22 MAY 1993, Page 8


Everything's great, really, so gissa littoo dosh


Wshould, I suppose, be gratified to learn that £3 million has been set aside to preserve the habitat of one of Britain's rarer spiders, the fen or great raft spider, in Suffolk. This involves pouring hundreds of thousands of gallons of water into a fen until such time as they can dig a huge new borehole. For my own part, I know little about this fen spider and care even less. Possibly it is quite common in other parts of the world. I do not know, but in any case it is my observation that insects are even more resilient than animals and birds when it comes to survival of the species. Wipe them out in Piddletrenthide and they will pop up immediately in Greater Snoring. In 1975 I read of experts' alarm at the disap- pearance of the ladybird, the vicious red- spotted insect known more accurately in America as the ladybug. In the summer of 1976 ladybirds threatened to take over the whole country, driving the humans out. A labourer in Minehead was killed and half- eaten by a swarm of ladybirds . . .

The £3 million required to save this ridiculous spider's habitat in Suffolk is coming for the most part from the EEC's `Life Fund' or Euroloonies, but it is surely comforting that such money is still around. I wish I could join this great movement of hating Mr Major and Mr Lamont, claiming they have brought us all to ruin. It seems to me that most of us are very well off, and we will look back on these years as a golden age of peace and prosperity. No doubt there are many people who feel they could run the country better, that we are heading for a return of 'stop go' and other evils, but I see no reason why we should believe them. Democratic government automati- cally attracts everything that is most pig- headed and odious to itself, and it seems to me that we are extraordinarily lucky to have such a pleasant chap as John Major at the centre of things. Those like the vituper- ative, lower-class chairman of the Conser- vative Party, Norman Fowler, who extol him for his 'ordinariness' are miles wide of the mark. Who could possibly be 'ordinary' who was the son of a circus high-wire per- former who changed his name from 'Ball'?

Democracy, if it means anything to the individual voter, must involve the personal perception of advantage, and for the life of me I cannot see where the threat is coming from. The Daily Telegraph, which provides most of my livelihood, seems to be doing very well, its pages stuffed with advertising

as never before. Lamont pushed up the price of wine when we left the ERM, but anybody could see that the pound was ridiculously over-valued and most of us stocked up in advance.

One glimpses, it is true, a darker side of Britain waiting to take over and cast us all into misery. Last Wednesday's Guardian 2, which I opened for the obituary of Pene- lope Gilliat, carried 23 full pages of adver- tisements for public appointments. One quite sees why these jobs are advertised in the Guardian. It is a continuing and entirely successful clerks' conspiracy to keep Britain Labour whatever the electorate may decide.

However, in the light of our socialist- dirigiste administrative system, and with Norman Fowler's Essex yobboes breathing down their necks, Lamont and Major do not seem to have done too badly — certain- ly not badly enough to be hated. Those involved in efforts to get rid of Mr Major were not, for the most part, involved in the struggle to get rid of Mrs Thatcher, and so have no idea how difficult it is, or what a long time it takes, to interest Conservatives in such an idea. When one looks at Conser- vative crimes in recent history — Mr Hurd's hysterical Firearms Act, Mr Baker's ludicrous Dangerous Dogs Act, the last Criminal Justice Act imposing £1,200 fines on any rich man who drops a sweet paper, and Mr Clarke's new one increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving to ten years (what Sir Frederick Lawton described as 'a moment's inattention') — we see that nearly all these unpleasant initiatives are the result of what might be called the Terry Dicks rent-a- quote or instant reaction style of govern- ment, rather than the calculated wrong- headedness we might expect from a Labour government. Under Major there is at least a readiness to admit a mistake and repeal these half-witted measures, even undo some of the harm done by the Heatho-

Walkerian scourge of 1974. This seems to me an immense advantage.

There is nothing much wrong with the recession. We don't really want a booming, buoyant economy. Nothing results from that but ugly buildings, Essex smells and Essex noises, the class and cultural enemy triumphant by other means than socialism and syndicalism, but triumphant neverthe- less. Having said which, and patted our- selves on the back, we are confronted with the looming rebuke of the Albert Memori- al, now permanently covered with scaffold- ing and tarpaulin because a government which plans to overspend its income by £50 billion next year claims it cannot afford to repair it.

Of course, this may be a lie, but it reveals so ferociously wrong a sense of priorities that we are driven back to the Guy Fawkes position. If a government cannot even fulfil its simplest obligation to maintain our pub- lic monuments, then it has ceased to be a government and has degenerated into a robber baron conspiracy. Let us hope that the Albert Memorial's condition is the result of the ignorance of Jocelyn Stevens and the deliberate perversity of his sado- modernist architectural advisers.

Because the truth of the matter is that the country is swimming in corporate money. This brings me to a rather delicate point. For 14 years Britain's liveliest and most worthwhile literary magazine has been entirely paid for by one man, the great and noble philanthropist Nairn Attal- lah. He not only houses it free of charge, encourages the various enterprises he is associated with to advertise in it, but has also been picking up the losses — currently about £120,000 a year.

Nairn is a model proprietor who never interferes, never complains, but I do not think it is reasonable to expect hinito go on paying this enormous sum out of his income indefinitely. Is there any company or individual who will join in? Tiny Row- land, perhaps? Literary Review is much cheaper than the £6 million a year the Observer was losing and I feel sure we could work in ways of encouraging African indus- try. I think I may have found one new bene- factor; he talks of putting up £30,000 a year if two or three others will do the same. If any philanthropist is remotely interested, I


would be most grateful if he would get n touch with me; I promise to protect his or her confidence with my life.