Tuesday 1 July 2008

The Border terrier, hole specialist

Can it really be just a year since we finally abandoned the charming, boyishly good-looking but ultimately ineffectual Englishman, and pinned our hopes on the dour and undiplomatic Scot?

I freely confess that I know as much about tennis as about any other ball game, which is to say precisely nothing. However, I have read that Andy Murray used to make Gordon Brown look like Nigel Havers. He apparently shares with our Prime Minister a reputation for surliness, and was once provoked into making some anti-English comments. At least Gordon has avoided the latter pitfall, contenting himself with leading a Government that treats us English as second class citizens within this once United Kingdom.

At the time of writing Andy is still a national hero, keeping alive hopes of an improbable British victory in the Wimbledon men’s singles; whereas Gordon is the most reviled Prime Minister in living memory. The status of both could well change, though I would much rather bet on Murray crashing out of the tennis than on Brown pulling off a surprise Labour election victory in 2010.

Last week I laughed myself silly over the Henley by-election result, as I pictured the hapless Labour official who had to break it to the Prime Minister that the only good news was their trouncing of Bananaman Owen of the Monster Raving Loony Party by a massive 824 votes.

When my Sunday paper led its front page with the resignation of another allegedly difficult Scot, Wendy Alexander, I remarked to my girlfriend that, if I were Gordon Brown, I’d be minded to go for the easy way out with a bottle of Scotch and a pearl-handled revolver. She rightly asserted that this was a dreadful thing to say about a man with young children, and that there were many things in life more important than political success.

I had no difficulty agreeing with this proposition, but questioned whether Gordon would necessarily see it that way, given that he has devoted his whole adult life to the single-minded pursuit of the Prime Ministership. She countered by pointing out that my lifelong ambition was to be an amusing and popular newspaper columnist, yet I was inexplicably still alive. Touché.

So how could Gordon capture the support of the crowds who gathered for the last few years on Blair Hill, pathetically yelling “Come on Tony”? From what I read, Andy Murray’s success is mainly down to the acquisition of a nice girlfriend and a 12-week-old Border terrier called Maggie; particularly the latter.

As a Border terrier fanatic of many years’ standing, and the owner of the world’s only PR firm largely run by the breed, I can confirm that they are indeed the answer to most of life’s problems. They are attractive, loyal, affectionate, cheerful and obedient (if what you ask them to do happens to coincide with what they were planning to do at the time anyway). I am told that they were also pretty handy at popping down earths and sorting out foxes, in the days when that was a socially acceptable activity.

Even when he is stuck on the other end of a lead from a menacing curmudgeon like me, my dog Craster often inspires total strangers to come up to us and say things like “Ahhh, he’s so cute!” I am pretty sure that my own nice girlfriend only took me on as a way to spend more time with him.

So maybe when some bright spark suggested that Gordon cosy up to Maggie as a way to court popularity, they had in mind an appealing puppy rather than Lady Thatcher. I’m not saying that acquiring a Border terrier would necessarily reverse Mr Brown’s political fortunes. But when you’re in a hole this deep, surely it has to be worth a try?


Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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