Dr Finlay Follicle's answer to young wanderers is Glenn

Not everyone knows that New Labour employs not only spin doctors, but also a spin psychiatrist
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The Independent Culture
IT IS WELL KNOWN that New Labour has spin doctors ready and able to treat the news, rather in the same way as water companies treat sewage.

What is not so well known, is that they also have a spin psychiatrist. His name is Dr Finlay Follicle. His job is not to re-arrange the news: it's to massage and interpret the personalities of the people in the news.

So, for instance, if the Secretary of State for Wales is found wandering Clapham Common at night, confessing to errors of judgement, the first man that Downing Street rings is Dr Finlay Follicle. "What's with Ron Davies?" they will ask. "How do we handle him? How do we straighten him out?"

"Of course, they should have asked me that when he got the Cabinet post," Dr Finlay Follicle told me yesterday. "None of this might have happened. It's a bit late when the storm breaks."

So you know Ron Davies's trouble? "Of course."

So, what is his secret" What marginalised activity does he pursue? Drugs? Gay sex?

"Well, yes, he is a member of a persecuted minority," says Dr Follicle. "They're called the Welsh."

The Welsh? A minority, yes, but when were they last persecuted?

"You and I are English," says Finlay Follicle, "so we can hardly hope to appreciate how the Welsh feel. The Welsh are conscious every day of their lives of being hard-shouldered by the English ..."


"It's a term I coined myself," smiles Finlay Follicle. "It describes that feeling of being gradually shouldered aside until you are walking in the street while everyone else is still safely on the pavement. That's how the Welsh feel the whole time. Ron Davies was the only Welshman in the Cabinet. He must have felt looked down on, not just by all the English there but all the Scots in the Cabinet as well - Gordon Brown, Donald Dewar, Blair himself... Look at the headlines this week in the Welsh papers.

"Ron Davies lets Wales down ... Davies makes Wales a laughing-stock..." Now, when Cecil Parkinson made an idiot of himself, or Nicholas Fairbairn did, or the head of the Scottish Tory party was in a gay scandal - can't remember his name now - nobody said this made England or Scotland a laughing stock. The English and Scots don't feel marginalised enough to worry about things like that."

So the Welsh have something of an inferiority complex?

"I am afraid so. What makes it worse is that nobody else notices it. Or they make jokes about the Welsh and sheep, or Wales and rugby. Or they say that Ron Davies was up on Clapham Common because he wanted to be somewhere he wasn't knee-deep in water."

Were people saying that?

"No. It's a joke I just thought of. I wish I hadn't now. But look, let's get off this subject. There have been other people in the news this week. What about Peter Mandelson ..."

Has he been in the news?

"Yes. He was in the news for not being in the news - for being the subject of a BBC memo saying that nobody could discuss Peter Mandelson's sexuality."

And how does a spin shrink like Dr Finlay Follicle interpret that? Does it betray some sexual insecurity at the top of the BBC? Has it got something to do with John Birt's own sexuality, perhaps?

"I'm not sure John Birt actually has a sex life,"says Follicle, with a small smile. "When a man has done to the BBC what John Birt has done, he doesn't need a sex life too."

Well, what other people have there been in the news? John Glenn? What drives a 77-year-old man to blast off into space again?

"I don't think we need look for a psychological reason there," says Follicle. "As far as I can gather, he's doing a test run for Saga Holidays. If he comes back unharmed, they'll send up rocket-loads of wrinklies.

"Don't forget that if Einstein is right about relativity, one day we can all become younger by travelling faster than light. Imagine how well that will go down in America, where nobody wants to get old."

Including Clinton?

"Especially including Clinton. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that American presidents tend to alternate between the young and randy, and the old and doddery.

"Whenever the Americans have an old President, like, OK, Reagan and Bush, they tend to go for a young man next time round. Having seen what mischief a young man can cause, they then go back to choosing an old man. If I were looking for a successor to Clinton, I'd be looking at the older guys."

How old?

"About as old as John Glenn, wouldn't you say?"

The more you think about it,the more sense Dr Finlay Follicle seems to make.