Richard Ingrams: It's galling when the rich tell us to tighten our belts


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Every one of us is going to experience pain, say Cameron and Osborne as they prepare us for severe measures to reduce the Government's huge deficit.

But the one thing you can be sure of is that, while others may lose money, people like Cameron and Osborne will feel scarcely any pain, for the simple reason that they are very rich. And rich people actually quite like to be told that they are going to have to make sacrifices. As Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote: "There is nothing that gives the well-to-do greater satisfaction than to be asked to economise for the good of their country. The money saved gratifies their avarice, the fact that in saving they are performing a public service adds a glow of self-righteousness."

Cameron's warning was echoed this week by another very rich man, Prince Charles. Preaching one of his regular secular sermons, he referred to what he called "a deep inner crisis of the soul", which was blighting the planet along with the fact that there are too many people in the world. "It would also help," he added, "if the world reduced its desire to consume."

Another message that the rich will like to hear, particularly coming from Prince Charles, a man with a very conspicuous desire to consume as much as possible with the help and support of a small army of butlers, valets and chauffeurs.

The Rusty Flasher gets a companion

a leader in The Times this week refers to Antony Gormley's 66ft-high statue Angel of the North near Gateshead as "haunting". But this is not the right word to use. The statue, about as unlike an angel as you could imagine, is traditionally described as "iconic" – a word now used for anything that is thought to be a much-loved element of the British way of life, like the Queen or fish and chips.

In fact, Angel of the North, which bears a strong resemblance to a 1930s Nazi monument commemorating the Luftwaffe, is not much loved by the local Geordies, who have dubbed it the Rusty Flasher.

Not to be deterred, Gormley has now produced a sculpture even bigger than the Rusty Flasher. With a height of 84ft and weighing 60 tons, it represents a crouching man and is constructed out of 8,500 lengths of metal. Luckily for us it will be erected not in Britain but the Netherlands, where it won a competition five years ago. Possibly influenced by the Rusty Flasher nickname, Gormley has christened his new work Exposure. It remains to be seen whether the Dutch will see the joke. They will certainly find it hard to avoid seeing the statue.

Both cuddly and a pest. Could that be Boris?

"The influence of early books is profound," Graham Greene once wrote. Apart from anything else, they determine one's attitudes towards various animals – attitudes which are afterwards almost impossible to eradicate.

My view of the fox, for example, which has never changed, goes back to the nursery and the books of Beatrix Potter, to Mr Tod the "whiskery gentleman" who preys on Jemima Puddleduck and likes to cook baby bunnies in his oven. And the same goes for his associate Tommy Brock the badger, likewise a ruthless smelly ruffian – by no means the lovable furry fellow that children nowadays are encouraged to warm towards.

Mr Tod's image took a knock this week with the frightening story of twin babies being savaged in their London home by an urban fox. While the friends of the fox hastened to reassure the public that this was a very rare occurrence, yet another story came to light of a similar attack on a child in Belsize Park.

How to reconcile these stories with the general perception of the fox as a friendly bushy-tailed creature, an essential element of Britain's varied wildlife?

The Conservative mayor Boris Johnson told Londoners that "romantic and cuddly as the fox is, it is also a pest". But how could one animal be cuddly and at the same time a pest? Perhaps Boris was subconsciously thinking of himself – superficially a cuddly mop-headed teddy bear but deep down a bit of a four-letter fellow, as the late Denis Thatcher might have put it.

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