Three extracts from letters and diariesby Ian Irvine / July 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
One of holiday’s “delirious pleasures” 14th August 1898. Raymond Asquith, son of the Liberal politician and later prime minister HH Asquith, writes to a student friend from the family holiday home in St Andrews: Have you ever been on a “merry-go-round”? A fair has just taken up its position… and we all go out after dinner and ride on the thing. I assure you it is a most delirious pleasure: the horses move up and down and from side to side, as well as round and round… The scene quite reminds one of Walpurgisnacht: the throng of half-naked lascivious women, and drunk men like monkeys whirling wildly through space, under the great yellow splashes of gaslight, and the wondrous noise of automatic bands, and shooting galleries and little dirty boys eating ice-cream and fried fish and every sort of horror. And my grave and statesmanlike father… hurtling to and fro on a painted oscillating horse with a lofty smile of liberal satisfaction in the pleasure of the people, a true apostle of democracy… 23rd August 1978. Roy Jenkins, then president of the European commission, records in his diary his summer holiday in France: Drove into Biarritz earlier than usual, with Jennifer [his wife] and Robert and Serena Armstrong (who had arrived to stay)…went into the Hotel du Palais to show the Armstrongs the plaque commemorating Asquith’s kissing hands there with King Edward VII on his appointment as prime minister in 1908, and noted again that although only about fifty words long it contains two mistakes… Jacques Chaban-Delmas [French prime minister (1969-72)] to lunch. Chaban, although looking somewhat older than when I had seen him last, two years ago, seemed more vigorous and, although talking desultorily during lunch, was striking afterwards… He was indifferent to Giscard [the French president], but in favour of maintaining the prerogatives of a president of the Fifth Republic, and bitterly critical of Chirac, whom he thought the embodiment of all evil, for opposing him, a curious reversal of positions since Chirac supported Giscard in 1974… August 2000. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s press secretary, writes in his diary about his holiday in France: We had a house in Puyméras, a little village on the other side of Ventoux. We had an OK time, though there were too many party people around in one go—Neil and Glenys [Kinnock] at the bottom of the road, the Goulds [Philip Gould, new Labour polling advisor] in the village… We were all pretty much agreed by the end of the holiday that I felt I had to give my all and was asked to do too much and pick up too much of the slack. Neil could tell I wasn’t terribly happy and after ten days or so we sat down at the bar in the village… I said I felt as if I had to work round the clock to hold the show together. I asked if he thought there were any circumstances in which I could quit. He said no, because he worried it would fall apart. His view was that TB had to reassert a grip but it maybe meant understanding that GB and Peter M could not work together and one of them had to go.