Girding the loins for the battle that lieth ahead

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In Previous Years it hath been my Habit, at this Time of the Month, on the last Sunday in December, or on some other Occasions, depending upon general Convenience, and other Considerations too numerous to set out at this Juncture, on the first Sunday in January, to give my Almanack, or Predictions for the Year ahead, e.g., that in March there will be a great Scandal, to do with Persons in the Ministry, or that in the Month of June there will be a very surprising Fitt of frosty Weather, which will last nine Days. But my Friends have inform'd me, with an admirable Candour, that, with the passage of Time, this Performance hath grown taedious, owing largely to the unfailing Correctness of my Predictions, and that they would sooner read my free Thoughts upon the present State of Affairs.

I will begin with the Connexion between Master Tony Blair, the Chief Minister, Master Gordon Brown, that hath charge of the Treasury, and Mris. Harriet Harman, that is meant to disperse the People's Pennies (as Master Blair would express the Matter) to the deserving Poor, or not, as the Case may be. Now I will tell you more of this Mris. Harman. She was Daughter of a Chirurgeon and a Relation of the Countess of Longford, that is a famous Author and Wife to my Lord Longford, the eccentric Earl, that is much loved throughout these Islands on that account.

She (Mris. Harman I mean) was dispatched to S. Paul's Academy for young Ladies in Hammersmith, and afterwards to the university in York, and then became a Notary, in which Profession she found Employment with the National Council for Civil Liberties, near to King's Cross in London. In this Capacity she form'd a Liaison or Alliance with Mris. Patricia Hewitt, that came from a rich Family in the Antipodes by way of Newnham-coll. in Cambridge, both these Ladies adopting a roughness of Tone, a plainness of Speech, and an extremity of Opinion that were surprising in those of such gentle Antecedents as themselves.

However, in the Circumstances of the Time (I mean anno. c. 1975 to anno. c. 1985) it were not so very surprising after all, when those ambitious of Fame or Preferment in the People's Party must needs cleave to Master Anth. Benn, his Faction, or to other diverse Characters of more extream Opinions still. In this capacity, when she was with the Civil Liberties Council, Mris. Harman made a Complaint against the present Writer to the Press Council, as 'twas then called, in which grand Scheam or Enterprise she was join'd not only by Mris. Hewitt but by the Chairman of the Liberties Council, Professor Michael Dummett, that taught Logick at Oxford-univ. and was as a Consequence mad as a Hatter.

The present Writer had caused great Offence, which it hath ever been his Purpose to avoid, both to Mris. Harman and to her Allies by giving his Opinion, in the Observer news-sheet, that Liberty, as defin'd by the Philosophers, came very low down the List of the Interests and Preoccupations of the Council, that were, to say the truth, more concern'd with slandering the Constabulary and defaming the Magistrates than with protecting the Liberties of Her Majesty's loyall Subjects.

The Press Council, in their Judgement or Adjudication, laid down that this were a matter of a legitimate Difference of Opinion, on which the present Writer could take his Stand on one Side, and Mris. Harman and her Allies theirs on the other, and as to which there was really no more to be said; after which, however, the Council (the Press Council, I mean) must needs make a farther Adjudication of the utmost Absurdity, viz., that the present Writer had broken an Embargo, so-call'd, by producing a Summary of a Document of the greatest Taedium which Mris. Harman had presented to him a few Days earlier for his Perusal and Use, should the Need arise.

I will now tell you another Story about Mris. Harman. Some Years ago, anno. 1988 to be precise, the present Writer was Subject of a Suit for Defamation brought by Master Michael Meacher of the present Ministry at the Law-courts in the Strand in London. The exact Particulars of the Action need not be sett down here; except to say that Master Meacher had claimed to be Son of a farm Labourer and had, quite apart from this, attempted to discover the politick Opinions of those sett in Authority over the Health of the Nation by the Tory Administration that was then in Office.

Now, this latter Limb or Branch of the Case, being encrusted with the Lichen of party Faction, and tangled with the Ivy of political Zeal, disappear'd from sight in all Reports of the Action. Nevertheless, Master Kenneth Clarke, that was then in the Ministry, and had recently had the Controul of these difficult Matters, agreed to give his evidence on behalf of the present Writer, which he duly proceeded to do, in loud and confident Tones.

But what (I already hear the Reader asking) has this to do with Mris. Harman? I will tell you. In the Lobby of the House of Commons, or thereabouts, Mris. Harman made an approach to Master Clarke, that was doing no harm to any-one, and uttered a great Rebuke, or grand Remonstrance, to him, on account of his appearing as a Witness in the Law-courts on behalf of the present Writer: her Reasoning being that it was contrary to Nature, and utterly reprehensible in all Respects, for a Minister, a Secretary of State, or any other Person engaged in Politicks to lend his Aid to a Scribbler or News-sheet. This I had from Master Clarke.

The candid Reader should not form a View against Mris. Harman on account of these truthful Anecdotes: for, in the first place, they are particular to the present Writer, and others may have been the Recipients of greater Benevolence on her Part; and, secondly, she hath the most onerous Post in the present Administration next to that occupied by Mr Secretary Blair himself.

She is one of formerly Republican Views who is now more of the Royalist Faction than the King himself, I mean Master Blair; in this respect having a Resemblance to her Friend and Ally of former Days, Mris. Hewitt, who is not yet in the Ministry, altho' she is trying hard. Master Brown of the Treasury is not in like Case, being an old Scotch Man of the Left, as 'tis termed, who in turn bears a Likeness to Master Robin Cook, that has a Beard and left his Wife on the Instructions of Master Alastair Campbell, lest News of his Dalliance appear first in the publick Prints, to the consternation of all in the Ministry.

Master Brown looks to Master Blair, his Post; while Master Cook hath his Eye on the Treasury. Master David Blunkett, that is blind, hath no equivalent Ambition, but is at the present Moment showing great Zeal on behalf of the lame, the halt and the afflicted.

In former Times there was a strict Doctrine under the name of Hypothecation: or, rather, 'twas a rule by the Treasury against Hypothecation, or, in plain language, against the Appropriation of specific Sums of Money to particular Causes, howsoever worthy. But Master Brown is hypothecating like a wasp trapp'd behind a Window-pane; while Master Blair is, sett to take Money from blind Persons to give to small Children with two Eyes. 'Tis no wonder, when all is said and done, that Master Blunkett hath girded his Loins and put on his Armour in preparation for the Battle that lieth ahead.