A decent chap: An Easter tribute to John Major by William Scammell

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Of Hope's last throw, following Grantham


of red-hot news

from Albion's shores, and whether we need a

New Man,

sing, shrunken Muse]

This is the culture-clash with class, the whole

vision thing:

how shall the English ever reconcile

England with England?

Our dreamtime is the shires: churchyards,


the Wye, the Thames,

Sir Walter's burr, Keats, Alice and steam trains,


at Master Blake's, and Palmer's golden slides,

Burke at the bar

declaiming, while Cobbett takes his rural rides

around John Clare.

No Leveller's Arms, no Oliver Slept Here's

above pub beds;

it's all Lord Nelsons, Laughing Cavaliers

and King Charles' Heads.

From which we have advanced, and given the


to citizen John,

tied, suited, Dalek-voiced: a compromise

our Chief of Men]

Who'd have thought it: Pitt, Winston, Her


loosing the Tebbit,

now polystricken John, caught in the glare

like any rabbit.

A decent chap. A docile chap. A son

of fortune's wheel

thrown up in panic at the Rubicon

to the top of the pole,

that greasy habitat . . . from whence he fears

that he might fall

to mighty Brussels, little Englanders

or bugger all.

A decent chap. Oh quite. 'One of us.' At

least, he seemed that then.

But now he's used more lifetimes than a cat,

all things to all men.

'Who gives a toss for the old dormouse?'

said Clark of Howe,

the Party Pepys, the diuretic diarist

bluer than blue

with all that whores after the Iron Duke.

The sentiment

lives on, ready to rope the highest neck

with tar, cement,

rat-poison, razors, nooses, Roman baths,

or else the Lords:

leaders who don't deliver must fall at last

upon their swords.

Poor John] Poor classless John, whose citizen's

charter doesn't stretch

to cover his bottom, nor any of the venoms

of Right and Left.

'Radical' this, 'reform' of that, 'think-tank',


is just a joke,

pinching the smart agenda while still hitched

up to

the Establishment yoke.

He stood for . . . what, exactly? We might allege

lack of extremes,

the putative middle ground: roast beef, two veg,

fair to middling dreams.

He stood for anti-conviction, stuck fast by

the good old British

myopic squint: unexamined history

and no French sauce.

Deserves a pat on the back for the Downing


Declaration - sure,

but should've stood up to the Orange bigots

rather more.

As for Europe . . .] And as for England, well

what's in store for us -

warm beer, two nations, Tarzan, the Heritage


and more of the bogus

shamans of 'enterprise', carving careers

fit for the rich,

while the Wye silts up, and the haywain's steered

straight into the ditch?

A republic to challenge the pink elite -

let's get that born.

Yes] to the lion's actual working feet,

down with the unicorn

if he can't lay his soft head in the lap

of common things

where virtue wears an apron, or a cap.

No blazons, wings,

just gardeners with green fingers, or with black,

mending the bike,

who helped each other out of Noah's ark

and never looked back.

Except they did] To God, and to his reps

on earth below,

selling us fealty to those formal chaps.

But I don't know

any good reason why we can't, won't pitch

out those old tithes

whose day is gone, like rotten old thatch,

and live our lives.

(Photograph omitted)