For a decade as Chancellor, he systematically offended the City by turning up to formal dinners in a crumpled lounge suit, conveying the message “Look at me! I’m much too important to play your silly dressing-up games when I could be sitting at my desk instead, doing extra-hard sums.” But mainly, of course, just “Look at me!”

Now he’s upset the other 26 leaders of the EU by initially refusing to turn up for their treaty signing ceremony, then turning up late, just as everyone else was leaving, and asking to be allowed to sign the thing in private. As though it were something of which he should be ashamed. Funny, that.

I’d have given a loud whoop if he’d refused to sign the treaty at all. I’d have applauded if he’d asserted that it was a nonsensical waste of air miles for every EU leader to go all the way to Lisbon just to put their names to it, when they were meeting in Brussels anyway two days later. I’d start cheering immediately if he acknowledged Labour’s 2005 manifesto promise and held a referendum.

But once again his childish petulance has achieved the worst of all worlds, upsetting opponents and supporters of the treaty in equal measure. There are few precedents for such an indecisive and undiplomatic figure achieving high office anywhere in the world.

I have been trying to find out what the Browns have planned for Christmas, but have drawn a blank, probably because he hasn’t been able to decide yet. Ignore the festivities altogether in the Scots Puritan tradition, or go for a big bash to demonstrate his “Britishness”? Hold the party in Downing Street or Kirkcaldy? Surely we can rule out Chequers, at least: much too Tony and Cherie. On the other hand, it was Maggie’s favourite, and apparently she is an acceptable role model.

Lunch or dinner? Turkey or goose? Christmas cake or panettone? A real or a fake tree? A star or a fairy on the top? It’s enough to drive anyone insane. At least, I hope it is. By 4 p.m. on Boxing Day he’ll probably have agreed to turkey (non-white meat only), and to opening his presents so long as he’s allowed to do it in a private room after everyone else has gone out.

I hope he appreciates my well-intentioned gift: a copy of “How to Make Friends and Influence People”. Admittedly I’d had it for decades, but it had never once been opened.

Do have a very merry 1960s-style Christmas, one and all. Excluding Scottish politicians who can’t manage a credible smile, let alone merriment.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

No comments: