Habeas Corpus: On The Death of Gaddafi
On a frigid January morning in 1649, Charles I was led to the scaffold. Permitted by Cromwell himself to wear two shirts for the occasion, in order that his shivering might not be construed as cowardice, the King had fulfilled his final wish and had spent the morning walking his dogs in St James's Park. The executioner's blade rose high in the chill winter air and in a split second the monarch's head tumbled from the cadaver and the nation committed an act of collective regicide. From a vantage point above, the venerable Archbishop Usher swooned and collapsed into the arms of an accompanying Deacon. The bloodied locks were held high and a voice cried out: "Behold the head of the traitor." Thus began Britain's short and ignoble experiment with 'Republicanism'.
Almost twelve years later to the day, following the Restoration of the deposed monarch's son, Charles II, Cromwell's disinterred body was (on the King's orders) dragged from its resting place in Westminster Abbey, hung for a day (much to the displeasure of local costermongers) and decapitated. The by now rotting skull was shoved unceremoniously on a spike and placed at the top of Westminster Hall, where it remained some twenty five years, until one night, during a dramatic storm, it was blasted to splinters by a bolt of lightning. That a man so obsessed with humility should lose his head in such an ostentatious way, is but one of the many quirks of this unfortunate story.
'Regime Change' has, in short, always demanded both sacrifice and degradation. From the schoolyard execution of the Ceausescus to the Youtube lynching of Colonel Gaddafi; from the arrow riddled corpse of the noble Harold Godwinson, to the public abasement of Mussolini and his mistress. In our own time one thinks of the blurred pictures of a weeping Margaret Thatcher being driven from Downing Street, or the humiliation of Gordon Brown and his family taking the long walk from Number 10. These events might seem cruel, might make one blanche, but they are a necessary line in the sand. A blunt message from the new regime to the mob that the order has changed, the dragon has been slain and that all is well - until the next blood-letting is required.
Talking of 'heads', the PM came in for some quite unfair criticism this week when he very sensibly suggested that members of the public might want to save money by using 'comparison websites'. For my part I managed to reduce the car insurance bill by several hundred pounds earlier this year when I combined the Bentley and the Audi in a single package. One fully intends to do the same with one's utility bill. In the meantime my advice for those of you worried about rising prices is this: shut off unwanted rooms or even whole wings for the winter and always purchase good quality vests.
The EU debate
Many of you have written to me about this. Yes, it is an important and very worthwhile 'conversation'. Having said that, while one is in no way intimidated by the Whips Office, one did manage to get through five years of Eton without ever being caned and I fully intend to achieve the same during my tenure in Parliament.
BBC Question Time
Thank you very much for the many delightful comments on twitter regarding my performance on Thursday. The long and frankly tedious hours spent watching 'Billy' Connolly videos seem to have paid off and I had little trouble understanding the highlanders present in Glasgow. One does, however, have to confess at one's disappointment surrounding the many quite unpleasant 'tweets' comparing one to a character in the children's comic The Beano. Although never having read the said organ, one can still guess from the tone of the comments at the implications being made and my response is this. Inverted snobbery is no better than 'racialism' and often in my experience far worse.
In spite of that I wish you all a hearty week-end. An earlier version of this blog appeared yesterday, but happily one of my children deleted it while looking for 'CBeebies' on my computer. As I am sure you can imagine this act was met with trills of gay laughter that resonated long and loud in Mogg Towers.
It is now time to take Aristophanes for his morning constitutional.