Monday, 15 July 2019


The British are masters of the stiff upper lip… proud of our manners. Here’s what it says on ‘Study Links', a website addressing foreign students in the UK:- “Knowing a little bit about British etiquette will help you ensure that your behaviour is polite and appropriate whilst you are studying in the UK.”

So I’ve been puzzled by what we’ll call ‘Ambassador-Gate’ because we seem to have become happy to be rude, although the Foreign Office has always seemed to have encouraged a Private Eye style of communiques from its ambassadors. One in past years, described the Swiss as “neither the wittiest or the prettiest of people”. There has been this tradition of satirical wit which may have pleased writers and recipient but belongs to a previous era.  When we actually had an Empire.

In 2019 we all know (don’t we?) that nothing we write down is safe from hackers. In 2019 we need to be circumspect. Poor Sir Kim Darrock was neither of those and all that talk of supporting him seemed rather absurd when it appeared, because of his tabloid comments about the current Presidency that got leaked, he couldn’t,  when denied access to the White House, do his job … that’s why he was there in the first place.  He was, anyway, just a few months away from retirement. Poor rude (even if crudely truthful) Kim.

The behaviour of the - blessedly to be short-lived - British MEPs turning their backs in Brussels as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is played – the EU anthem – was lamentable. This also happened when the NSDAP (Nazi party) 1926 turned its back on the Speaker of the Reichstag - so well followed Nigel Farage.

But even this performance was dwarfed by Ann Widdecombe’s abusive tirade. When did she decide being rude was a strategy?

Our diplomats and our political representatives are currently doing our country a disservice. So what about our probable next Prime Minister? His Andrew Neil interview this week was revelatory. Bluster, bombast and braggadocio. Some pundits thought he made some sort of fist of it but I was dismayed to think he could soon be our leader.  Optimism, which is his credo, is fine but not to the exclusion of thought and reason. I remember playing cricket with an irredeemable optimist who, as the rain lashed down, bellowed  “stop!  I shall not be defeated by this shower.” Boris is extraordinary. He’s not, for sure, a role model, albeit he could be called a shower.

Nor is Jeremy Corbyn better as we watch the agonising suicide that is the antisemitic Labour party. Shameful and shameless.

This is a British summer, Ascot, Wimbledon, Lords, Silverstone, strawberries and champagne. It’s a season of charm, courtesy,sunburnt mirth and friendship.  It is (usually) when we are at our best.  Keats described it so well – “with beaded bubbles winking at the brim and purple stained mouth.

We are not being true to ourselves and it’s such a shame.

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