Published on 13 May 2010

Inside the forbidden garden

The wisteria in full bloom, the grass mown, and the Downing Street garden – for so long a neglected and unpretty place – seemed to have been left much improved by its departing tenants. Only a dark parched patch in the middle of a lawn stood testament to the little wendyhouse Fraser and John Brown used to play in.

I hadn’t been in the Downing Street garden since Tony Blair threw a surprisingly generous party for Michael Foot’s 90th birthday. Indeed the last news conference I’d been to there had been John Major’s back in 1995 when he resigned the Tory leadership (though not the premiership) to face down the Cabinet challengers he termed the “bastards”.

Out of the bitter Whitehall wind at 2.15pm yesterday afternoon it felt as if I had stepped into a world of Alice in Wonderland. Charmed hacks sat on gold chairs covered in red velvet. Anxious earnest women handed out the “agreement” between the Ace of Spades and the King of Clubs…and then backlit the two men, so recently at war with each other, sauntered shoulder to shoulder into the forbidden garden.

Let’s be candid. I enjoyed it! As I left the garden – an old friend, one of the few hacks of my own generation, whispered in my ear “so Anglican”!

Suddenly I remembered my own ecclesiastical roots – and thought perhaps I had indeed seen a Methodist/Anglican moment in which the two churches had agreed to join up and agree both to have, and not have, bishops. It was almost as if, when they attacked Labour, they were speaking as my father’s generation used to speak about Catholics. Strangely the attacks on Labour felt uncomfortable in such comfortable a “love-fest” circumstance.

What amazing threads have wound though Snowblog in these days – Paul Begley asking about how we the media have portrayed Gordon Brown given the elegance and culture of his departure. Rebecca Carmichael is intrigued too. Brown is so hard to describe. So personable and warm in private (at times) so dark and brooding in public and private (at times) a complex man – but not a man out to enrich himself, somehow a man with a large heart, as big a brain, but somehow undermined by something verging on the paranoid (at times). I suspect history may judge him more kindly than Blair.

Richard-of-Nottingham spots my weakness – a capacity to believe in, and be swayed by, the last person I spoke to! (Someone made the same observation at our morning editorial meeting at Channel 4 News yesterday!).

Good old Adrian Clarke wants to cast the (to him) wretched Scots, Welsh and others who give we English our colour and edge into the sea!

I like Jan Benfield’s call to end the “three line whip” – let’s hope!

Thank you Colin R and Akramrburns for your generous observations about our broadcast efforts in these days.

Frank Green I feel for your inner city neice…these will be ever harder times. Moonbeach calls for us bloggers to change too. I think maybe we have in this time…let’s see.

I heed Paul Dicks’ salutary warning, and rejoice that Sarah Joy read my book Shooting History. I do indeed conclude the best is yet to come…I still believe it!

And finally I’m chuffed that Margaret McGrath watched from as far afield as the Costa del Sol. I know Snowmail makes it to New Zealand and Central China, but I’m delighted that our broadcast product and Snowblog are going international too.

Another good day in prospect – the sun is up, the wind still cold…we have interesting times ahead.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

97 reader comments

  1. keyo says:

    My Nan, prospect of rainbow party, thank god i am leaving this world soon, god help those coming into it.

    Coalition party formed, my nan, somehow it feels so much better, and didint the Queen look so happy.

  2. Paul Begley says:

    Lest the “bastards” reawaken in the next few years, we should be prepared with a label for them that can be used in polite company. Could I suggest that “The Divine Right” fits the bill?

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Or looney Left Paul

    2. Paul says:

      Divine right=’manifest destiny’ a bullys’ excuse.

  3. Tez OAP says:

    My first visit to your blog confirms my belief that you are one of the more sensitive of th political journalists( wendy houses and labour attacks discomfort). For me the journalists bear equal responsibility with politicians for the confidence trick continually employed against the working classes & poor people of this world.We are witnessing the replacement of relegion with media as the opium of the masses, and justice will therefor not be sought in the afterlife. The generation of Thatchers children now taking power have no real useful skills or abilities apart from lying & using slick accountants,in my humble opinion.

  4. Saltaire Sam says:

    Jon, I hope you are giving this month’s salary to charity. You shouldn’t have this much fun and be paid as well.

    When you write your next book – and the last month surely deserves consideration – I think you should include the accusation of how easily you sway as a badge of honour. It shows you, unlike some others, listen to what people say.

    Incidentally, great interview with Theresa May who was clearly prepared to justify tory-lib pact but a bit shaken that someone had noticed her voting pattern on equality.

    Please keep on keeping them off balance so they have to think about what the do and say.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Agree about Theresa May, Sam. Able, certainly, but the word that came to mind was duplicitous, a professional politician to the soles of her kitten-heels: caught out, she refused to give a straight answer. The face of the old politics on the very day Dave is in the rose-garden talking about the new.

      Am unimpressed by all the political razzmatazz, I’m afraid, Jon. It’s the economy that matters, and agree with Sam also about Cable’s side-lining. The City didn’t like his comments on banking reform and now we learn he won’t be chairing the committee to discuss same. Might his yet be the first resignation?

      And just heard Chris Huhne speak. His arsenic-laced Energy drink locks him in to having to agree the building of new nuclear power-stations as long these don’t involve public subsidy. Capitalism demands relentless growth, and oligarchs and billionaires abound. Nuclear the next investment chance?

      Yes, there’s to be an increase in corporation tax, no ID cards, no third runway, and a change to the DNA data-base, all good moves, and an agreement ‘in principle’ to raising the income-tax thresh-hold to £10k. And Ken Clarke’s around at Justice.

      But …

  5. political innocent says:

    Alas poor Gordon! I didn’t know him at all but I always thought he was a decent man at heart. He was, however, totally unsuited to our media obsessed age.

    Now we have the super-smoothies who fit with the desire people have for sleek presentation. I just hope they can deliver what the country needs at this time. It seems to me that they were more than willing to sacrifice their election bids to us the people in their pursuit of power.

    Was it in the national interest or their
    own? Time will tell!

    Good luck to them and to Gordon Brown in whatever he decides to do next.

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      It does seem very strange how quickly politicians have adapted to the situation. Call me an old cynic if you will, but was the Tiggerish David Cameron of the Rose Garden the same David Cameron who less than a week ago was telling us a hung parliaemt would be a major disaster and that anyone who voted for Clegg would get Brown?

      I have to admit he does it with a certain panache and well-groomed charm but does it have any substance? I suspect we shall soon know.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      He was just repeating my line Saltaire.Now i have to ear humble pie and say the Liberals are the best thing since sliced bread lol
      I don’t think

  6. adz says:

    I will agree that GB is dark & brooding in public yet a lot warmer like on the day of his resignation. Obviously a shy man, not in it for the money and prestige but most definitely never up to leading this country. TB wasn’t shy, we all thought the world of him and that he was going to make things better which he did until something very evil blossomed. Or was he sinister form the offset with his joker smile?
    adzmundo The Venus Project & CND

  7. Mike Hind says:

    There’s a mood abroad. I first felt it crawling up to bed at 3am last Thursday night. It reminds me of the days after Diana’s death, a palpable sense of ‘something’ odd in the air. There’s love in the political room. Labour is happy to be out. A marriage I never dreamed of is being honeymooned. The pundits will talk about watersheds and yet I feel uneasy. The days of Cool Britannia spring to mind, before Blair turned into a vaguely mad figure. The wonder of Obama’s ascendancy, before the Tea Party movement reminded us of how fragile ‘change’ can be. There is something faintly irrational about all this. As if politics itself has become one of those format TV franchises where the participants are at each other’s throats but gradually come to learn that each has something to learn from and love about the others. And then we feel a warm glow, before going off to make a cup of tea. Think Wife Swap or Come Dine…. Even I felt a great relief at the eventual formation of a coalition by 2 parties I didn’t vote for.
    The Alice In Wonderland analogy is so apposite. I’m half expecting to see a white rabbit in the speaker’s chair when parliament resumes.

  8. Saltaire Sam says:

    Jon
    I agree with your assessment of Brown v Blair. I was one of those punching the air in 97, thinking we had found someone who wasn’t cluttered with the loony parts of left policy but who would tackle things from a left perspective, especially education. No fool like an old fool.

    I remember first seeing Barack Obama and warning an American friend that we too had a brilliant orator who promised enormous change but we had been let down.

    Fortunately Mr Obama seems to have more substance than Mr Blair. Perhaps the main difference is that he reads books while Mr Blair went in for property development, cultivating rich friends and lining up a lucrative after life while taking us into an illegal war.

    1. Moonbeach says:

      Sam,

      I also punched the air in 97. We had got rid of the sleaze. Mr Blair and his cronies, of course, then turned sleaze into an art form.

      Mr Blair lost me when he committed us to the crazy, unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      But I must take issue with you regarding your class comments. Not all ‘toffs’, rich people and well educated folk are heartless and bad. Not all ‘poor’ people with open-toed sandals are good and generous.

      The vast majority in between are generally pretty reasonable.

      Let’s try to avoid putting human beings into class boxes.

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Moonbeach, I agree we shouldn’t label people, but it is hard to write generally without using some form of shorthand, which is of its nature imperfect.

      But I think we can agree that on the whole the life chance discrepancy between a child at Eton and a child on an inner city estate are vast even if the estate child is born more intelligent.

      Narrowing that gap seems to me one of the roles of a civilised society – for its own economic good as well as because it is morally right – but is something that successive governments have failed to to do.

  9. Saltaire Sam says:

    I see Vince Cable has been sidelined on bank reform. That’s worrying.

    1. Paul Begley says:

      I tend to disagree – unless we get the banks (and markets generally) back to doing what they claim to do (ie making credit available for real, responsible investment), then fixing the deficit may simply be setting ourselves up for the next bubble and the next crash. VC seems a good choice to tackle this.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire i hope that is incorrect

    3. Meg Howarth says:

      Saltaire is correct, Adrian.

    4. Jim Flavin says:

      Bank reform – surely u jest .

  10. Jan Benfield says:

    I am not biased towards any political party, but I will confess to being very depressed at the thought of a Lib/Lab government. This current arrangement may be unusual; but I think it should be given a chance to prove itself or show that cooperation between political parties is unfeasible. It was refreshing to see two leaders prepared to be natural in front of the press; in direct contrast to prepared statements being read out by the previous Government. Perhaps one of the Millibands can show a similar freedom of constraint if chosen to lead Labour.

  11. Patrick says:

    There may be trouble ahead………

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      but while there’s music and love and romance…

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Oh, Patrick. I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head all day, especially the lines:

      Before they ask us
      To pay the bill
      And while we still
      have the chnace… :-)

    3. Patrick says:

      Glad to be of service! Now I’ve got “Two Little Boys” going round in mine!

  12. Tim says:

    Jon, a pleasure as always. I agree, no matter what one’s political bent, it’s hard not to feel a tiny bit optimistic about this new politics of negotiation. How long it lasts, of course, is another matter entirely. I’ve blogged on it myself: http://tiny.cc/paqrg

    And if you fancy discussing over a pint in Kentish Town, let me know!

  13. Patrick says:

    I rather liked this in one of the papers yesterday:
    “In the spring garden the Clegg-Cameron civil partnership looked magnificent, the two men perfectly cloned in face, age, education, accent and style. Naturally the audience of cynical hacks from all sides of the political spectrum came away shaking their heads. Bets were laid, jokes made, the wedding gifts would soon be on eBay and it would all end in tears.”

  14. Patrick Levingstone-Foster says:

    Jon,
    So pleased to have navigated to your site as a 1st time user or Twitter – splendid coverage of the exciting events as they happened AND full marks for that surprise for Theresa May on her equality record – brilliant!!

  15. tanya spooner says:

    I can’t share your sentiments, Jon, about Gordon Brown simply because he lied so frequently in office, a habit he learnt from his predecessor. It worked very well for Blair most of the time, but not for Brown, because people were weary of it by the time he arrived.
    Listening to John Humprhries constant crass and rude interruptions of the new Health Minister, on the Beeb this morning, before snapping off the radio, I was reminded of how valuable we feel C4 News is in our household: the affection, and appreciation, we feeel for the team made the rose-garden Press Conference all the more enjoyable. Please, please give this new administration a chance. They will struggle heavily, because they are in so unfamiliar a grouping, and the broadcast media IS powerful and can do damage. We hope to continue to value your balanced and sensitive handling of affairs, and that even if your own political sympathies are challenged, you will be able to report events from an unbiased and generous point of view.

  16. adrian clarke says:

    Jon i hope this coalition stuff is not catching!!! I am afraid i am warming to you immensly,for giving me the pleasure of passing my views on to others.I am afraid you slightly misread me and misrepresent me though.
    I believe very strongly in the Union of the United Kingdom,we are one island as far as the English ,Scottish and Welsh are concerned and as such i believe we should have one Parliament.Maybe it shouldn’t be in London , but more centralised like Birmingham.My point on the voting was that in England, there was an overwhelming Tory majority.The point is i do not believe there should be an expensive bureaucracy of a Scottish and Welsh Parliament , but if there is why are the majority the English denied the same privilidge???
    I am surprised that all the Socialists who crave equality seek to deny the English the same opportunity.
    I did not mention the N.Irish , simply to me they are on a different Island , yet i respect their view that like Gibraltar and the Falklands they wish to remain British

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Adrian, grateful if you’d explain your comment that the Tories received an ‘overwhelming majority’ vote in England? This is only true under FPTP, not PR, surely? Looking at blue v red and yellow on the electoral map isn’t a true indicator of how the majority of the English voted.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Sorry Meg i thought we elected our politicians on FPTP or have i missed something

  17. Freda says:

    As a new reader of your blog I wanted to say thank you for your insightful commentary. And thank you for not being a perceptive and gracious journalist. It makes a huge difference. I am hoping for a new way in politics which gives us a fairer system of government and a renewed sense of looking after those who are vulnerable. Especially in these times of financial hardship.

  18. Saltaire Sam says:

    I also joined in the Today laugher this morning when it was pointed out that Clegg and Cameron were so close, Chris Grayling wouldn’t let them share a B&B

  19. Saltaire Sam says:

    Adrian, how long will it take before you listen to me – we don’t want equality, that’s impossible, what we want is fairness.

    The problem with Jon’s blog is that it’s taken on a life of its own and I can’t always find the strand I’m looking for – not the fault of the blog just old age.

    So let me here answer something you said elsewhere. I am not advocating that establishments like Eton should be dumbed down, I want the rest raised up.

    I agree that it is a disgrace that any child should leave primary school unable to read or write and that to an extent teachers are to blame. But according to the tory philosophy we need to pay top wages to keep the best people, so by their own standards until we can offer the people who would make superb teachers a wage that will attract them, we will always have some poor teachers and they often end up in the worst schools, where others doen’t want to teach.

    It’s a self-perpetuating circle of failure and one that only government can break

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire to a certain extent i agree with you.There is a problem though, and as always it is money.Unless we get more tax income from the private sector,it isn’t there to spend on schools, unfortunately.
      During the last 13 years Labour has spent billions on PFI building new schools .Nice shiny schools do not improve education one jot.We need better teachers ,better discipline and a more traditional teaching.I also believe standards should be set for a minimum attainment each year , before a pupil can progress to the next year.

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      That’s wrecked my day. Adrian agrees with me. Am I a closet tory :-)

    3. adrian clarke says:

      i think you have Tory insticts Saltaire and are trying to hide them behind a socialist smoke screen .I will guide you carefully and protect you Saltair:)

    4. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire in 1978 i wrote to St John Stevas , education shadow minister , suggesting an education system ( the only time i didn’t get a reply from a politician) .The suggestion in brief was,
      Increase school leaving to 17, if certain standards were not reached,but 16 if they were.
      Starting at 6 yearly standards set , that failure to meet ,meant being kept back a year.Two yearly failures , moved to remedial schools.
      At age 12 or 13 two choices , accademic schools or Vocational ones with limited accademia
      The system of testing is twofold .One to ensure teachers are really capable and a streaming of pupils to get the best out of them.
      That is the broad bones of it and i haven’t touched funding ,but it is cheaper than at present.

    5. Moonbeach says:

      The trouble is, Sam, that ‘fairness’ is all too often interpreted as equality rather than equal opportunity.

      The Grammar school system allowed the likes of Sir Terry Leahy to move from a Council House in Liverpool to CEO of Tesco; social mobility.

      Of course there were some ‘failures’ and some unfairness. But please don’t tell me that the localised Comprehensive System has none of these! It seems to be producing an increased underclass and no mobility!

      New Labour was so proud of its educational achievements that even the PM and some so called radical MPs refused to send their own kids to ‘local’ schools. Why was that?

      Selection at 11 and/or 13 is anathema to supporters of the comprehensive system. Why?

      Life is competetive and the sooner kids learn this, the better.

      Paying teachers more will not change this. Teaching is a vocation and there are many inspirational teachers who love it.

      Political dogma should be taken out of education and be replaced by accountable parents who support teachers.

      Incidentally, Sam, it was the last Government, not the Tories, that oversaw the incredible increase in the pay of Public Sector managers!

  20. the-Richard-of-Nottingham says:

    “..Ace of Spades and the King of Clubs”

    I must say that I enjoy that analogy of the Cameron/Clegg double act far more than Morcombe & Wise, Ant & Dec, etc tags that the papers have taken up.

    Glad to here that you enjoyed your day in the Sun yesterday Jon, may you enjoy many more of them.

  21. PhilD says:

    John, just for a laugh, when you come to interview the candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party, could you ask them if they plan to make it a democratic party? Their answers to that should tell us all we need to know. Best.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?

  22. Saltaire Sam says:

    Cleggy is getting everywhere (Does that make Theresa May into Nora Batty?) According to the BBC lunchtime weather forecast a big yellow patch is coming in from the west to push aside the blue patch that’s making it so blooming cold!

  23. Tom Wright says:

    Perhaps I’m speaking ill of the political dead, but I can’t just agree with some of the sentiment about Gordon Brown. This was the man who constantly briefed against his own colleagues via the vile spin-doctor Charlie Whelan, unleashed the ‘forces of hell’ against his own Chancellor and in his own tenure at No 11 ruled by press release – insisting that he make policy announcements which belonged to other departments, dressing them up as ‘spending commitments’. His heart was in the right place, but his methods left a great deal to be desired.

    For me, Brown is a tragic figure, lacking the charisma necessary in a good leader; good decisions are not enough if you cannot bring your colleagues and the country with you.

    His approach was ‘command and control’, ‘my way or the highway’. In his heart, an autocrat, not a democrat. This was not a man who could not build consensus – people didn’t like him even when he was right.

    An unfortunate lack of presentation skills should not conceal the fact that Brown was one of the key architects of the era of spin.

  24. John Smith says:

    Well Jon,if indeed you are persuaded by the last voice you heard, I am swayed by the notion of believing that all men/women are born good. They learn evil as they go along. So I think this new government will do as it has said. It may fail, but not deliberately. It will stumble from time to time. But at least give it the benefit of the doubt until it proves unworthy thereof.
    Nurse is bringing the medicine and we will have to take it, like it or not. And the sooner we take it, the quicker we will start to recover.
    We know who left the mess. Let’s be big enough to put the recriminations behind us and accept that it’s got to be sorted.
    There is a government. Give it a chance to do its work. Be vigilant but not wantonly destructive. Criticise where necessary and hope they are wise enough to listen.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      Nurse is prescribing the medicine these days and it is the patients option whether he or she is going to take it.

      It may make us politically healthy or ill being reliant on some other to enforce cuts in spending and rises in tax.It depends which surgeon comes along and what type of incision is made.

      Self help is great so long as there is another in the same situation and in that respect we are all in this together, some more than others.

      I whole heartedly agree that wanton destruction and negative competition have lain at the heart of our politics for a long time . Instead hope and openess should replace the chambers and the heart strings tunefully synchronise their intentions.

  25. Saltaire Sam says:

    But which one’s Fred and which Ginger? Ginger always complained that Fred got all the credit when she did exactly the same tricky steps while wearing a heavy frock and going backwards.

  26. Saltaire Sam says:

    Great pictures of Brown’s last moments. Jon, could we have a caption strand on the final note?

    My own:
    Dear Vader (sorry, the eye you know), welcome to hell. The nuclear button is in the top drawer but don’t worry, I discovered when one of the boys pressed it that all that happens is a phone rings in the White House.

    The IOUs are in the drawere below together with a binding agreement Alistair signed last week agreeing to give Greece £50billion. I would have told you earlier but I was too busy stopping David Milliband and Ed Balls fightiing over whose fault the election result was.

    It is a tradition that incoming PMs grant a wish to the outgoing. Mine is simple – please impose a 100 per cent tax on any earnings exPMs make from writing books or talking to American universities.

    It’s all yours

    Gordon
    PS tell Nick I don’t agree with him now

  27. anniexf says:

    C4 News always reaches the parts other news channels fail abysmally to. Superb research, probing questions, wry humour and intelligent presentation – it’s the only one that doesn’t talk down to viewers or treat us like morons. No wonder that so many members of the last Government were “not available” for interviews!

    1. Frank Green says:

      People accuse Channel 4 wrongly of left wing bias, simply because it is fair. In contrast, the other commercial channels are appallingly biased.The other day. Tom Bradbury on ITV was seething at the idea of a Lib/Lab pact ; his response oozed fear/anger at the thought that the Tories wouldnt be in power and was so unprofessional.. Boulton was even worse with his embarrassing tantrum which Alisatir Campbell swatted away. You have to respect Labour for the way it fights with 9 newspapers against them as well as the commercial broadcasters.

    2. Jim Flavin says:

      With so much of media in the hands of Fascists it is strnge the Tories did not win by much more . Basically it is the media that / Big business that elects the PM / President or whatever in most Western countries now .

  28. Y.S. says:

    Well i presume Cameron must have listened to Mervyn King last month when he said whoever gets in will be out of power for a long time after.
    So a minority Tory Government would have been short term and suicidal.
    A Con /Lib pact means he has a chance to stay in power for 5 years, ride the storm and possibly make it to the other side.
    If it doesnt work out he will take the Lib Dems down with him.
    For the Lib Dems a sniff of power, maybe they will know next time what you need to put in the manefesto to get in. You have to be clear on immigration and defence polices. Amnesty was a none starter and you have to be clear that you want to cut down from say 200 to 50 Trident nuclear missiles. Otherwise the other parties would say you are scrapping it.
    In the meantime Chauffeur driven cars all-round.

    1. Frank Green says:

      I think the coalition has a good chance of lasting the life of the parliament, essentially because Clegg and Cameron cant survive without each other and are desperate for power.Forecasts of them splitting after a few months are way off the mark.However I think Labour are going to be very well-placed in five years time.People compare this `fresh’, new coalition with the beginning of the New Labour regime but the situation is very different. 1)The coalition is inevitably going to be unpopular for the decisions it will have to make whereas New Labour inherited a much better economy 2) ThejTories had three poor leaders post -97 whereas Labour will have Milliband who is young, very bright, experienced and media-savvy. 3) Labour will be seen at the next election as one party whereas people will find it difficult to untangle the coalition partners 4) Crucially Labour has many more seats than the Tories had in 1997.
      The best thing Labout ever did was to avoid a pact with the LIb Dems

  29. Margaretbj says:

    The political land being divided by lot, now has two rather pleasant chaps, clinging on to each other to ensure back up and power. Quite spontanously out of the new mix of Clegg and Cameron the two have alchemised a new element called trust and love. Is it real? or is that simply what it takes for two young men to make it?

    We have our inheritance ,the rose garden , 10 , Downing st., the lecturns, various religious backgrounds for the pious to ritualise and carry those people with them who need to feel the depth of tradition and sameness.

    Brown for me had that sense of tradition, he didn’t need to be charismatic, but he probably was considering he had to fight off so much movement against him by the Anti Brown.

    The new 2 CC’s seem to be in the same vein and I see a definite blueness, a bit of the aristocrat and less of the yuppy in both of them.

    The bloggers :we never really know who we are talking too, but doesn’t that give us a sense of freedom, no expressions to interpret , no real hurt ( most are fairly sociable with the pen) and Jon daily to provide a topic and impetus. Blog on.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      There Margaret i agree with you

  30. Ruth Solomon says:

    I was there in the glumness before the Spring returned later that day in the magic garden. I was by Parliament building having walked along the river from the Tate. I had crossed over to be on the grass alongside those strange bird-houses where the reporters interview the would-be’s. But when I was there around 2.pm on Tuesday nothing was happening. One reporter was applying make-up looking into a hand-held mirror. A halogen light fired into the bleak day. Another reporter sipped Fanta. There were bored reporters over at the BBC Radio tent with their elbows on the table creasing their jackets like stallholders at a farmer’s market. A few sandwich boarded hagglers- a man on crutches- disabled and sleeping rough- his board blaming the Tories.
    The media is making much of the love-in sweeping away glumness- abolish Brown- create a miriad affect. But one thing I noticed that day; People were uncertain, open, afraid, compulsed, listless – they were talking and mingling. I hope it is not all formulated too soon into a ready-made affair. We need to live with this state of uncertainty. It is real.

  31. anniexf says:

    A stray thought : the playhouse went with them, but John and Fraser have had to leave the veggie patch they were tending, which must have disappointed them. Perhaps some kind Cameron & Clegg children will take it over, & maybe even send some of the produce to GB’s boys – or am I being too optimistic?

  32. adz says:

    “When the power of love will overcome the love of power,the world will know peace.”
    Sri Chinmoy Ghose 1931-2007

    We must all urgently get together and realize what is happening behind the curtains because bankers not politicians, are leading our planet to destruction.
    adzmundo The Venus Project & CND

  33. Andy Pandy says:

    Jon…it was said earlier in the week that you have provided great/quality coverage and debate (through the TV and various blogs) on the election campaign, the results and the events as they unfolded oveer the last couple of days.

    I must say that Gary has also played a key role in supporting you in what has been a pretty dynamic week or so. The value that you two bring to the viewers and bloggers is tremendous.

    You should continue this ‘double act’ going forward.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Please don’t forget Faisal. As attention remains focused on UK developments, it’s the handling of the economy that will determine all else, and F does a great job.

      Personally, all C4’s bloggers have my respect. Would love to have time to read and respond to each.

  34. John Smith says:

    Margaretbj and Ruth, I like your comments and commend you both for your positive attitudes.
    The essence of a democracy is that we all have to take the medicine that Nurse is bringing. If the pill turns out to be too bitter to swallow, we’ll get a chance to try some other remedy in 5 years time. Sounds like a long time but we’ve had 13 years of the last lot and 18 years of part of this lot so nil desparandum.
    Oh. Funny thing. My apple tree is in blossom too. Please send the bumble bees.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      No no definitely no. the best people for the job should be used at a cut price for fairness, good sense , intellect and the health of the nation. That is the bitter pill to swallow, prestige is not concomitant with expertise.

  35. joy says:

    I am absolutely appalled at your divisive press coverage of the coalition’s progress. It seems that your priority is in identifying or inventing the tiniest rift in the relationships and working on prying them the two sides apart. Given that the best interests of the country would be served by supporting the coalition, why are you so bent on this destructive crusade? Please take a more constructive i.e. balanced view.

    1. Patrick says:

      Awww! G’wan – Everyone likes a good scrap!

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Couldn’t disagree more. The most powerful people in our country have gone from sworn enemies to bosom buddies in under a week. David Cameron has gone from thinking a hung parliament was a disaster (rememebr his special broadcast?) to talking as though the thing he wanted most in the world was to work with Nick Clegg.

      We need to know if this is pragmatism, cynicism, ‘for the good of the country’, any way to get power or what it is, and the only way we can find that is for the press to ask difficult questions.

      For me, the most interesting moment in the Rose Garden was when Cameron fudged an answer to the question ‘if you think this coalition is such a good idea why are you still opposed to PR?’

      We cannot allow our politicians to spin us any old yarn and the media is our voice. It’s up to you what you make of the answers.

  36. Ruth Solomon says:

    Well yes-and-but- I just get the feeling that this “For the good of the nation” is a double coated pill. Sweet and a bit sickly because we as a nation never really got over our addiction for the Blairite promise- “Things, will only get, will only get be-ter”. But that was before the housing collapse, Goldman Sachs, Greece and great plumes of volcanic ash etc.. oh and two major invasions- I mean regime change initiatives- another bitter sweet one for the residents forced to take it. Spring is a brief affair. Public parks are the place to be. Not gated gardens. In my local park today, thirty kids plummetted down the hill holding tightly onto colourfull kites that bumped along on the ground behind them. The kids were happy. They didn’t want a wendy house or a duck house. They had no expectations beyond plummetting down the hill -force of gravity. I suppose the Brown kids will move on from the wendy house. Will we?.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      Springness and Ruth, a marked improvement to the pitiless . A brief affair it may be, like chancellors who come and go ; all powerful ,nly to be sucked under by the insistence of the promise of a good summer which rarely unfolds.

      All move on but rarefication brings waves of nostalgia where the memory forces more potency than the cup can behold and so we roll with the role play.

    2. Meg Howarth says:

      Speaking of houses: heard Gary mention on the news the day before the rose-garden fete that one of the many things Dave and Nick had in common was the number of houses they each owned. Hard to be enthused by that news, Joy, when the gap between the rich and poor is widening, always a bad indicator of social health.
      Will Hutton, whom Jon interviewed the other night, was on BBC Newsnight last night speaking about the almost ‘apartheid’-like conditions that prevailed in housing. We ignore this at our peril, which is why Nick ‘n Dave’s apparent multiple home-ownership is such a problem. It sends out the property-ownership business-as-usual signal. And the sidelining of Vince Cable is already clear.

      But there are some good economic moves, it’s true: increase in capital gains tax, no increase in inheritance tax threshhold, and an agreement to raise income tax threshhold to £10k

      And Ruth is correct – it’s less social segregation, more mixing that we need. We all have a responsibility in this regard.

    3. adrian clarke says:

      Ruth it may surprise you , but i was never addicted to Blair.Both he and Campbell should be locked up in the Hague

    4. Margaretbj says:
  37. adrian clarke says:

    Jon i enjoyed channel 4 news tonight except for one thing.I understand with your Liberal leanings(according to Saltaire) that you can no longer be nasty to the Tories, but that TIE!!!!!!! It was so unSNOW like.I know it was kind of Tory but i prefer your bright , come and get me Lib/Lab ones

  38. Saltaire Sam says:

    Priceless. This Week has just wrapped with Cameron and Clegg with Rolf Harris singing Two Little Boys.

    ‘Did you think I would leave you crying…’

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Was it Rolf Or Gordon singing Saltaire?

  39. Paul says:

    Perhaps when the projected public spending costs are being explained they can get Rolf to do the illustrations. “Can you tell what it is yet?” Wobble Wobble
    The Grand Canyon maybe?

  40. adrian clarke says:

    Vince isnt sidelined, it is just Osborne is leading the discussions

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Given the antipathy between the two, I think that’s one and the same thing. If Boy George trusted Vince, he wouldn’t have usurped his place as chair of the discussions.

  41. adrian clarke says:

    Frank do not upset my equilibrum.Of course Jon is biased, but his is against the Tories .I know the others are to but they are for the Tories .It is a good job or i may never have found this blog site,and tried to put them right politically

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Self delusion again, Adrian. We are slowly bringing out the warm, cuddly left-wing side of you, but coaxing it so gently – as is the way of the left – that you haven’t noticed the change. I give it about another month and you will be cursing Sky news and using terms like ‘fair’, ‘just’ and ‘the problem with capitalism…’

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Damn Saltaire.You are not supposed to see my warm cuddly side

  42. Ruth Solomon says:

    My cup runs over- stirr, stirr- we love to spin. It’s no longer a question of who wins and who loses- muddle and fudge- almost begins to feel tasty- mad-hatters at tea-time. It’s not Blair the man we love or love to hate but the whole drive of the 90’s that just felt bouncy and nice- some people only know that time. The air got let out and woke us up with strange rude noises. No one wanted to talk about the mess and people who did were hushed up. Until the mess got absolutely muddled in with our lives- our jobs-Health- Houses- our way of relating. of course we want the tea-party back- not Blair the man but something abit more racy than Brown wearing brown. We can use colours to aggravate or activate the senses. Many cultures celebrate colour and light in the winter months- Diwalhi, Passover and Christmas. But Spring is in the air- there is a riot of bird song in the gardens at Downing St. Time to tone down the tie, Jon- off-set the rising blood.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Ruth i just realised that it is not only a new political era ,but a total new era . Welcome to the year of the tens

    2. Margaretbj says:

      Ruth I havn’t enjoyed reading the comments so much since your literary talent appeared.

      You seem to understand the citations , are at ease with them and use overt satire the least.

      As far as symbolic ties go ,rather than pinko liberal ,or idea scramble, or there again perfect geometric intersection, the watery blue is the new flavour. Has Jon gone cold?

      I notice there is a ring on his third finger left hand, perhaps he is focused entirely on one now and has a light true blue connection.

      Its a darn cold day today, but next week promises warm weather. C4 news pays little attention to weather

  43. Ruth Solomon says:

    I too much liked your blog- “we roll with the roll play”- think blogging could be the new outfit of mixing up styles and colour schemes to roll through from one point of view to another. No more the politics of the double-edged sword- either -or; more a DJ artistry- politicians not even abashed now faced with looped riffs of themselves from an altogether different political era- of last week- when Cameran said Clegg was a bad joke and Clegg said that Cameron.. No no we are grown ups now. Rip up the wendy houses.- and in that Doctor Who Tardis appearing as a run of the mill terraced property- no. 10 Downing St, a new kind of political landscape emerges. And yes, there are backpassages and worm holes- Clegg: “I think there is a door down a corridor joining my office to Cameron’s Kitchen somewhere but I haven’t managed to find it yet.”. My house is your house. Feel the power.

  44. Paul Begley says:

    Nothing from Jon yet today. Do you think we’ve completely exhausted him?

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Paul i think he must be blogged out and i’m getting withdrawal symptoms

  45. Jim Flavin says:

    Hope all this apparent optimism – or is it deperation is justified – but I doubt it . Have just —got Snowmail – and one the items – besides the unfortunate Labour MP stabbed was that Clinton is not to happy with Cleggs so called anti war stance on Iran – so IMO its certain – a war with Iran . Israel wants it . The US has some scores to settle . I doubt if the Public in either country want it – but when did that matter . Fear will be sold again – 24 /7 availble on tap – and as for Clegg being against a war with Iran he himself has said qouting from another reliable journalist ” Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats leader and darling of former Blair lovers, says he will “participate” in another invasion of a “failed state” provided there is “the right equipment, the right resources”.Both these guys – Cameron and Clegg are warmongers – so no problems there – altho if Cleg is so eager to invade failed States – why did ” NATO ‘[ sic ] not invade Greece or us here in ROI . So Im expecting an Inavasion . I wonder will Obama , Clinton , Cameron or Clegg put on uniforms and fight or leave it to fools to do their dirty work ?.

  46. Bahlool says:

    I wonder why people think of the LibConDem ( I recommend this sequence of acronyms which symbolizes hugging) coalition. On the contrary, it indicates the importance of social class in poilitics, It is the alliance of the like to th like at the top. There is no much difference between Cameron, Hague , Osborne..etc on one hand and Clegg, Huhne, Lawe and Cable( chief economist to Shell, contemporary to What was called Conservative Cambridge Mafia in the sixties when he was the president of Camb.Univ. Union).
    Unfortunately the LibDem members have quacking leaders but not the ducks they thought they are, and bullets which were incompatible with their political gun. However, those bullets matched perfectly with the conservative gun at the right time and place. The predicament came after consummation and we have to wait for the “delivery” of the fist baby ..and take things from there.!!

  47. Wah says:

    Hi Jon,
    I noticed you returned to University of Liverpool last year. It is not often you get to meet people who made the initial effort for you to come back but I was responsible in putting your name forward as an ex student that the uni should embrace. Last year our uni compiled a list of famous former students for an exhibition, they had about a hundred names but when your name was not listed I protested. There were concern about past incident involving a protest, a water pistol and the VC but it is something staffs and students in the know talk about with nostalgia and fondness.

  48. Saltaire Sam says:

    There’s been a seismic shift in the the view of the world as represented by the Any Questions audience.

    I’ve noticed in the past that the liberal democrat member of the panel was often the person who got loudest and longest applause.

    But this week, Simon Hughes (he who has got least from the coalition) was constantly heckled and accused of betraying his principles. It was true even when he restated his opposition to nuclear energy.

    In contrast, Green MP Caroline Lucas (admittedly the pogramme was from Brighton wehre she was elected) was cheered to the rafters with virtually everything she said.

    Based on this one small sample, it would suggest the lib dems have a long way to go to convince people that their new alliance represents anything more than a naked desire for power.

    1. Patrick says:

      One or two articles across the newspapers suggesting LibDems – if not haemorrhaging – certainly dribbling support to the Green party.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      I didn’t see it Saltaire ,but you do not think the audience are not biased , do you?I reckon they are selected to give whatever impression the program makers want.Mind you i would heckle Simon Hughes

    3. Paul Begley says:

      I think the coalition is currently picking up flak for our past experiences – “Won’t get fooled again” seems to be the public mood. There also seems to be a lot of commitment to holding them to account – no bad thing. But I do think they deserve the benefit of the doubt for a few weeks/months – if nothing else, there’s a risk that they’ll develop seige mentality if we don’t give them this. And right now, I can’t see a better alternative to them.

  49. Bahlool says:

    Ideologically there is no Liberalism, because it is not an ideology but only a name we gave to the borderline which seperates the conservatism and radicalism(revolutionism). However,Conservatism is a coalition of a spectrum of beliefs within it , likewise Radicalism (or revolutionism ) is a coalition of a wide spectrum . This is because human nature promotes dualism in general. Within the spectrum of each there is of course a minimum and a maximum like every process in life. The lowest grades (frill) of both are the nearest to each other, this is what is called Centre or Liberalism. But these cannot be mixed together into a distinct ideology to make another basic category neither can they naturally flourish outside their basic categories as their umbilical cords are different. At the best they are a hybrid coalition of different spectrums. Mixing white and black makes grey alright but none of the essential colours of the light spectrum. All over the world they are “liberal ” to swing alliance i.e. political opportunism albeit either winning losers or losing winners. While Labour and Conservatives or Republicans and Democrats making a coalition is political blesphemy.

  50. Bahlool says:

    We lost a national hero and a European leader in Gordon Brown, as we did in 1945 with Churchill. It is odd that we punish heros for their success . He was a sesman who envisaged the World Economic Crisis a year prior to its occurence and stood firmly to uplift the economy from what could have been a longer recession . He demonstrated to the world how this unprecedented crisis could be managed, and other Eurpoean countries and USA followed suit, and still doing..
    What analysts cannot now dare to say
    about the renewed economic fears of last week at least partly because No Gordon is there and that the largest European economy, UK is up in the air with this coalition who have put the narrow party intersts before the national interst and pride and remove the economic stimulus.

  51. Bahlool says:

    It is ironic that the conservatives have climbed to power over the shoulder of the ousted Labour national economy hero Brown, just like when the Labour climbed to power over the shoulder of the ousted Conservative national war hero Churchill in 1945. History repeats itself…but why do we have to oust our heros ??!! Is it the result of an informed choice ?!! I doubt it, or because we don’t really know about their achievments or failings until the month of election campain , when it is too late to assess them. If it is the latter reason, then we are in a real problem and the public should be renderd more regularly engaged , a duty of the politicians and in their interst.
    Most people don’t have time to read newspapers or watch political programmes or news on TV. They hardly have time to see X factor . Majority people did not recognize Clegg in the debate after many years he is a leader !!!! neither did they recognize that Brown’s smile was artificial. So something else has to be devised to engage more people in politics and infuse more politics into people.

  52. Brytness says:

    Jon your tie and sock combos always cheer me up! Seriously though, I agree with people that the C4 news coverage is high quality – sening a big “thanks!”, and keep up the great work Jon and team! I always recommend to people to tune in. In the often hardened world of the hack you have a human touch and that is heartwarming in this day and age. This is the first time I have read your blog and I really enjoyed it. It’s excellent that you champion environmental issues too! With the remaining, seemingly entrenched scepticism, the subject needs advocates! Please keep gunning for the disempowered and vulnerable too – this is so pertinent. Kind regards to all the team.

    PS My mum thought you were Dan Snow’s dad & I was like “no!”, LOL! Wish I had a dad like you.

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