At the End of the Day


Last night on US television, the Duchess of York told professional crying-shoulder Oprah Winfrey that she had found the decision to bar her from the Royal Wedding ‘difficult’. The Gran’ Old Oprey did not venture to suggest that those in charge of the decision had experienced no difficulties at all in reaching it. If her daughter’s headgear was anything to go by, Fergie might well have come disguised as a cake, from which she would’ve burst to steal the limelight as the couple gave their vows.

One thing I vowed never to do again eight months ago was watch Prime Minister’s Question time. But suffering gout in my right hand at the moment (and thus unable to toil on the soil) boredom led me astray this lunchtime. It is my sad duty to report that, just this once, Ed Miliband wiped the floor of the Commons with Dave. And my sadder duty still to assert that PMQs is just as pointless, infantile and tedious as it ever was.

And yet, from tedium comes amusement….if one looks hard enough. Behind Cameron sat Nick Clegg, uncertain whether to hide from the people opposite, or ensure TV exposure by constantly lounging to the left or right behind the PM. Switching rapidly from left to right and back again is such a habit with Nick now, it’s an almost autonomic tic for him. Dave leaned forward, and so Clegg sat bolt upright; Dave gestured to his own MPs, and so Clegg stretched in the opposite direction. And when Dave dropped a bollock, the Deputy PM hunched up, completely out of view behind his partner. From one minute to the next, the LibDem leader changed from being a man praying for the ground to swallow him up, to somebody resembling people who jump about making V-signs behind outside broadcast cameras.

Cameron’s awfulness today was historic. He fell back on limp gags and that silly grin, but for a bloke who’d just been humiliated by the electorate in national, local and referendum politics, Big Ed was remarkable perky. This was perhaps to be expected, given that next to him sat Pinky – aka Ed Balls – doing an odd sort of hand-jive in front of a fixed smile vacant enough to make Cameron’s grin look almost intelligent by comparison.

Dave boasted that there were more NHS doctors coming through than ever before. Miliband reminded him that those doctors had been trained under Labour. Dave claimed the support of 42 GPs for Lansley’s NHS project. Miliband pointed out that there are 42,000 GPs in Britain. The look on Ed’s face as he landed these punches squarely upon the Prime Minister’s conk was that of a playground nerd who suddenly realises he’s got the School Bully on the ropes. Alternatively, I did recognise the expression I have when faced with a Microsoft message saying ‘An unexplained error has occurred’: there was some genuine anger in there too.

Behind and to the right of the Opposition Leader, five Labour MPs  kept standing up in unison to be recognised by Mr Loudspeaker Bercow. They looked for all the world like the Glenn Miller band’s front-row trombonists about to bash out Pennsylvania 6-5000. Perhaps they are the newly-formed Ed Mili Band. One thus wonders what their repertoire is: Domesday Serenade perhaps? Either way, after the third time they did it, I was completely corpsed. I called Jan in to witness the ritual, and she fell about. This is a first for my wife, who quite understandably finds politicians deadly dull. All we can hope for is that Mr Miliband goes missing over the Channel at some point.


Something came to light this morning that hadn’t occurred to me until I read it in the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Being the Frankfurt local rag – and Frankfurt having the highest concentration of investment bankers on the planet – I was jolted when the FAZ pointed out, ‘The ECB has become Greece’s largest creditor’. This might go some way towards explaining why interest-rates hawk and ECB boss Jean-Claude Trichet suddenly went all doveish last week, and announced he was holding off on further rate rises. The decision is somewhat akin to the usurious loan-shark suddenly realising that, unless he cuts Lapalopadopolis the taxi-driver some slack, he’s going to have a corpse. And corpses are not renowned for paying their debts.

Der Spiegel insists that what Greece needs is a Marshall Plan, but the only flaws in this breakthrough insight are that (1) the country of Marshall’s birth is broke, and (2) Greece has only been invaded by Goldman Sachs, as opposed to the entire Wehrmacht. So the question for Hans in der Strasse as he sips his Berlinweiss remains where the wotsername the money is coming from. (His answer to this rhetorical question is “Nicht von mir, chummy”: and so we are back to Square One again).

A Fleet Street chum remarked to me two months ago that the demise of the eurozone “is like watching paint dry”. The downside of this process is that it is boring beyond belief. The upside is that we are not watching paint burn. If you’ve ever chucked a pot of paint on a bonfire, you’ll know what I mean. But even so, there is a limit to how many denials, lines in the sand, rigged stress-tests, smug assurances and fund-plans in the air a person can take. The debt markets passed that limit some during the summer of 2010. I am now taking wagers on which year will be mark the moment when the Brussels sprouts recognise this. There is heavy betting on 2017.