Tuesday 23 November 2010

Honour our saviour from the euro

Last week brought a flurry of anniversaries, several triumphs of social mobility and a disturbing sense of déjà-vu.

It all began on Sunday 14th, which would have been my parents’ 74th wedding anniversary and was the Prince of Wales’s 62nd birthday. Can you also remember when Charles was the future?

On Monday my father would have been 102, while on Tuesday my next-door neighbours, Andrew and Etta, celebrated 64 years of marriage. I was minded to crack open a bottle of something fizzy in their honour even before I heard the news of the long-anticipated engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which clearly demanded a proper celebration.

The only sour note for me came not from the legions of left-wing columnists churning out their entirely predictable critiques of the monarchy, but from Prince William’s father. Doorstepped by the media in Poundbury, he claimed to be “thrilled” but looked anything but, adding glumly that “they have had enough practice”.

The next day I read suggestions that Kate Middleton’s father bore a passing resemblance to Gordon Brown, both physically and in his evident discomfort as he read out his notes on how happy he and his wife were about the engagement. And as I did so, it occurred to me with mounting horror that the real parallel lies elsewhere.

An intelligent man with passionate enthusiasms who really believes he can do good for his country and is forced to wait far too long to fulfil his destiny. That would serve equally well as a description of both our last Labour Prime Minister and our King-in-waiting.

And given that The Queen is by all accounts much fitter than her mother was at 84, Prince Charles might have to kick his heels not just for another decade, which was long enough to leave Gordon Brown with no real clue what to do when he finally achieved his lifelong ambition, but until he is an octogenarian himself.

Meanwhile William and Kate seemingly resemble Dave and Samantha Cameron. Not appealing to all, no doubt, but clearly rather more in tune with the Zeitgeist.

With the coins already minted to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday next year, a monarchy with longevity genes on both sides has important questions to consider on how it can continue to project the glamour that seems the key to popular appeal in any walk of life.

My own thinking on this weighty issue was interrupted by another night of celebration on Thursday to mark the 40th birthday of Iceland, the frozen food chain. A charity ball featured amazing pyrotechnics, performances by Dame Edna Everage and Tom Jones, and helped to raise £1.5 million for Help for Heroes. At the time of writing, the only attention this has received from the media has been through an anonymous e-mailer complaining that the fireworks disturbed his horses. As William and Kate surely already know, some people are never happy unless they are moaning.

Meanwhile on Friday, the heady social ascent of Miss Middleton was followed by the elevation to the House of Lords of a load of people no-one other than those passing around the party collection hats had ever heard of, plus Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. A mere life peerage is surely far too little for a man who is the essence of poshness and has done so much for national morale.

On past form Prince William will be made a duke on his marriage. Why confine this bounty to your own family, Ma’am? Surely the time is ripe for Earl Fellowes?

And, as we watch the precipitous downward mobility of the entire Irish nation, let us also give appropriate recognition to the man who may have failed as PM but performed the truly historic service of keeping Britain out of the euro: Gordon Brown, Duke of Kirkcaldy.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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