Who should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury? And why can't we run railways like the French?

Our guest columnist answers the big questions of the week - including one that members of the National Secular Society might not describe as top priority


Who do you, as a member of the National Secular Society, think should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury?

I am wholly indifferent, as I am to whomever the Flat Earthers elect as their next president. I am not indifferent, however, to the attention that will be paid, simply because he has attained this position, to the dim cultist’s thoughts and dicta. They should be ignored, but won’t be even though they are worthless. Would you buy a used article of faith (and they are all used and frayed and threadbare) from some credulous git in a mitre who believes that people rise from the dead, who can’t distinguish between shitty wine and blood at his cannibalistic eucharist, who approves his god’s adultery with a carpenter’s wife?

A second thought: Marty Feldman. Dead, I know, but he auditions well on YouTube as a bishop in a railway carriage.

Is the European Union destined to fall apart?

The dumb utopianism of inclusiveness is bound to fail. Nationalistic and, ever more, regionalist interests are dominant. The paradox is that the smaller the region, the more it will depend on the EU. Scotland, which is a wholly dependent parasite of England, will, after “independence”, become a wholly dependent parasite of Brussels. Those nations which manage to stay in the black and are not undone by the profligacy of their euro “partners” will eventually return to something close to Jean Monnet’s initial project. Had it learnt from the Hanseatic League, the Common Market would have remained just that, a trading union rather than a poorly dissembled attempt at stealth federalism.

How do you explain the slump in François Hollande’s popularity?

Hollande’s brief popularity – which is hardly the word – was conditional on Nicolas Sarkozy’s unpopularity. Hollande is an awkward amalgam of the bland and the tetchy. He’s a useless speaker. He is a liability. France has just woken up to the nightmare that this wannabe Mitterrand is going to cripple the country. It has begun to realise, too, that his “partner” Valérie Trierweiler is as ghastly, self-important, officious and greedy as Cherie Blair.

The French seem able to run an efficient and affordable rail network. Why can’t the British?

The French are able to run such a service. The SNCF is state-owned. Railways are considered an affordable utility. Like much else in France, the idea is to serve the common good. The state is not scared of investing in long-term projects (and has the wherewithal to do so because taxes are high). British transport policy has, for over 30 years, been ideologically determined: it adheres to the sauve qui peut mores of the free market. Trains and buses are nothing more than commodities from which profit can be drawn by ripping off a public entirely unprotected by the inaptly named Passenger Focus. They are organised, in characteristic British fashion, for the convenience of the provider. Railways should be swiftly re-nationalised and their aggressively jobsworth staff retrained as secure unit screws.

Is the Tory leadership out of touch with “ordinary” people?

Trustocracy is by definition out of touch with “ordinary people” and “hard-working families” for the very reason that trustocrats have never had to work. But then nor have two generations of politicians of all parties. These future speculators of the public gold progress from university to (optional extra) inns of court to think-tank to “adviser” to voting fodder. This has become the cloistered norm. My inner cab driver opines that lethal injections are too good for them.

Is a “One Nation” political programme possible or desirable for Labour?

Only the gullible can believe Ed’s or any other politician’s copywritten slogans. He flatters himself. He casts himself as Disraeli. Wrong role. It would be a nobler fate to find an amiable St Bernard and go on the road from Southsea varieties to Cromer end-of-pier.

Is it worth exposing dead child abusers?

Paedophilia, along with “race crime”, enjoys a special status. But so did Jimmy Savile enjoy a special status. His self-advertising philanthropy was a form of armour. No one acts against a saint of the people. Least of all the hapless editor of Newsnight. Rumours of this freak’s peccadilloes were rife for decades before his death.

Do the domestic sporting triumphs of 2012 say anything about the moral health of the nation?

The Olympics was a spendthrift circus, a festival of architectural bling and a showcase for the grinning talents of the Baron Coe of Smarm in the county of Slime. Deferred nationalism is ugly. As Will Buckley had it: who cares who wins? The practice of “identification” with a rower or runner merely because that person shares one’s nationality is pathetic. Team Spirit is submission to bullying coercion. The greater its collective hysteria at success in useless activities, the baser a nation has sunk.

Jonathan Meades’s ‘Museum Without Walls’ is published by Unbound

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