The Third Leader: Love thy neighbour

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The Independent Online

Pursed lips, muttering, even dismay, we understand, in a certain central London square. What, apart from the inclement conjunction of rain and the annual garden party, could the matter be? Well, you have to ask yourself this question: would you like a former prime minister as your neighbour?

It's hardly very now and happening, is it, a former, past, has-been prime minister? You get the disadvantages of power association, the security and so on, without the advantages of the current buzz. You must have seen the other formers, the melancholy sense of departed glory that clings and shrinks them.

But you can hardly ignore him if you both happen to be coming out of your respective homes at the same time, can you? A wave or raised salute is clearly not advisable, as before you can say, "looks a bit changeable," you're likely to find yourself tasting pavement with someone large sitting on you.

It's probably worse if you do get to talk to him, as you will have to smile until your jaw aches while he clutches your hand and forearm and tells you yet again about that time in Texas with good old George until you are rescued by the voice from indoors shouting to him, "Oi! Are you going to get those kebabs or what?"

All the same, as ever, there are positives. The herbaceous borders planning sub-committee will get a tough but fair negotiator, red lines, a road map and power to impose control orders, you won't see much of the new prime minister, and there will be plenty of people to ask the time.

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