A. A. Gill

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It’s a salutary measure of smug, fat democracies that the substance and ire of elections are forgotten almost before the crumpled campaign literature has been recycled into budget toilet paper. It now seems fairly embarrassing that we in the British press spent so much furrowed-brow time on the broadcast of the first-ever American-style head-to-head debate by party leaders on April 15. Should they sit, or should they stand? What color would the background be? Could they talk to one another? Can you rebut rebutted rebuttal? Would there be a live audience, as well as the comatose one at home? It was like getting a ménage à trois of pandas to mate.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Westminster, the mother of Parliaments”, the candidates, commentators and columnists like to say, usually with an insouciant flourish toward Big Ben. It’s such a trippingly familiar cliché, so Englishly replete with the hand-me-down vanity of tradition, the authority of history, the sonorous tic of convention.

It’s also infuriatingly wrong. A dim misquotation. What John Bright, a radical Quaker politician, actually said in the election campaign of 1865 was, “England is the mother of Parliaments”. A very different proposition. Westminster is just one of Mother England’s children, and now looks increasingly like an aged, intransigent delinquent, unfit for society or purpose.

When Americans come to London they usually say how much they love the history, the tradition, the splendid tumpty-tum of things whose very repetition has become their point.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s invariably the little things, the unconsidered, off the cuff, in passing, unrehearsed things that snag our attention, and seem to be telling of the bigger things. In the case of Barack Obama’s first visit to London and the Group of 20 conference to save the endangered habitat of bankers and real estate salesmen, it was the handshake with the bobby that seemed to be emblematic. In a forest of waving palms, this handshake meant more.

As the president stepped up to 10 Downing Street, he leant over, made eye contact, said something courteous, and shook the hand of the police officer standing guard.…  Seguir leyendo »

To mark Tony Blair’s departure as Britain’s prime minister, the Downing Street kitchen coven of opinion masseurs, social soothsayers and political weather forecasters decided that he should make a farewell trip around this sceptred isle in a lap of honor, taking in schools, hospitals, art centers, nature reserves and barracks, giving “real people,” as politicians like to refer to them, a chance to say thank you and get their backs patted and shoulders squeezed.

The trip hung in the air for a bit, then the advisers had second thoughts and tweaked the itinerary. It would all stay the same — hospitals, schools, nature, hugs and so on — but the venue would move.…  Seguir leyendo »