Britons arise, and waddle over to the feeding trough

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
DID you by any chance catch that delightful tale of the two little pigs? Apparently the two prize porkers managed to escape from an abbatoir and hot-toot it across dyke, meadow and stream to freedom. Now the world and his wife are busy offering them a warm home with three meals a day, meat-and-two-veg, central heating, full access to satellite TV, the lot, even if it means booting out last year's Bosnian orphans and forcing 'em to sleep in the stable block.

The love of our four-footed friends is surely the mark of a True Brit. It has long been my belief that the only possible hope for the much- needed Conservative revival in this country lies in kicking the dread Hague into touch and letting either a) a golden labrador or b) a little donkey take his place as the party leader, with either c) a hamster or d) a baby pig as his fiancee, the exact nature of the kiddies to be sorted out in due course. Of course, party rules would have to be amended to take account of the new move towards the animal kingdom, but only slightly: after all, we have already had Dr Mawhinney as party chairman. I have no doubt in my own mind that the party conference would welcome such a change, and a 10-minute standing ovation would be forthcoming whenever Dobbin or Porker took to the platform.

Surely the main reason the British have always been so attracted to the nativity story lies in the presence of so many farmyard animals to supplement the somewhat commonplace main event: not only adorable little sheep, but cows, donkeys, goats and even camels. It strikes one as highly unlikely that quite the same fuss would have been made over a lone child, particularly one born to an - ahem - ethnic lady and her bearded, common-law husband, homeless, besandalled and, I am sorry to say, on the scrounge.

During my period as editor of the Sunday Express back in the late 1950s and early 1960s (dread decade!) I was forever on the look-out for news stories with an animal angle, for I knew that our readership would lap them up. Some of the most memorable Sunday Express headlines of that era include "Moggy Left Behind As Philby Flees to Moscow", "Macmillan's Night of the Long Knives: No Dogs Involved", "British Horse Escapes Injury as 10,000 Indians Die in Earthquake" and "Cuban Missile Crisis: The Threat to a Nation's Ducklings".

I also encouraged our columnists and critics - some of the best in the country, I should add - to include the animal angle to lend colour to anything that might otherwise appear remote, unpleasant or high-falutin'. In covering the controversial new Penguin paperback of Lady Chatterley's Lover, our senior book reviewer found it "very satisfactory in its vivid depiction of hens, butterflies and varied birdlife, though to my mind less exciting in other areas". In 1957, our theatre critic made it quite clear that he had not enjoyed the premiere of Endgame by a Mr Samuel Beckett, adding that the playwright had made a great mistake in failing to introduce "a mischievous cocker spaniel or almost-human Ginger Tom, either of which would undoubtedly have won over the audience's heart".

The legendary Sir John Junor, who followed me as editor, wisely developed my emphasis on animal stories still further. "Whatever may be said about Mr Adolf Hitler," he began one of his most memorable editorials, "let it never be said that he did not have a terrific fondness for dogs, taking great pride in a wet nose, a breezy disposition and a healthy sheen to the coat."

Where Great Britain was concerned, he made it his rule-of-thumb to judge our senior statesmen by the pets they owned - or failed to own, in-the shaming case of Edward Heath. "Mr Heath," an editorial once thundered, "may well wish to take us further into Europe. All well and good. But why should we, the British people, take advice from a man who, where household pets are concerned, cannot boast even so much as a budgerigar to his name?" As a senior adviser to the management of Independent newspapers (We are. Are you? I jest!) it was I myself who insisted that our masthead should be adorned by a "logo" (dread word!) of one of our feathered friends. Others wanted an aerial, a ship, a cathedral or a knight in shining armour, but I knew that a cuddly eagle could be guaranteed to draw in millions of devoted readers. And so it proved, up to a point.

But what of our friends the Tamworth Two? Personally, I am badgering our young (female!!) editor to sign 'em up for a hard-hitting column, giving us the full benefit of their views on current affairs, EMU, Mrs Gaynor Regan, what's going on in the world of crackling, etcetera. Will I win my case? Watch this space. Oink! Oink!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HVAC Project Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will b...

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Business Services-£70,000 OTE

£35000 - £45000 per annum + OTE £70,000 + car + pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A wel...

Recruitment Genius: Service Receptionist / Warranty Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The scene in Tesco in Edmonton, north London  

Black Friday is a reminder that shops want your money, no matter how human they appear in their Christmas adverts

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game