Leading Article: John the Unsteady

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The Independent Online
WHO DOES John Major think he is? Many obvious answers come to mind: Stan Laurel, Adrian Mole, Mr Pooter, Wilfred Pickles, Norman Wisdom, Ethelred the Unready, Korky the Cat. Evidence accumulates, however, that Mr Major may in fact imagine himself to be a previous Conservative Prime Minister - Stanley Baldwin, who smoked a pipe, stayed calm (slogan: 'Safety first') and wrapped himself in what were then considered the virtues of everyday Englishness. Mr Baldwin believed firmly in the concrete, the specific, the rural. He named his favourite brand of tobacco (Presbyterian Mixture; it still exists, but is now manufactured in Germany) and appeared in its advertisements. He talked fondly of flowers and gardens, just as Mr Major did last week in his most recent galvanising speech to his party and the nation. The scene he evoked may become famous. Mr Major is in the garden tending his delphiniums. Norma rushes out from the house waving a newspaper which says the Prime Minister is tired and weary. But, Mr Major tells his audience, he is not tired and weary. Depressed yes, but only (chuckle) because England are doing badly at football and he can't spare the time to get to Old Trafford for the cricket. He tells us: 'I am fit, I am well, I am here - and I'm staying.'

Oh yes? Imagine the Prime Minister not as Mr Pooter et al, but as the poshest hotel in Scarborough. The Lamont Sun Lounge and the Mellor Honeymoon Suite have already slid into the sea. The main building itself now teeters on the edge.