It's hard to quarrel with Lord Young's view that we've never had it so good. He's right, at any rate, about people with mortgages and jobs: who can deny that they're mostly better off than their equivalents, say, 50 years ago? In an exasperated letter to The Independent, 80-year-old Madeleine Kekwick said she was tired of the attacks on Lord Young. "I remember the years after the war," she wrote, "before central heating, when we were happy to have a coal fire in the sitting room, and had to dress and undress the children in front of it. We were very cold in winter; living in Clacton-on-Sea, the metal windows could not stop the wind from the north blowing the curtains.
"There was no hot water from the back boiler for our weekly bath. We had no fridge and, as for a washing machine, I was over 50 before I had one." By comparison with the way we lived then, the modern generation, thinks Mrs Kekwick, is as spoilt as can be.
I agree. However, Lord Young still deserved his fate. Right he may have been, but he still had to be fired. He made the unpardonable error (for a minister) of letting his guard slip during an interview. As Matthew Parris put it in The Times, "Mr Cameron simply cannot allow his chosen associates to loose-mouth it over lunch with journalists and before you're tempted into a more merciful judgement, just think what the weekend press would have prepared, had Lord Young stayed"
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Features would have included "pictures of his house and valuations of his fortune. His car. His chauffeur. His holidays. Tatler-style snaps of Lord Y in white tie; Lord Y in black tie; Lord Y with champagne flute. Lord Y on a yacht. 'Recession what recession?', 'Hard-hit moi?', 'Cash-strapped? Let them drink Prosecco!' 'Never had it so good? We talk to 53 redundant workers who never had it at all.'" While some of us agreed with Lord Young, Mr Cameron understood, in Parris's phrase, that "the poison of apparently insouciant privilege" would have been fatal to his image.
An alarming game of tennis at No 10
Whether the prime minister was wise to be playing tennis with Andy Murray in Number Ten's state dining room is another matter. At a reception for tennis stars last week, he challenged Murray to a game and, it being too wet outside, they cleared the furniture from the wood-panelled dining room and set to.
According to Murray, left-hander Cameron, who captained the tennis team at Brasenose College, Oxford, began hitting the ball "really hard". "I have no idea if everything in there is incredibly expensive but it looked very old-fashioned There was a chandelier above where the dining table would normally have been. Some of the balls flew dangerously close to it. Yet Mr Cameron definitely looked like he knew what he was doing." Let's hope so. And perhaps it's better to have tennis balls flying about Number Ten than to hear tales (as we did a year ago) of mobile phones being hurled at the walls.
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