Anthony Daniels has said he likes living in foreign countries. He has lived in several of them. For one thing, a foreign country’s problems are not your own problems — your own country’s. You can view them with a certain detachment. It may be too bad that Italy has gone childless, let’s say. But what really churns your gut is the barbarisation of Birmingham.
Do you know the definition of minor surgery? Surgery someone else is having.
I don’t live in Britain, but I have become addicted to the British press. I turn to it for information and amusement, yes. But also for something like comfort. As an American political journalist, I am enmeshed in my own country’s problems, and long have been. Sometimes these problems are bitter in one’s mouth. My cousins, the British, provide relief.
For someone who lives in New York, I probably know far too much about the “pasty tax”. I also have a pretty firm grasp on the socio-political meaning of “kitchen suppers”, the kind evidently shared by Dave and his donors.
Yes, Dave: I’m on first-name terms with many British politicians, not only the Prime Minister, but also the London mayoral candidates, Ken and Boris. By now, I’m apt to think of Dave’s two immediate predecessors as Gordon and Tony. It is not natural for me to refer to any American politician by his first name, except maybe for Newt and Mitt. (Such distinctive, clipped names.)
Which Miliband is which, I have not quite memorised. Yet I sort of thrill to the Shakespearean nature of brother political rivals.
Everyone says that the British press is a lot more entertaining than the American, and everyone is right. A recent Telegraph headline included the phrase “a knee in the nuts”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in these United States. (The phrase, I mean, not the act.)
I realise that George Galloway is a menace or worse. But it’s easy to laugh at him from 3,500 miles away. In the same way, some Brits may find it easy to laugh at our Al Sharpton, who makes sure to keep our terrible racial pot boiling.
When I need a break away, I think, “What has Lord Tebbit said lately?” Quite possibly, I know more about Toby Young’s kids than I do about my own nieces and nephews. Recently, Daniel Hannan said that Tony Abbott, leader of the Australian opposition, is his “favourite English-speaking politician”. Mine is Michael Gove, the Leader of the West.
I swear I feel better with every gallop of Charles Moore’s horse. I also know about Rebekah — another first name! — and her retired Met horse, ridden by Dave. The least important thing about Britain is that it makes my life happier. And yet, it does.