LETTER from THE EDITOR

Watching film from the 1992 election campaign was unsettling - it was a reminder of how little the political elite knew about the rest of the country
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The Independent Online
It has been a week of strange perspectives. I helped judge some press awards in the BT Tower, then had lunch at the top, revolving over London, peering down at the squares, parks and rooftop gardens. It was most unsettling. A couple of days later, I reworked a television documentary from the 1992 general election campaign. Watching, five years on, film of Kinnock in a rictus of triumph, John Smith beaming, and Tory strategists looking dejected and shellshocked was ... well, unsettling too - not because John Major won, against everyone's expectations, but because it was a reminder of how little the great, busy, self-important political elite really knew about what was happening, quietly, across the rest of the country. Perhaps, remembering 1992, this coming election will be conducted in a different atmosphere, a more watchful, cautious, diffident one. But then again ...

Just as some people cannot enjoy music, others are bewildered by ``abstract'' painting. Very sad; London has been hosting two of the best exhibitions of non-representational painting for ages recently - the Howard Hodgkin at the Hayward, which is just closing, and Gillian Ayres at the Royal Academy (whose main show is the revelatory, unmissable "Late Braque").

Hodgkin has, I suppose, made it into superstar status: his work is not really abstract, but high-colour representations of memory and mood. When I went, with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old, there were long, good- humoured queues waiting to get in. People in art galleries tend to behave with unusual benign gentleness, like people in Kew Gardens. I don't know why.

Both children enjoyed the bigness and brightness of the pictures and the elder had no difficulty at all in understanding that they were paintings of mood and emotion, not simply views, rooms or people. He has a big Hodgkin poster in his room now: to see such paintings as ``difficult'' requires a great deal of carefully cultivated adult art blindness.

What, on the other hand, is one supposed to say about ``London's Monets'', which opens next month at the National Gallery? The NG is an exciting, well-run institution, but trying to enjoy Monet is like trying to consume an entire pound-box of Belgian chocolates at a single sitting - he is just so stickily, gushingly, revoltingly omnipresent. Once great, he's now just Claud Money. There is only one way to save him for posterity now, though it may seem a touch Stalinist.

It is for some commission or other to be given authority to gather up all the world's Monets - every one - and bury them in a sealed underground bunker. Every Monet monograph, collection, poster, tea-towel, card and scarf would then be burned. Slowly, decade by decade, the memory would fade into blankness. Monet would become as well-known as the lost painters of Greece and Rome. Then, around 2097, suddenly the bunker would be reopened. It would be like unwrapping paradise.

Journalists generally and editors certainly, are supposed to know what they think - to stride through the week without second thoughts or agonising. But as to whether the Mail was right to name the five Lawrence case youths as murderers, I lost sleep, or at any rate spent sleeplessness, agonising about my own hostility last week. Now the Bridgewater case - like the two big Irish mistrials of recent times - reminds us of the danger of leaping to judgement in a mood of boiling public rage. It is one of life's dreary, grown-up truths that justice and anger mix badly.

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