I’m sat in the Cat and Mutton, Broadway Market, Hackney, watching the two chefs prepare the gourmet English food they’ll serve for dinner tonight. I love bars with open-plan kitchens. Outside about a thousand commuters are making the last push for home, serious faces on top of so many bicycles you might be forgiven for thinking of Amsterdam. On the street outside you’ll find Argentinean, French, Turkish, Indian restaurants, two delicatessens, two uber-trendy coffee shops, dress shops so haute they defy parody, a shop that sells nothing but pink stuff, an independent book shop, a proper butcher, the best fish and chips in east London, yer authentic pie-and-mash, Spirit’s Caribbean cuisine, a real art gallery and, yes, a kebab shop. Through the huge picture window in front of me I can see London Fields, the twilight falling on a criss-cross of children, shoppers, lovers, dog-walkers and winos. In the distance I can see my home-from-home, the Hackney Lido. Wash me, thoroughly, from my iniquity. And it does. Every day.
Alright, I’m not expecting you to junk Tuscany and choose E8 as your next holiday destination, but Jacqui Smith MP annoyed me this week, with her casual denunciation of Hackney as a place where no Home Secretary would dare tread after dark, no matter how desirous she may be of her nocturnal appointment with a kebab (nutritional sustenance, apparently, for those of you reading in the Home Counties, and not, as I had feared, something disreputable to do with premiership footballers).
Any problems that Hackney has can be connected in a straight line with the maladministration of Labour at a local and a national level. If you’re so concerned about our safety, Ms Smith, stop releasing violent prisoners early and stop demanding bail for thugs. Isn’t it telling that she picked a Labour borough to be snotty about? How far these New Labour ministers have risen from the people they once sought to represent.
There’s more spirit, community, passion and love in one street of one ward of the borough of Hackney than exist in the entire upper echelon of our Brownian ruling class in government. “I’m always in bloody Hackney!” David Cameron once joked to Keith and I, when we were mumbling hello at a London Tory meet-and-greet. Good for you, David, and shame on you, Jacqui Smith.
Vince Cable describes the Brown, Darling plan for Northern Wreck as
“nationalisation of risks and losses, combined with privatisation of
gains”. How apt. The only surprising aspect of the “solution” is that
anyone should be surprised. For what is Mr Cable describing than any
number of Brown’s failed Private Finance Initiatives? All the hallmarks
are there: from the clumsy, insulting attempt to keep government debt
off the profit-and-loss account (“using our Mastercard to pay off the
Visa” – Anatole Kaletsky), to the prospect of an endless,
transgenerational mortgage of debt repayment, right through to the
appearance, bang on cue, of Richard Branston.
Richard Branston! I can’t look at the man without seeing Tony Blair in
drag. Perhaps Mr Brown suffers the same problem? And deals with it, as
so many of us deal with those people we heartily dislike, by showering
them with praise and agreeing to any number of their absurd requests,
in order to get them out the door as quickly as possible? I wouldn’t
mind, only, of course, it’s our money with which he’s doing the
Huge excitement at Archer-Pannell towers at the arrival of jury summons
for a "Dr G.E.B. Archer". I knew it was serious from the envelope; only
my grandmother and the Halifax bank (don’t. Just don’t) address letters
to me thus. So obviously am gagging to be selected (whither my liberal
unease about sitting in judgement of others?) but have been advised by
friends that the more middle-class I look, the less likely I am to be
chosen. Since I usually feel like a tramp when I’m at London Tory
functions, I should be OK. Tie or no tie? What do CH readers advise?
My friend John is back in hospital, with a suspected heart attack. I
haven’t been to visit him. I say "suspected" heart attack, and "I
haven’t been to visit", because his hospital has been locked-down for a
deep clean. That means: no transport of patients to other hospitals for
proper diagnoses of their condition (in this case, the angiogram that
John needs is at Bart’s) and no visitors beyond direct family. I am
struggling to get my head around this: to be barred from visiting a
friend in hospital, on the orders of a government minister, because the
wards are being cleaned, is a new concept for Britain, surely?
Cheer up, Monsieur Jérôme Kerviel, formerly of Societe-Generale. So you
lost a few billion of your bank’s cash? And you did this in a dazzling
display of audacious fraud, hiding the wasted money far from prying
eyes, so that the debt never showed up in the profit and loss account?
You squandered only four billion of our Earth pounds. How unlike the
home life of our own dear government.
GRAEME ARCHER’S 2007 ARCHIVE OF COLUMNS IS HERE.