A day in the life of an observer: I was walking to my station as I do most nights I’m in London. The shops were packed, and a general bonhomie was much in evidence. I used the toilet in a crowded pub and cut my way through the loud talking and carried on my walking. I could not see or hear of any evidence that a new prime minister had been elected. All I saw was bulging bags of clothing bought in expensive shops, people queueing up to get into restaurants.
Something, though, was not happening. It was always thus, it seemed. It was crazy, when I had just left Parliament and all the talk was about a new boy on the block. A knight in shining armour had descended to keep the show on the road. And here he was ignored by the after-work workers freed from their computers and selling jobs, from their email sendings – or whatever passes for work these days. The knight was also ignored by the West End purchasers, who in their hundreds nearly bumped into each other, phone watching, as they carried their bags of Asiatic-made clobber.
What a palaver, I felt, as I made my way across the West End to my station to get my country train. But where was the big fear of the impending inflation-inspired collapse of prosperity that has been the subject of tortuous hours of TV and page after page of papers, with feverish expert media conversation?
It was as if the now-free London Evening Standard was having to be the conscience of the London-using people, reminding all of the dire circumstances that we are passing through. Likewise the daily papers and the radio and the TV top-ups.
The media frenzy, the impassioned call for fear. And among it all thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of milling and mulling people passing through some vast world of consuming. It was such a contrast between the fun of a large city engaged in trading dreams and distractions and my own earlier conversations with political doomsayers: for once I had to accept the veracity of what they were saying. For we are in a pickle. People are suffering. Hunger stalks the land. But the commerce of joy goes on.
One conversation I had before I left Parliament was with an ex-Tory minister who, surprisingly, said that what is in evidence now, the energy companies feasting etc, showed that selfishness is winning out. And a strong Labour victory would sober the blighters up; for they deserve a good drubbing. I made my train and disappeared into the hinterlands. What could you make of the seeming indifference amongst many who just wanted to drink socially or purchase gear for their personal adornment?