Two former pupils who got in to Oxford and Cambridge, invited back to school to present prizes at Speech Day. That’s what it looked like. It was a kind of Speech Day; but not back to school. Instead the whole country, represented by the workforce of CNH Tractors in Basildon, Essex, was being schooled by Nick (Clegg, Liberal Democrat, deputy prime minister) and Dave (Cameron, Conservative, prime minister) on the Merits of the Coalition. After their political parties polled poorly in last week’s local elections, the Coalition leaders travelled to Essex to lecture us all on why they’re right and we’re wrong not to see it that way. Mouth composed into a perfect ‘O’, Cameron made his choirboy face, then shifted to his other persona: he-man of the jutting jaw. Either way, Clegg looked on incredulously. Later, when it was Clegg’s turn to do the talking, Cameron looked up at him, head drawn back at a slight angle: ‘Y’what?’ Of course the whole thing was a photo/podcast/rolling news opportunity. So well designed, right down to the colour scheme. Cameron wearing a blue tie, Clegg yellow. Some of the tractor factory workers were dressed in blue polo shirts; others yellow. You couldn’t ask for a closer match. However well-designed, though, there’s no hiding how the two boys are coming apart. Nothing in the orchestration of the event could drown out the discord between them. And here are some more entries which I prepared earlier.
(1) Royal Preserve Dateline: 2nd March 2012
Halfway between a wave and the brush-off, Prince Harry gestures to Caribbean photographers at the start of his first solo tour. He is ginger and slightly gauche. Back in London his grandmother, the elderly Queen Elizabeth, looks quizzically at the food hamper produced by Fortnum and Mason to mark her Diamond Jubilee (1952-2012). Nestling among the preserves, 60 years of judgment reserved.