Friday, March 10, 2006

The occasional horse’s head in the marital bed

This week's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

The observation about commandeering a De Havilland was orginally made of the first Lady Bonkers. And the story about John Prescott and the Edens can be found somewhere on my (very occasional) anthology blog Serendib.

Fun and Games

I don’t care if Tessa Jowell resigns or not. What I want, as I have said here many times, is for her whole department – Culture, Media and Sport – to go.

You wonder why? Monday’s question time gave a clue. The first question came from our own Paul Rowen and was about Rugby League. That didn’t stop Richard Caborn congratulating Alastair Cook on his century in India and Shelley Rudman on her silver medal in the Winter Olympics.

With her job under threat, Tessa Jowell had to act decisively. Faced with a question on the switchover to digital television, she countered by congratulating Rachel Weisz. Nick Park and Steve Box; and Martin McDonagh for their success at the Oscars.

It’s good to praise people when they have done well. But somewhere behind all these congratulations is the belief that all achievements by British people are really government achievements. And that is downright sinister.

Which brings us to Jowell’s home life. What can it have been like? How David Mills explain all those mortgage agreements to sign at breakfast? Or the occasional horse’s head in the marital bed?

Now they have separated, and those who suspect there is something convenient about this are accused of the most appalling cynicism. Yet we remember the widely reported story that Robin Cook took a phone call from Alastair Campbell at Heathrow, telling him that the headlines meant he had to choose between his wife and his mistress. He did so, telling his wife their marriage was over in the VIP departure lounge.

Yet what this story really shows is a decline in the quality of political wives. If Harold Macmillan had treated Lady Dorothy like that. She would have commandeered a De Havilland and gone after him.


Talking of political wives reminds me of an interesting historical sidelight. An exhausted Anthony Eden resigned as prime minister on 9 January 1957. A few days later he and his wife set sail on a cruise from Tilbury to New Zealand aboard RMS Rangitata.

They were looked after by their cabin steward, who also fought on-deck boxing matches to entertain passengers. When he won, the former prime minister or his wife would sometimes present him with his prize of beer or wine.

His name? John Prescott.

1 comment:

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Pleased to see there is a growing body of opinion about scrapping DCMS. Maybe we should try to get a motion worded for conference?