It says very little for David Cameron that he has been upstaged, well and truly, by Joanna Lumley, whose fight for Gurkha rights is, you would have thought, such an obvious winner that any sensible politician would have espoused it a long time ago and made mincemeat of the government over it (to be fair, Nick Clegg did). There are some things in this country that you don’t take on, and two of them are the Gurkhas and Joanna Lumley. Both are regarded, for rather different reasons, as national treasures. Both are from the Indian sub-continent, but Lumley has been fighting for the country since 1857, and the Gurkhas only since 1946. Or is it the other way round?
Lumley is one of those figures whose polite and brainy attitude, and startlingly youthful appearance, seem to have been around for ever. But before her parody, Patsy, of an over-the-hill model, in Absolutely Fabulous, few people would have been able to name the source of her stardom. She was the fourth and final Avengers girl (but as part of a pair of supporting performers, unlike her predecessors), and she was also Elaine Perkins, Ken Barlow’s eighteenth (or so) girlfriend (a librarian) in Coronation Street. She turned him down, so she was an early trend-setter in that respect. But her voice is really her making – I have no idea how many adverts she has voiced, but it feels like a lot (unless, as may be the case, she is being imitated by others – the voice, when I have the sound on, that says ‘Goodbye’ to me when I switch off AOL, sounds like her).
There are only so many things you can bodge up in Britain. Most of the time, you can keep on the right side of the electorate. Keep Joanna Lumley sweet. Look after the Gurkhas. Do not under any circumstances close a post office. Do not allow the time of the News to be moved too often. Look after The Archers and Coronation Street. Make sure that the FA Cup Final takes place, and that someone at least half-British very nearly wins Wimbledon. Ensure that there is a takeaway food shop open at most hours.Ensure that eggs are generally available, and ditto milk. Make as if it is the fifties, only without the racism. And do not raise any hopes unnecessarily about the British weather, because there is something about the British character that likes to mope outside in September and refer to ‘an Indian summer’. Allow people to complain about Tesco before they pack its aisles. And lay on plenty of tea or coffee. And accept that we are the Cliffs of this world and will never be Elvis.
That is how you will win the election, Mr. Brown.
It’s a bit more complicated that that, actually, but making trouble for the Gurkhas and Joanna Lumley at one swoop, fell or otherwise, is a bit careless.