I would hate to sound like a French structuralist. But everyone who is interested in politics should always be interrogating events: asking what this means, what it tells us about the state of the nation. Recent events gave us plenty to ponder. The splendid Jubilee celebrations were full of signifiers, all of them grounds for optimism. Amidst the troubles and travails which beset us, millions of Her Majesty's subjects proclaimed their love for their country and their reverence for their Queen. There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.
This had nothing to do with party politics: God forbid. It would be blasphemous to exploit this festival of secular transcendence for partisan advantage. That said, a wise Conservative should think hard about the implications.
Let us start with an assumption. However they may vote, almost all those who were celebrating are small 'c' Conservatives. They are patriots; they love their country and would like to respect its institutions. Let us follow that with a second assumption. A lot of them are confused and worried about what is happening to the country, and to the world. In many cases, anger is near the surface. Let us risk a third assumption. The vast majority of them are far too grown-up to believe in magic wands. They know that we face grave difficulties. If any politician pretended otherwise, they would treat him with contempt: justified contempt.
Any politician who wishes to avoid that fate must recognise that the proper people of middle Britain are making two demands: justified demands. They want leadership and they want plain speaking: no dumbing down. The politician who explains what has gone wrong and what is to be done will earn a grudging respect. Politicians will prosper if they offer a serious content, reinforced by the right tone of voice and the right body language. That ought to be a straightforward task for David Cameron. Leadership comes naturally to him; authority rests easily on his shoulders. He looks and sounds the part.
But he does not always do enough to exploit his advantages. He ought to make fewer speeches and take fewer initiatives, reserving himself for the big occasions and the big questions. When Churchill made his wartime speeches, he sounded as if he was taking the nation into his confidence. As a result, people felt reassured and inspired, even though the bombs were falling. Today, things should be easier; it is only the markets which are falling. Yet there is the same need for reassurance. To a surprising extent in a supposedly cynical age, a lot of people would be ready to repose their trust in a Prime Minister who sounded like the pilot who would weather the storm. For this PM, that should not be a hard task.
Unlike the one facing the next Director-General of the BBC. Over the years, there have been plenty of reasons to complain about the BBC; its coverage of Europe is only one example. But there was also a compensating assumption: that whenever it was covering a great national event, the BBC would rise to the level of events in a way that its commercial rivals could never equal. Last Sunday, that illusion was shattered. While Alastair Bruce, a Herald, gave a superb performance on Sky. the BBC piled shame upon disgrace upon ignominy. The DDC, standing for Dumbed-Down Corporation; the ABBC, standing for the Anti-British Broadcasting Corporation: all the well-known insults are inadequate. The BBC's performance was contemptible. It could not get anything right; its people seemed wholly unmoved by the grandeur; the once-great, once-admired BBC descended into sheer silliness. David Cameron decided that his children were a bit too young for the River Pageant and that they would be happier pinning a tail on the donkey at a village fete. Well, the BBC decided that it too would be happier pinning a tail on a donkey. If the Cameron littlies had been in charge, they could not have done a worse job.
This is more than just a matter of idleness, ignorance and stupidity – though there was plenty of all three. The BBC is in the grip of a corrupt culture. When John Birt became Deputy Director-General of the BBC, he diagosed the problem. At its lower and middle levels, the Corporation was full of flaccid Lefties who never met anyone who did not share their views. That is still true. Most of those in charge of the BBC's coverage would have been shocked to discover that millions of their fellow-counrymen were devout monarchists. A BBC which makes such a crass misjudgment does not deserve the Licence Fee.
Yet on Wednesday, the current Director-General, Mark Thompson, sent an e-mail to all his employees boasting about how well the BBC had done. The quicker he goes, the better. In the interim, as he has no self-knowledge, the Commons Media Committee ought to summon him and instil some. Some dinosaurs are said to have been so deficient in a central nervous system that their backsides could be on fire for several minutes before they were alerted by the smoke reaching their nostrils. Mr Thompson would appear to be the Dinosaur-General.
Which leads us to the obvious point. Is it not time for the current BBC to become extinct? In her Memoirs, Margaret Thatcher said that it claimed the prestige due to poetry even though most of its output was pushpin. Since then, there has been further deterioration. So why not evolve the dinosaur into a smaller BBC worthy of the name; the sort of organisation described in Penelope Fitzgerald's Human Voices, a book full of gentle mockery but also of affection; a BBC worthy to perpetuate the Reithian mission. Let us levy a £50 licence fee to pay for one television channel, which would provide the best electronic news coverage in the world, plus serious current affairs, some of it controversial, as well as the Arts, music, drama – and clever light entertainment along the lines of Steptoe or Dad's Army. There would also be the Third Programme, the World Service and the Home Service. In the good old days, one announcer who was closing down the Home Service for the night said: "Home… service. Aren't they two of the most beautiful words in the English language?" Imagine the derision which that would arouse in today's BBC. But last weekend, millions of people would have understood exactly what he was saying. So let us bring back a BBC in which people might talk like that.