Imagine that a political scientist from the future used a time-travel technique, as pioneered by the late Mr Spock in Star Trek IV, to visit today’s Britain. If you had to pick only one outpost of Westminster life to illustrate the majesty of our democratic system, which would it be? There are so many candidates, but I’d plump for the Commons Health Select Committee.
“So what’s this?” the visitor from the future would ask. “This,” I’d explain, “is a group of elected representatives, elected by their peers to oversee our socialised health care.” “And how are they chosen?” “For their common sense, intellect and expertise.” “I see. And who’s that?” “David Tredinnick. He believes – and being so familiar with our planetary system, you’ll appreciate this – that astrology should be used in medical treatment.” “I’m sorry?” “He thinks horoscopes have a role to play in health care.” “Look, pal, I didn’t slingshot my starship around a dying star at maximum warp to have the piss taken. You’re asking for a slap …”
The Conservative MP for Bosworth reiterated his belief last week that the clinical use of “natal astrology” (a horoscope based on the alignment of the planets at the moment of birth) would relieve pressure on the NHS. “Everyone has a foible,” the fair-minded time traveller might say, “and he’d hardly be there if he wasn’t logical about everything else”. “Hmm. He’s also convinced that surgeons refuse to operate during a full moon because human blood fails to clot.”
At this point, the visitor would have himself beamed back to his vessel before learning that Tredinnick, who in 1994 failed to discern from Saturn’s position that those offering him money to ask parliamentary questions were Sunday Times hacks, also sits on the science committee.
These twin roles seeming scant reward for his talents: one of two promotions is indicated. If the Tories are elected, he might replace Jeremy Hunt, with whom he shares faith in Chinese herbal medicine, as health secretary. Failing that, Malcolm Rifkind, victim of a more recent cash-for-access sting, will soon vacate the Intelligence select Committee chair.
Tredinnick would be perfect. “Mr Andrew Parker, your explanation as to why MI5 failed to intercept Jihadi John is risible. Had your people studied his natal horoscope, the danger he posed would have been abundantly clear from the ascendance of Aquarius in Neptune’s fourth house. So what do you have to say about that?”
A timely Ukip leadership lesson for the Greens
While having every personal sympathy with Natalie Bennett over that radio brain freeze (as a presenter long ago, I introduced an author with: “And now, it’s a great pleasure to welcome … I’m so sorry, I’ve completely forgotten your name”), you have to wonder whether she should stand aside for Caroline Lucas. The warning precedent is Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who as Ukip leader in 2010 showed startling ignorance of his own manifesto (his tone in a TV interview suggested he wouldn’t have a copy in the house). By the time Farage had returned, an electoral opportunity had passed. It will be a huge shame if this historic opening for the Greens ends the same way.
The award for forgetting other awards goes to. . .
In the Sunday Times, Jeremy Clarkson makes the scintillatingly original observation that the Oscars tend to favour the worthy over the populist, citing The Intouchables’ failure to win anything in 2012. “It should have won best picture, best screenplay, best everything. But it won none of these things because it was in French. And films not delivered in English can be considered … only as a ‘foreign language film’.”
The quality of Jeremy’s thinking is matched by the depth of his research. Eight foreign-language films have been nominated for Best Picture, including The Artist in 2011. Another, in 1999, was Life Is Beautiful, for which Roberto Benigni won Best Actor and which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, in what sounded deceptively like Italian.
World domination? Nigel reveals his credentials
Hats off to Nigel Farage on his jaunt to Maryland to address Tea Party Republicans. Being out of the country on the day the latest immigration figures humiliated David Cameron cleverly countered the caricature of Ukip as amateurish, while his lecture about the GOP’s failings delighted the few delegates who heard it. It was built on earlier remarks made to a far-right online site.
“If I was living over here,” Nigel told Breitbart News a few weeks ago, “I would say to myself, ‘All right No 1, we’ve got to reclaim our party’…” The dubious punctuation leaves an ambiguity. Was Nigel making the reclamation of the party his first priority? Or has he taken to referring to himself as “No 1”, as in “All right No 1, tie straight, big grin, we’ve got to smash this Newsnight interview!”? My hunch is for the latter, and that he may be publicly auditioning for the part of the unseen criminal mastermind in the forthcoming 007 film, SPECTRE.