A local journalist was asking me about Chris Wannell’s lovely funeral last Friday. I read that great poem which so aptly described Chris’s indomitable spirit, Don’t Quit by Whittier. I blubbed a bit but managed to get through it. How wonderful to see the historic fire engines down the High Street. The journalist asked, “why it was that Chris was so popular in the town?” “The main reason,” I opined, “was simply because he was such a nice chap. Never had a bad word to say about anybody; always cheerful; couldn’t walk down the High Street without stopping to speak to dozens of people. Cheerful, jovial. Just a thoroughly decent fellow.”
It is not for me to enter into the mind-blowingly boring minutiae at the heart of the battle between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. But looking in dispassionately, what is pretty plain is that there is massive animosity between them and amongst their supporters; that the SNP are in possibly terminal turmoil and will pay the price for it at the ballot box. Even Scots opposed to independence may well have been voting for them in recent years because they seemed competent and able. This very public spat has undermined that confidence.
Equally I know nothing of events at the Palace, nor at the Harry and Meghan Southfork in California. And I don’t want to know either- these matters should be private whether you are a Royal or a commoner. I suppose I will reluctantly watch the Oprah Winfrey interview out of a kind of morbid curiosity. But rather like their Uncle Andrew’s interview with Maitlis, or indeed the Prince of Wales’s interview with Dimbleby all of those years ago, one thing is for sure - no good can come of it.
It just doesn’t do to use one’s fame and celebrity to trot out one’s private grievances on prime-time television. Or at least if you do, you cannot then complain about the ‘intrusive’ nature of the modern media, since it was in fact you yourself who invited them into your life in the first place. Truly hoist by your own petard. The bullying counterclaims are deeply worrying. But they too should be dealt with behind closed doors, not least to protect the victims from further stress. Both sides should take a lesson from that distinguished and hugely discrete old gentleman, the Duke of Edinburgh, suffering in silence in hospital.
Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, who is a thoroughly nice bloke as well as a hugely competent one, seems to have pulled off a bit of a miracle with his Budget. He has extended the various Covid protections, ensuring that families and businesses can see the crisis off. He seems to have set the scene for very reasonable growth coming back into the economy in a remarkably short time; and he has given fair warning of tax rises to come to start to pay off the vast debt which the Pandemic has created, without frightening the horses in the meanwhile. It’s a deft and imaginative piece of work.
Maybe I am just simplistic. But why can’t people, especially those in public life, just be nice to one another? Why can’t they do what they believe to be right in the nicest possible way without doing each other down? Why can’t they take a leaf from the Duke, whose watchword for the best part of 100 years has been ‘duty’. Rishi Sunak must have heard the poem at Chris’s funeral: “So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit; It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.” We are nearly through this thing now, so let’s stick with it, and let’s try to remember that we are all in it together.