Posted by Tania Kindersley.
WARNING FOR LENGTH, RANTING, POLITICS OVERLOAD, AND CONTRARINESS.
Years ago, London’s glittering West End put on a show called The Play Wot I Wrote. (Or something similar; too tired to Google.) It was a huge, whacking, roaring, screeching success. People fought in the streets for tickets. Hardened critics sobbed with joy.
I ruthlessly sold my grandmother and got tickets. I took my lovely Man of Letters and his Beloved, as a very, very special treat.
The theatre was packed to the gunnels. (I am sure that will go soon onto John Rentoul’s banned list, so I am using it while I can.) Almost from the moment the actors came on stage, people started to bark with laughter. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. I checked my funny bone. No tickling yet. Never mind, it would surely come.
It never did. For two excruciating hours, I sat, with a face like stone, whilst the rest of the audience rocked and wept with hilarity. At one point, the waves of laughter were so corporeal it felt like being on board ship in a high swell.
I did not dare look at the MOL. I did not hear him laughing, but perhaps he was shrieking on the inside. As we filed out of the theatre, the three of us looked at each other, a little island of solemnity amidst the happy crowds.
‘Awful,’ we all said in unison. ‘AGONY.’
There was a tremendous, streaming comfort in knowing that at least we had each other. But we spent most of dinner discussing what was wrong with us. We could not work out why we were so utterly out of step with the taste of the great British public, the chattering classes, and the theatrical establishment. Sometimes it’s rather a lovely idea, being a contrarian; sometimes it just makes you feel slightly peculiar.
I had that over the MPs’ expenses. I could see it was bad and regrettable and wrong, but I did not see that it was the most scandalous scandal that had ever hit British politics. I remember thinking at the time that it was nothing like as bad as the scandal of the billions of pounds wasted on IT projects that did not work, or the fact the soldiers in Afghanistan did not have boots, or the practice of extraordinary rendition, and no one made a huge fuss about those for week after week.
I start to feel the same about the hacking scandal, and its political ramifications. It’s a fascinating story; it’s a shocking crossing of journalistic lines; it should absolutely be remedied. But it’s being treated as if it is the only news just now. Is it really as important as the fact that the entire Euro Zone is teetering on the brink? If the Euro goes smash, on account of Greece defaulting and God knows what happening in Italy, Portugal and Spain, then the banking crisis will look like the Teddy Bears’ picnic.
At the very same time, even if President Obama finally gets a deal on the debt ceiling, the ratings agencies are threatening to downgrade America’s credit rating. This sounds very dry and geekish, but it will have unintended consequences as far as the eye can see. (One clever person I know speculates it could even spell the collapse of NATO.)
Gold is shooting through the roof, always a sure sign that the people who know are panicking. I am starting to consider getting goats and planting carrots and going self-sufficient.
As all this outrage rages, it is quietly reported, by a journalist who should know, that the head of one electricity company took delivery, last week, of a large home generator. Old coal-fired plants are reaching the end of their lives; there has been no coherent policy announcement about what to do to replace them. The CEO clearly knows something we do not: there is a real danger that the lights will start to go out. Along with the keeping of goats and the growing of root vegetables, I may have to start collecting firewood and stockpiling candles.
Disproportion is always a worry, in any story. I still can’t get over George Monbiot saying ‘this is our Berlin Wall moment’, when Mr Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB was withdrawn. Now, people are starting to say: Worse than Watergate. Twitter is alive with reports that William Hill has the odds of David Cameron resigning at 8-1.
As I write, the House of Commons is baying at the Prime Minister over the matter of Andy Coulson. Apparently, according to the Leader of the Opposition, this is the most important matter of the day. Over the last two weeks, he has repeatedly said that he is acting on behalf of the People of Britain. ‘The People think,’ he says. ‘The People want to know.’ When the BSkyB bid failed, he actually said: ‘This is a victory for the People.’ A poll out yesterday revealed that six percent of The People put the hacking scandal in their top ten concerns. SIX PERCENT.
It’s a very easy thought experiment. Imagine you have just lost your job. Is your number one worry that the Prime Minister hired Andy Coulson? Or would you not want to know what his policy is for employment, economic growth, and the welfare state? Would you consider it a resigning matter that his erstwhile Director of Communications once edited The News of the World, or would you hold your fire until you see what he will do when Greece defaults?
It’s not that political leaders and newspaper tycoons should not be held accountable for their decisions, but that there should be a sense of proportion. But I suppose that does not make for a sexy headline.
It’s not that I am not interested. I’m slightly embarrassingly interested. It’s geek heaven. But it’s not the most important thing in the world, and I worry that it is being treated as if it were.
And one more thing, since I am ranting. I feel embarrassed and ashamed that all this newspaper dodginess happened on the watch of a Labour Party for which I voted. I voted for them proudly, until Gordon Brown lost me. There is something slightly odd about the current tone of self-righteousness coming from the Left, when it was Mr Blair and Mr Brown who were all over Mr Murdoch, with tea parties and weekends and flying visits and wedding trips and the horridly named ‘slumber parties’. Where was the outrage then? And how does the outrage now actually help in the running of a very complicated country? I’m just asking.
I suppose I should at least be grateful that all these questions are taking my mind off my bashed old heart. Perhaps I should stop being cross and write all those shouty outragers a nice thank you letter.
And, to reward you for your patience, here are some diverting pictures of the garden and the trees and the sheep and the DOG:
Look at old Posy Posington, all ready for her close-up. At least she knows what is important. To whit: biscuits, and rabbits. Oh, and The Love, of course. Perhaps she should be running the country.
Really must stop now, before I am entirely overcome by whimsy.