Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Friday 29 April 2011

The spectre at the royal wedding

Thirty years ago I wrote the Daily Mirror leader which appeared on the wedding day of Charles and Diana.
The penultimate paragraph said: "This is the stuff of which fairy tales are made." When the then Archbishop of Canterbury began his sermon, it was with those words. He had clearly got up early that morning, sat down to write the sermon without a thought in his head, then been inspired to plagiarise my leader when he read it over his breakfast tea.
There was a different feel to today's nuptials. It was a pageant but not a fairy tale.  Different times, different couple but those don't completely account for it.
The spectre noticeable by its absence wasn't Blair or Brown, outrageous as their exclusion was, but Diana.
With the passing of time, the anti-Diana brigade has become more vociferous and its sneering at her more acceptable. But she was one of the most significant figures of the 20th century - almost certainly the most significant British woman. Had she lived, I still believe she might have brought down the monarchy.
Strangely enough, I thought Kate today looked rather regal. You can imagine her sitting on the throne in 20 or 30 years.
You never could with Diana. She was something more than that.
I began today by reading the chapter on the beheading of Anne Boleyn in the book The Six Wives of Henry VIII. What a vile woman she was, responsible for the destruction and killing of just about all those she disliked.
But before then and since, the British monarchy has been littered with nasty and inadequate members. They are one of the most dysfunctional families imaginable.
William and Kate seem OK. There is a long way to go, though, before they rule, if they ever do. And their child would be monarch into the next century, which is a long time away.
Diana taught the royals a lot and William appears to have inherited something from her, though not her waywardness and rebellion.
Would that I could be around when it all unravels.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

A first class way to improve the trains

Travelling from Paddington to Moreton yesterday I was forced to stand until Reading, as were many other passengers who, like me, had paid for the privilege.
Every carriage was absolutely packed to over-flowing. Well, not exactly. As an alternative to standing next to the lavatories (not a great problem, there, though - they didn't work) I decided to wander down the first-class carriages. There were four of them, only slighter fewer than the cattle class I was in.
I counted 54 empty seats in the two carriages I meandered through, so presumably there were in excess of a hundred vacant seats altogether - which would have provided somewhere to sit for every standee.
This is not a rant against first-class carriages. There is an obvious advantage for people who travel in them and if they or their employers are willing to cough up, why not? Hopefully it keeps fares down for the rest of us (not that we've noticed).
But why are there so many of them? If they are going to be two-thirds empty, which these were, why can't there be fewer first-class and more carriages for other passengers?
There is so much space in a first-class seat, with loads of leg-room, arm-room and every other kind of room, that no one could complain they were crammed in if someone sat next to them.
It is obscene that the rail firms take our money and force us into appalling conditions when so much space is left in another part of the train. Are they trying to make a point? To rub our noses in it?
The rail regulator (is there still one since Tom Windsor moved on?) should lay down rules that there can only be a certain proportion of first-class carriages in every train. Two in ten coaches is more than enough.