Like Cats with Fleas playing the patriot Card

Master Watkins' Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs
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The Independent Online
IN PAST Times it hath been my Practice, at this Stage of the Year, to give the Reader some free Thoughts upon the present State of Affairs; but, after due Consideration, it occurr'd to me that perhaps with advancing Age the Habit had grown taedious, and that I was come to resemble an old Dog at the Circus, with a Frill around its Neck, and a melancholy Expression upon its Countenance, jumping thro' a Hoop at the Command of a Ring-master, for the Amusement of small Children; as a Consequence of which, the Town would say, I see Master Watkins is up to his Tricks again, or Words to this Effect.

Accordingly, with this Picture in my Mind's-eye, I inquired of severall Friends and Acquaintances, in El Vino's publick-house and similar Resorts, whether this annual Performance should now cease; and I am gratified to report that with one Voice, like a Cabinet-meeting of my Lady Thatcher, they gave it as their consider'd Opinion that it should continue, for the Reformation of Manners, the Preservation of Morals, and the universall Improvement of the human Race.

Master Major, his Cabinet, is a very different Collection, being compos'd of some that would drag him one Way, and others that would push him in the opposite Direction; so that the Prime Minister (to use the cant Expression) is like a Pig's-bladder on a troubled Sea, at one Minute beneath the Waves, at the next above 'em, moving about in all Directions and never in the same Spot for more than two Minutes at a time.

The great Cause of this Perturbation among the Tories is the European- union, or so 'tis called, although it hath a greater Resemblance to a Collection of Animals in a dark Forest, the smaller and weaker Creatures being sent about their Tasks by the larger Beasts, even if, to tell the Truth, those little Animals (I mean Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Greece) make a fat Living by means of Subventions, Subsidies, Payments-in-lieu, &c., &c. The grand Scheam of the big Animals (I mean France and Germany) is for one solitary Currency or Coinage throughout the Forest; the Plan of Master Major is to frustrate them in their Design, by placing all manner of Traps in their Path, or Inconveniences in their Way, too numerous conveniently to list at this Juncture, in a Paper of this length.

I will, however, mention one of them, which is the dispatch of Sir Michael Jay to Paris in France to be Her Majesty's Ambassador in that City. Now this Jay, I can tell you, is no relation to Master Peter Jay, altho' he was a Pupil at the same School, Winchester-coll. in Hants. The Purpose is for Sir Michael to persuade Monsieur Chirac, that is the Head of the whole of France, to employ his Influence with Herr Kohl of Germany to delay the single Currency.

'Tis a vain and foolish Endeavour, for the Reasons which I shall now give: for, in the first place, Sir Michael is an old Brussels-hand and a product of that White-hall which hath always held the Belief that, in Matters concerning the Continent of Europe, the views of Brussels must needs always prevail; and, secondly, for as long as I can remember, it hath been a Delusion of foreign Policy that 'twould be a fine Act of State-craft to detach France from Germany or, in default of that Conclusion, Germany from France.

As Evidence of which, I will now recall l'Affaire Soames, in which a Conversation with General de Gaulle, that was in Office long before M. Chirac and is now dead, was disclosed by the English to vex the French and to ingratiate themselves with the Germans, in which latter Object it utterly failed of its Effect; although I am bound to add, in Justice to my Lord Soames (that is also dead, and was the father of Master Nicholas Soames, who holds a Place in the present Ministry) that he was utterly oppos'd to this Stratagem when he was Ambassador to Paris, in the position which Sir Michael is shortly to take up.

All of which may lead the acute Reader to conclude that Master Major is, to use the common Phrase, merely going thro' the Motions, for the Benefit of the Rebels in his Party, and the Malcontents in his Cabinet, and that his clear and settled Intention is to join a single Currency after all. As an historic Precedent for this slippery Conduct, I will cite Mr Secretary Harold Wilson, his Manoeuvres from anno. 1970 up to 1975, when first he tried to join the Common-market (as it was call'd at the time); was repulsed; oppos'd the Terms which Sir E. Heath had got; pretended that Master Jas. Callaghan had secured better Terms when they were in no wise different; and afterwards held a Plebiscite in which he was victorious.

There are Tories who believe, or affect to believe, that Master Major is now embark'd on a similar Enterprise, with Mr Treasurer Kenneth Clarke and Mr Secretary Michael Heseltine blowing into his Sails to give him Encouragement or, as some would say, towing the Boat, with Master Major upon the Bridge, adjusting the Wheel in minute Particulars. To say the Truth, the Tories of today are like the Labour Faction under Master Gaitskell, when they would suffer great Agonies of Conscience and go thro' immense Tribulations of the Spirit over Weapons of Warfare whose Workings they did not understand and which they were in no Position to employ, on account of their being out of Office.

So, today, the number of Tories that can give a true Account of the single Currency, or the Provisions of the Treaty of Maastricht, may be counted upon the Fingers of two Hands, the Articles, Protocols, and Derogations in question being as obscure to them as a Text in Greek. In this respect, as in others likewise, they resemble their Predecessors of the Labour Faction, with their talk of Blue-streak, Skybolt, Polaris, &c., of which they knew as much as they did of Leibniz, his Fluxions, or Sir I. Newton, his Opticks.

But, however, there is one Difference between those Days and this present Time, i.e., the Party that is tearing Pieces off itself over Matters it doth not properly comprehend, like a Cat with Fleas, is still in Office. Tho' stranger Things have happen'd, and Wonders will never cease, 'tis unlikely to be in Office anno. 1997, or certainly (for this is the great Consideration) when the Matter of the single Currency is to be resolv'd. 'Twill then be for Master Anth. Blair and Master Gordon Brown, not to mention Master Robin Cook, to turn their Thoughts to the Question.

In the History of our Politicks, Labour Administrations have fall'n or else been gravely incommoded two Years after their coming to Office, always on account of Assaults upon the Currency, viz., anno. 1931, 1947, 1966, and 1976. From which one might conclude that Master Blair would be at risk anno. 1998 or 1999 and would accordingly welcome an Arrangement which would provide him with a Relief from these Inconveniences. Alas, it seems that he, like Master Major, will try to play the patriot Card instead.