there are so many people who never have a sense of communal exhilaration
according to a recent survey a sense of social isolation is the number one problem of our lives
we need to start actively re-knitting the coalition of British society
Dear oh dear, it’s just as well I never said anything rude about the Lib Dems, eh? What? Did I say that? You mean I once accused them of being a bunch of euro-loving road-hump-fetishists who changed their opinions in mid-stream like so many hermaphroditic parrotfish? And are you telling me that senior Lib Dem sources are accusing me of being a Eurosceptic classics crank? Dear oh dear.
Well, I am sure we can put it all behind us, because there was something about the amazing events of last week that has filled the nation – me included – with a giddy helium-lunged feeling of hope. We looked at that scene in the Downing Street garden – the dappled sunlight, the blossom floating past – and we saw an extraordinary partnership being forged. They were David and Jonathan. They were Achilles and Patroclus. They were Gilbert and George. They were Wallace and Gromit. And you know what, I truly believe it can work, must work, will work.
Of course, there will be strains, and the media will try to pull it apart, but over the next few weeks and months the two parties will discover that there is real content to the idea of liberal conservatism, wherever you put the capital letters, and that there is much more that unites them than they ever dreamt possible.
How should you vote? Vote Match is a very straightforward brief quiz in The Daily Telegraph and helps you decide who to vote by matching your views on the issues most important to you with each party’s policies. Have a go and click here
You can also predict the result of the Election with a free £5 and win £10. The Times are offering a free £5 bet with Betfair if you think you can pick a winner from the closest election in decades. Place your bet by midnight on 5th May 2010 here
Look out for the following key seats on election night:
Orpington – Boris’s brother, Jo Johnson, is expecting the results at around 5.a.m.
The plan was to boost Clegg, take the gilt off the Cameron gingerbread, and wreck Tory hopes of achieving a majority government
what you will never succeed in doing, either in Britain or in any other political environment, is creating three-party politics
But look at what is happening to Labour! Look at the great humming, purring spin machine that propelled the People’s Party to three election victories and humiliated a succession of Tory leaders. They are doing worse than under Kinnock. They are down to levels not seen since M Foot appeared in his donkey jacket; and with H Harman’s teeth locked in Mandy’s throat we are beginning to detect the gurgling sound of meltdown.
The British began to make the big subconscious assumption that there would be a change of government in 2010
I am certain that the Tories will win
What crouton of substance did Nick Clegg offer last Thursday?
It must have been a couple of years ago that I was having dinner with the great Max Hastings, former editor of this paper, and he was being so gloomy about Conservative prospects that I scented a financial opportunity. Tell you what, I said, let’s have a bet. A thousand pounds says the Tories will win the next election. How about that?
I tell you it’s enough to shake a chap’s confidence in Her Majesty’s Press. It was barely a month ago that my trembling fingers reached for a Sunday paper proclaiming in huge type, all over the front page, that Gordon Brown was “on course” to win the election. So imagine my feelings of bewilderment yesterday morning when I went to the same newsagent to buy the very same newspaper. And there – on the same front page, in the same supersized font – was the news that David Cameron was “set to claim victory” in the very same general election.
What is going on with these headline-writers? Isn’t there some law against this kind of thing? One or other of these headlines must be false, and you would have thought that we innocent consumers were protected from such blatant deceptions. The reality is that Gordon Brown was never on course to win the election, as I pointed out at the time, any more than he is on course to win a gold medal for rhythmic gymnastics in the 2012 Olympics. Gordon Brown remains where he has been for the past two years, firmly on course to lose the general election, and lose it big.
It was a dark and rainy night and I was cycling innocently home at about the speed of an elderly French onion seller, when – pok – something hit me on the side of the helmet. I heard a shout of laughter to my right, and a cry of “You ——!”, and a car sped off up Shaftesbury Avenue. As anyone would in my position, I saw red. I put my foot down, and pedalled so hard that I was able to keep the weaving rump of the car in my sights, and I noted that it was some kind of Astra.
Soon the bike had beaten the car. As they waited at the next set of lights, I pounded on the window. “Open up!” I cried. There were three kids inside, and I could see the culprit goggling up at me with appalled recognition. They lurched off again in the hope of escape, but of course I had them at the next lights.
This is not an attack on the baby-boomer generation; it is instead an appeal to the better nature of the boomers – an appeal to Edmund Burke’s understanding that a nation is “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”
One of the highlights of my political career was when Boris Johnson put me on his list of ideal dinner party companions (a great opportunity to meet Aristotle and Scarlett Johansson), so I recognise that behind his brilliantly effervescent articles there is often a deep wisdom too. I paid careful attention, therefore, when on Monday he challenged the argument in my new book, The Pinch. My book argues that the baby boomers have ended up doing very well for ourselves but that we are dumping too heavy a burden on the generations after us.
Boris is ideally positioned to make the case for the baby boomers, roughly those born between 1945 and 1965. Our baby boom had two peaks. The first came in 1947 – those were the teenagers who shrieked for the Beatles and promenaded up Carnaby Street in their bellbottoms. The second peak, when we had more than a million born in one year, came in 1964 – those are the boomers whose formative years were framed by punk rock and the poll tax protests. Somehow I do not quite see Boris participating in those social movements but demographically he is at their epicentre. He was born in summer 1964, the very quarter when we had more babies born than in any other three months in the past 60 years.
Boris celebrates the extraordinary technological advances of the baby boomers. I do not deny this achievement and indeed recognise in the book that human creativity and enterprise can continue to raise living standards. But that leaves open a host of questions. Take his example of perhaps the greatest single benefit of this advance: the improvement in life expectancy. That is marvellous. But it has very different effects on different generations because of, for example, contracts to pay people pensions after a fixed chronological age. It makes those promises far more valuable than expected for those people who already have them and makes employers very reluctant to be caught out making such promises again. I estimate therefore that over half the nation’s pensions wealth belongs to the baby boomers. They are doing much better than those generations coming before or after.
And that is where we are now – with other European countries wondering how to throw Greece a lifeline without being pulled under
“It was late last night and I was rifling through the sock drawers for euros to fund the annual half-term skiing. There were all sorts of useless coins – Uzbek som, Iraqi dinars, 2d bits – and there it was, like a sudden Proustian blast from our childhood. It was a 50-drachma piece, with Homer on one side and a boat on the other. It was dull and scuffed and technically as worthless as all the other coins in my hoard. But as I turned it over in my hand it seemed to glow like a pirate’s doubloon, radioactive with political meaning. This coin was more than just a memento of beach holidays when 50 drachmas was five ice creams. This was the history of Greece in the palm of my hand. When Socrates asked Crito to buy a cock and kill it for Asclepius; when Sappho bought her Lesbian girlfriend a Lydian hat; when his listeners rewarded old, blind Homer for chanting by the fire – how did they all pay?
“They paid in drachmas, a currency that served the people of Greece for at least 3,100 years, until they junked it for the euro. And the object I had in my hand, therefore, was a symbol of the economic freedom the Greeks gave away for the sake of national prestige. Continue reading The Greek Economy→
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