Tuesday 30 December 2008

One small reason to be cheerful in 2009

I can hardly type this column because my hands are trembling with excitement at the prospect of reading Gordon Brown’s New Year message.

Luckily most of it has already been leaked, and we are told that it will contain a stirring invocation of the spirit of World War Two. We are all going to be urged to pull together to defeat the current economic challenge to our survival, just as we successfully overcame the Panzers, U-boats and kamikaze pilots of 1939-45.

The good news is that we can apparently do this simply by giving regular outings to our credit cards, which only requires the courage to ignore those bishops fretting about the morality of debt. This seems an altogether less unpleasant sort of war than crouching in a fetid trench under shellfire clutching a rifle. Or more likely, in my case, a white flag.

The bigger challenge is visualising Mr Brown as an inspirational war leader. Churchill might have been a depressive, but he had a ready wit and the capacity to raise the spirits of the nation through his rhetoric. Gordon just seems to reside under a permanent black cloud of Calvinist gloom. Small wonder that he is so eager to ally himself with the new US President in his proposed “global coalition for change”.

The snag with trying to pull this particular stunt is that Brown, unlike Obama, is far from new. He has effectively been in charge of British domestic policy since 1997 and one cannot help feeling that, if he is so keen on change, he should have done rather more about it before now. If he aspired to be a Churchillian saviour in our darkest hour, he should also have spent the last few years in the political wilderness, issuing dire warnings that things were about to go horribly wrong, not in power constantly boasting that he had abolished boom and bust for good.

While it would no doubt add immeasurably to our limited gaiety if the Prime Minister started chain-smoking large cigars and drinking life-endangering quantities of champagne, whisky and brandy, I fear that one key difference will remain: Churchill made V-signs at the people to cheer them up, while with Gordon it is precisely the other way around.

Luckily I care less and less about Gloomy Gordon as I focus on my own prospects in 2009. Because, if all according goes to plan, I shall become a father for the first time in the early summer, at the advanced age of 55. Yes, I know that nothing is more boring than other people’s children. But just imagine my delight as I emerged beaming from the hospital on Christmas Eve clutching our successful scan results, with my fiancĂ©e’s words that “this is the only Christmas present I wanted” ringing in my ears. Though she was, as it turned out, rather less than impressed when I took all the others back to the shops and demanded refunds.

But enough about me. Gordon’s the thing, and how he is going to get us out of this mess which arose in the economy, when he was in charge of the economy, but is miraculously nothing at all to do with him. For the sake of my unborn child, I hope he proves me wrong and leads us to another improbable British victory. I also trust that we will then show our appreciation for his efforts at the next general election, just as we did to Churchill in 1945. Though we went on to vote Winston back in again when he was 76, an age which Gordon will reach in 2027. Just when the babies born in 2009 get the vote, have no memories of the great economic crisis of the Noughties and are minded to rebel against their parents. It might be worth a modest bet.


Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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