Journalist Bernard Ingham became famous as Press Secretary to Margaret Thatcher. He is eminently suited to the role of a grumpy old sod as …
(a) he's knocking on a bit,
(b) he's liable to kick neighbours' cars if they annoy him, and has even been arrested for it,
(c) he campaigns for more nuclear power stations and none of these arty-farty wind turbines and tidal barrages, and …
(d) he spent a significant part of his professional life in close proximity to Margaret Thatcher.
I rest my case.
So, here he is writing in the Yorkshire Post, with his own "state of the nation" review for the end of 2007 …
In the good old days, when we celebrated Christmas without thinking we might offend anybody, we had reached Boxing Day feeling that all was right with the world. Most of it was coloured pink in our atlases and we knew it was a privilege to be British. We were the best, even if we couldn't afford a turkey and, as ever, Halifax Town could not be relied upon to keep us cheerful beyond 4.45pm (no change there, then - GOS).
Pride, they say, goeth before a fall (no, mate, it's booze. I'm not proud, but I still fall over - GOS). So 50 years on, let us take stock of our reduced condition over the remains of the turkey, assuming you could get one because of pestilence. I shall try to be positive.
(Er … Bernard? Could you also be a little clearer? Why "50 years on" - am I missing something? Apart from the fact that 1958 was the year M.Thatcher entered parliament? - GOS)
We are possibly the least corrupt society in the world, if you ignore the link between the funding of our political parties and peerages and cronyism and our guilt by association with the European Union, which has now gone 13 years without its auditors being able to approve its accounts.
We are dab hands at spending the oodles of money we earn or can borrow. Statistically, we are up to our ears in debt and don't seem to worry unduly, which amounts to a revolution in attitudes. Retail therapy is practised widely with apparently beneficial psychological results. Materially we want for nothing, but keep our manufacturing-lite economy going by buying.
We are immensely mobile, especially at Christmas. Some 27m are said to be on the move this year, fog, clogged roads, airport security, strikes and railway companies permitting, since the last allow "essential engineering works" to get in the way of uniting families (be fair, Bernard. Removing 12,000 tonnes of brickwork was a bit essential, wasn't it? - GOS).
No-one can surpass our political correctness. It passeth all understanding how easily Christmas is banned, watered down and generally considered shameful by the multiculturists and how the health and safety Taliban discover the possibility of death and mutilation even in changing a Parliamentary light bulb (er … would that be an ordinary light-bulb, causing the imminent heat-death of the universe? Or one of these eco-friendly low-energy things that cost a fortune, are filled with poisonous mercury and probably give you cancer or make you impotent or cause involuntary spasms of apology to the Third World or something? - GOS).
We are amazingly tolerant of spinmeisters who promise the earth and deliver nothing (well, Bernard, you should know - GOS); cheats, conmen and rip-off merchants who infest the land; "celebrities" - an infinitely elastic term - who are anything but role models; footballers who are paid a king's ransom for their vulgar Viking tendencies off the field and their mediocrity on it; and climate changers with an urge to make us all feel guilty. That's not to mention 4,000 suspected terrorists running around loose in the name of Islam. Indeed, we have become so passive that conspiracy theorists might conclude that somebody is putting something in our water or, more likely, alcohol. We can hardly summon up a squeak when the Football Association appoints an Italian, who cannot speak English, to manage our national soccer team, who admittedly are similarly afflicted, y'know ...
In short, we are wonderfully self-satisfied. Students of empires would identify this as the penultimate stage in the inevitable process of decline into oblivion. Let us test this theory by considering what we are bad at.
Well, we are not very good at getting married. Most children are now born out of wedlock, thereby pretty well ensuring intensified social problems in the future with indisciplined youth. To cap that, we cannot as a state educate our young people (or our old ones, apparently. "Indiscipline" is sometimes used as a noun, but as an adjective you need "ill-disciplined" or "undisciplined". Come on, Bernard, pull yourself together! You've really let things slide, haven't you? - GOS). We are in free-fall in the international league tables of achievement. This does not augur well for the future.
Nor does our inability to control our borders. We haven't a clue how many immigrants are in our midst, legally or otherwise. You can take that as read when the Home Office admits 11,000 illegal immigrants are working as security guards, one of them on its HQ reception desk. We are reduced to bribing illegal immigrants to go home with money to start ostrich farms.
We are certainly being out-bred by immigrants called Mohammed. How long before we have a country to call our own? Come to think of it, that was an academic question long before Gordon Brown churlishly brought himself to sign the new superstate-building EU treaty. Nor can we police our towns and cities. Only one offender is jailed for every 100 crimes committed. Things are so bad that our priests daren't celebrate midnight mass for fear drunks will wreck it.
Amid all this impending doom, we have a Prime Minister who is forever "doing all in his power" to improve matters having done all in his power for 10 years to make them worse, and a generation of politicians whose greatest ability is to depress us. The message is clear. Britain's only relevant New Year resolution is: "We must do better".
The GOS says: Thanks, Bernard. Better out than in, as they say. It was going quite well until you started having a go at our footballers, you bastard.
By the way, did you get paid for writing that? Only I've been saying exactly the same thing for the last five years, but at much greater length and with more swear-words.
What's more, not being a money-grubbing old hack who charges up to £5,000 for an after-dinner speech, I did it for nothing. Some of us have standards, you know.
Oh, and how did I know how much you charge for speaking engagements? I consulted the website of an outfit called "After Dinner Speakers & Comedians Ltd". It says it offers "Showbiz personalities, comedians, sporting speakers, non-sporting speakers, business motivation speakers, cabaret and comedy acts, masters of ceremony, bands, magicians and look-alikes".
Which are you?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2007 The GOS
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