Thursday, 19 July 2018

Leatrice: leaving Britain, entering marriage, living with an empty nest

Having only travelled out of Britain once in her life, and at three so she retained no memory of it in later life, my mother Leatrice set out to get to know the world better just as soon as the Second World War ended and peacetime made it possible.

It wasn’t easy at first. Her first trip, to Switzerland in 1947, was a shoestring affair, only made possible because accommodation was provided by a socialist youth organisation. But she loved it, right from her entry onto Swiss territory: she had breakfast in the restaurant at Basel station and was bowled over by the quantities of fresh-baked bread and, above all, the heaps of butter, an extraordinary luxury for someone from ration-bound Britain.

Clearly, she enjoyed the experience, because by 1948 she had gone a step further and moved out of the country altogether, to settle in Paris where she found a job with UNESCO. It was there, as I described last time, that she met the man who would become my father, attracted by her first glimpse of him in the form of a sighting of his silk socks.

But 1948 was also the year of a trip that she would remember as magical. She travelled to a UNESCO conference in Beirut, at a time when it was regarded as the Paris of the Mediterranean. It was a land of beaches and mountains, where skiers starting a run could look down towards swimmers in the sea, where history breathed everywhere and cultures coexisted, if not in harmony, at least without conflict.
Leatrice, third from left, in Beirut in 1948
She loved the visit. Throughout her life, she spoke in wonderment of the place, a wonderment tinged with horror at what Lebanon became later, as peace and pleasure gave way to blood and brutality.

1948 saw her launched into a series of adventures. The stay-at-home Englishwoman set out on a voyage of discovery. Or rather two, as her exploration of new countries was intertwined with her exploration of a new relationship, as she and my father got to know each other more intimately. For instance, t’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting than Capri and that’s where they went in 1949.
Leatrice in Capri (or nearby)
Their exploration of each other led in 1951 to their launching themselves into the 32-year long adventure of their marriage. That too was linked with travel: their wedding was in Genoa, as they travelled towards Rome where my father was taking up a post with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, another agency of the United Nations, like UNESCO.

That led to a further adventure, on that rather restricts other kinds: they launched into parenthood. Their ability to travel at will was hampered by my arrival in 1953 and my brother’s in 1956.

Still, we had good times. There were several summers in succession in Porto Ercole in Tuscany, now a major and fashionable seaside resort, then a small and isolated fishing village, with glorious beaches nearby – kilometre after kilometre of golden sand with barely a person on it.

We also travelled many times to England, later several times to France, and on one memorable occasion to what was then called Yugoslavia, not yet ravaged by secession and civil war. A memorable moment on a French trip came when we shot across the border into Spain, just for a day: Franco was still in power, at the head of the last Fascist regime in Europe, and we weren’t going to make an extended visit but, shamefacedly, felt we could get away with a day trip.
Day trip to Spain
Leatrice with my brother Nicky on the left
and me on the right
If my mother had a major disappointment in her life, it was being denied post-school education, partly because she belonged to a generation in which it was offered to few women, partly because she turned eighteen at a time when Britain was at its lowest point in the war.

Much later, she was able to fulfil her aspiration to study, but even while we were children, she hankered for an intellectual life. She belonged to a historical society in Rome. And when we went on holiday, usually camping, we seldom stopped anywhere for more than two or three days so that my brother and I could indulge our taste for swimming or playing on beaches, but would move on quickly to yet another town of historical significance and with wonderful churches.

‘Oh, no, not another church!’ became a bit of a refrain from the back seat of the car.

On the other hand, we were two of the laziest kids imaginable. For some reason, my father didn’t believe in making his sons help him, instead hoping that we would spontaneously volunteer to assist in pitching our tents. Never happened. We would sit, often in the car, reading (no computer games then) until he’d finished.

Honestly, I have no idea why he put up with it.

This life continued into the 1960s, when my father returned home one evening and announced that he had volunteered to join the United Nations special mission in the Congo. The country had sunk into civil war after independence from Belgium, and now the UN was putting in both military forces and civilian support to try to pacify the country and help it emerge onto a pathway to development.

As a married man, he was assigned to a nine-month posting (unmarried staff did eighteen). My mother never fully forgave him for taking it without even discussing it with her, but in his view it was his duty to step forward to the UN’s support when it was in its greatest need. As a result, she had to cope with two kids alone for nine months, and it was no easy task.

The posting would eventually lead to another major change. In 1966, after thirteen years under a boss who treated him with contempt, and with his career at a standstill, he could take no more of it. When the United Nations Development Programme, yet another UN agency, asked him to go back to the Congo as one of its staff, with a double promotion, my parents decided he should. In consultation with each other, this time.

At that point, they decided that our educational needs would be better served at a boarding school in England. Our lives under a single roof were about to end. From now on, my mother would be seeing her sons only in the school holidays. She’d be sharing an empty nest with our father for eight months of the year.

Another phase was starting. In a new country. On a new continent. And with a different home life.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

He says hard Brexit, you say soft Brexit, I say let's call the whole thing off

If the stakes weren’t quite so high, it would be quite amusing watching the speed with which the wheels are coming off the Brexit bus.

With hindsight, I suppose it should have been obvious that this would happen. After all, the Brexit side in the 2016 referendum wasn’t a homogeneous group – it was made up of people who were united only in their single, negative impulse of loathing the European Union. They were held together by no shared positive goal for what might come afterwards. 

In fact, their views were so disparate as to be mutually incompatible.

There were those who just wanted out at any cost, whatever the potential damage to the British economy – or who believed that the economy would do better outside the world’s biggest free-trade area than within it.

Then there were those who favoured something rather less hard. They felt Britain could give up some of the freedoms that leaving the EU would provide, in return for continuing to enjoy some of the benefits. That is the kind of compromise – or fudge if we’re less generous – that Theresa May has recently proposed.

Finally, there are those who wanted to leave the political organisation of the EU but stay, Norway-like, in the European Single Market and Customs Union.
May: mother of the fudge, to no one's taste
The trouble is that none of these options commands anything like a majority. Which is hardly surprising.

Only a few fundamentalist Brexiters believe a hard Brexit could possibly do anything but massive damage to the British economy.

The fudge satisfies no one. It eliminates the freedom Britain hopes to enjoy from Brexit, to make new trade deals around the world, as Britain would commit to abide by EU regulations – with no say in how they are made.

As for the Norway option, it would leave Britain – rather like Norway – a member of the EU in all but name but with no seat at the table.

None of these options would on its own have more support than the only really solid vote in the referendum – the powerful 48% vote for staying in the EU. Had all the real choices been on the ballot paper, the Remain vote would have beaten all the others and by a significant margin – it wouldn’t have had an absolute majority but it would certainly have enjoyed a good relative one.

That means we would have stayed in the EU and saved all the time and money wasted over the last two years, debating between approaches none of which has the support of the electorate or the agreement of the EU.

Theresa May has said that ‘under no circumstances’ would there be a second referendum. But voices are beginning to be raised in favour of holding a re-run vote. I can’t see how one can reasonably argue against one. After all, the electorate oppose all the actual forms Brexit might take, in practice, even those voters who like the idea of Brexit in principle.

This is like a group of friends in London who decide they’d like to spend the weekend in Manchester. However, they decide not to drive. The rule out taking a plane as too expensive. And they reject the idea of going by rail as some of them get travel sick on trains.

It’s clearly far too far to walk.

So, hey, why not just stay in London? They can then repair to the pub and have a good evening spending a fraction of what it would have cost to go to Manchester in the first place.

As we in Britain could do to. Why don’t we drop this whole painful Brexit business and go and spend some of the non-Brexit dividend having a party somewhere on the continent? Your choice. Prague? Rome? Stockholm? Madrid? Paris? Berlin?

After all, if we stay in the EU we could choose any one of them. And what fun that would be.

Friday, 13 July 2018

A neat circularity: saying farewell to my mother on her birthday

On Tuesday 5 June, my mother and I did something that had become a custom we both enjoyed. We went for lunch in her favourite Oxford restaurant.

She wasn’t well, but then she hadn’t been well or even pain-free for some decades. So I stopped outside the restaurant and helped her out of the car. But from there she walked to the door, her hand on my arm but nonetheless under her own power.

At lunch, we chatted about many things. The forthcoming visit of Donald Trump to the UK. The sad prospects of Brexit. A few questions of history – her lifelong fascination. I asked her about a biography of the Duke of Wellington I was about to read: she told me she rated the author and had enjoyed that particular biography.

There were occasional gaps. It is part of family lore that her father’s birthday wasn’t the day he was born. His parents, Russian Jewish immigrants unfamiliar with the process, hadn’t registered the birth on time and gave a later date. The tale she remembered, though she couldn’t recall either the actual or the official birthday. All in all, it was a pleasant moment. What I didn’t know was that it would be the last such conversation we would have and the last lunch we’d go out to together.

Some months ago my mother’s much-loved handbag had given up the ghost. That at least solved the issue of what we would buy her for next birthday on 11 July, her 94th. I had intended to bring pictures of the various bags from which she could choose to our lunch, but had forgotten. ‘Next time,’ I thought, not realising that there would be no next time.

Just two days later, we had a message from a friend to say that she seemed to be deteriorating badly and appeared confused. And on the Friday, another friend who’d been helping her for years, took her out for her last shopping trip – the last act of her semi-independent living. Our friend phoned after that excursion to tell us it was time to come over to see her.

Well, we didn’t go at once. It was perhaps difficult for us to grasp how unwell she was becoming. But later in the evening it became inescapable. She’d fallen and an ambulance was in attendance. The paramedics took her into hospital and we travelled over to see her in her ward.

Over the next few days, she seemed to make some improvement. She was sent to an intermediate care facility. We visited her there and took her out for a stroll around the garden in a wheelchair. She did indeed seem to be improving, with odd flashes of her sometimes fiery character from the past.

‘Residents aren’t allowed to eat their lunch in the garden,’ a care assistant told us.

‘What utter rubbish,’ my mother told us, in what was very much her style.
My mother on her last garden stroll
Enjoying the company of Toffee the toy poodle 
The improvement, though, was temporary. She was back in hospital within two days, and another attempt to send her back to the intermediate care facility lasted barely twenty-four hours. On the longest day of the year, she went back to hospital finally and definitively.

We saw her on a memorable Saturday with one of our sons and his fiancée. She was delighted, full of cordiality, smiling and wishing them well on their forthcoming marriage, though only in broken sentences and a tone barely above a whisper. The couple gave her an invitation to the wedding, though no one expected she’d attend, but the gesture seemed to please her too.

Two days later, my brother and I visited her and again her pleasure was clear.

Others came to see her. Old friends. Many members of the Oxford Jewish Community who’d taken her to their hearts and did all they could for her, including the friend who’d taken her on that last shopping trip.

But then finally she slipped into unconsciousness. My brother, who lives in Paris but spent a week in Oxford so that he could visit her regularly and we could go on holiday for a few days, had the first of the calls suggesting it was time to come in and say goodbye. I had two others after our return. Finally, my wife and I, came to stay in Oxford in our turn so we could spend more time with her.

Saying goodbye was by then little more than a figure of speech. I felt it was on the last two occasions we’d seen her, with our son and his fiancée or with my brother, that we’d said farewell. But something in there soldiered on – my mother had always been immensely strong within her ill health, and that strength kept her going.

Until the 11th of July, her 94th birthday. She’d brought her life round in full circle to her birthday. There was no handbag, sadly, but there was a quiet closure. As the evening drew in, she peacefully slipped away. She had been provided with astoundingly good, profoundly gentle, humane care, so that at her end she was painless for the first time for many years.

That was precisely as she would have wanted it.

If there was anything she dreaded, it was a terrible, slow decline in a nursing home, becoming an increasing burden on others. She was spared all that, with a final illness that lasted just over a month after her independent living ended. Far too short to be a burden, but long enough us to say our farewells.

There was a neatness to the way she went, and a circularity to her dying on her birthday which would, I suspect, have pleased her. I don’t know if she was conscious of it or did it deliberately, but it felt intentional.

It’s easy to imagine her laughing, to herself and with us, and saying ‘see – I knew how to make a good exit, didn’t I?’
When we first got to know each other.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Sometimes you just have to agree with the Tories

It surprises me how often I find myself agreeing with Conservatives on the hard Brexit wing of the party.

I should add that the agreement is partial and there are nuances of difference in why we hold similar views. Sometimes those nuances are even fairly significant. Agreement, nonetheless, there is.

First I agreed with a sentiment of Boris Johnson, in the letter of resignation he wrote to his then boss, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, when standing down as Foreign Secretary. He resigned in disgust over the compromise Brexit approach she was proposing to the European Union.

As I’ve already pointed out, I felt he was entirely right in warning that Britain was opting for colonial status. The nuance was that I saw that status arising not just as a result of May’s compromise, but as a necessary consequence of Brexit itself: Britain would either have to accept dictation of its trade regulations by the EU, in return for a trading deal with it, or by the US, in pursuit – possibly a vain pursuit – of a trade deal – certainly a far smaller one – with the Americans.
Never self-satisfied: Brexiter Tory MP Bernard Jenkin.
And I agree with his Brexit case. If not for the same reasons
Now Bernard Jenkin, hard line Tory Brexiter, has spoken out. He told the BBC:

We had a referendum and parliament handed this decision to the British people.

Whether Parliament had the right entirely to abrogate its own authority to take decisions over legislation in this way is a question over which there is more than one point of view, but it’s certainly true that on this occasion it did and the vote went for leaving the EU. By a narrow margin, of 52% to 48%, but a Brexit majority nonetheless.

Jenkin went on:

Were the House of Commons to find itself in a position where we weren’t accepting the referendum result, we were determined to dilute it so much that it’s unrecognisable as a vote to take back our self-government, it would be rather like saying, wouldn’t it, ‘oh well, at the next general election Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister but actually business don’t like him and the CBI don’t like him and the civil service don’t like him so we won’t have him as Prime Minister even though he’s been elected’.

You can’t do that in a democracy. The referendum result has got to be respected.

Again, there might be a quibble over whether the Brexit decision really was a vote for self-government. If Britain now has to take its regulations from either the EU or the US, with no say itself, that feels more like a loss of control, than taking back control.

That, however, is a side u. The real point is the excellent parallel Jenkin draws between the referendum and a general election.

And he’s absolutely right. We do have to accept an election result, like it or not. So far, we’re in complete agreement.

However, and this is the nuance which separates us on this issue, what Jenkin doesn’t say is that accepting the result of a general election is a completely provisional matter. Jenkin would accept that Corbyn had won an election, if he ever did, but he’d be working immediately and energetically to reverse that decision. He would know that another election could be called in which Corbyn might be voted out, and he would be doing everything in his power to make that election happen as soon as possible.

Which means that I agree with his parallel, but that to me seems like a cast-iron case for a further referendum. If the electorate voted Corbyn into office, he would feel voters had made a mistake and call for a new election to force him back out. Well, I believe the electorate made a mistake voting for Brexit and everything that has happened in the so-called negotiations so far proves that.

So let’s have another referendum and give voters the chance to put things right.

Don’t you agree, Bernard?

Monday, 9 July 2018

Colonial status

‘… we are truly headed for the status of colony - and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement.’

So wrote Boris Johnson in his letter of resignation as UK Foreign Secretary. He was talking about the compromise arrangement that Theresa May thought she had agreed with her Cabinet last Friday. At that time, the Cabinet included Johnson as well as David Davis, then Secretary for Exiting the European Union, who resigned a little before him. 

For both these ex-Ministers, the compromise simply conceded too much and meant that Brexit would no longer truly mean leaving the EU.

Boris Johnson. Recent ex-Foreign Secretary of the UK
It’s Johnson’s view that the compromise, if the EU adopts it, would involve the UK accepting most EU regulations, without having any say in making them.

He’s not wrong. The EU was never going to allow Britain to have access to its markets without a British commitment to respect its regulations. Indeed, the EU may not accept May’s compromise in any case. But it certainly won’t accept it if Britain refuses its regulations.

Why, then, did Theresa May go for the compromise? She realises, as still many do not. what damage it would do to the British economy to impair trade with the EU. Besides, what is the alternative? Leaving the EU without a trade deal – as still seems likely – will leave Britain chasing any deal it can get in a world a lot less forgiving than the environment of the EU.

At the top of the list of nations with which it would be trying to make up for its lost business would be the US. Not that the US can possibly replace all the trade lost with the EU, but the sheer size of its economy means that it can do far more than any other nation to make up the shortfall. But, and this really shouldn’t come as a surprise, the US too has its conditions.

For a trade deal, the US will demand that Britain applies American standards, in particular to food – allowing chlorine-washed chicken, for instance. In other words, Britain would have to accept regulations, just as it would from the EU, but in this case regulations in which it not only has no say going forward, but in which it has had no say in the past either. What’s more, many of those regulations – including the one about chlorine-washed chicken – are deeply unpopular in Britain. But they would have to be accepted.

In other words, Britain would have to put up with being regulated by foreign powers outside its control whether May’s compromise is agreed, or whether the country eventually has to accept a hard Brexit.

Boris is right. Britain is heading for the status of a colony. Where he’s wrong is in thinking that there’s an alternative. At least within the context of Brexit, colonial status is a given.

There is, all the same, an alternative. Britain could stay in the European Union. And go on playing a role in setting the regulations it has to obey. And that 27 other of its neighbours, within the same trading area, also have to accept.

But that was not what hard-Brexit Boris had in mind in his resignation letter.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

The NHS at 70. And my mother at nearly 94.

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday last week. And my mother is due to celebrate her 94th this coming week.

The two aren’t unrelated.

My mother is part of a diminishing band of people born before Britain had its National Health Service. Indeed, she played a peripheral role in its creation. She reached adulthood during the Second World War, and decided to throw her lot in with the Labour Party which, at the time, had never formed a government with a parliamentary majority.

It must have been a challenging time to be with Labour. Under the leadership of its first Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, the party had entered a coalition government with the Conservatives. That action was widely perceived as a betrayal. The punishment had been dramatic, rather as with the Liberal Democrats when they betrayed their voters in the same way nearly 80 years later: Labour had been reduced to a rump in parliament.

By the time my mother became involved, it had increased its number of MPs substantially, but still had only a third the force the Conservatives could muster. And it was back in coalition again. This time, however, that step was widely seen as a proof of statesmanship, since the country was at war. Indeed, the Labour leader Clement Attlee had played a significant role in making sure that the Conservatives would have to select Churchill, and not one of the appeasers of Hitler, to lead any government he would join.

My mother, as I mentioned recently, took a job as secretary to a Labour MP and the reformist Fabian Society. That too was was a challenge: in those pre-#MeToo days, young women were simply warned to be careful with some of their bosses, who were of course almost exclusively men. 

‘Careful, that one has wandering hands,’ they’d be told.

The onus would be on the women to avoid the hands, rather than on the men to withdraw them. It will probably come as no surprise that some of those who couldn’t control their urges had control of significant departments of state.

In her work, my mother wasn’t at the centre of power, but she was on the edges of that centre. She saw how Labour worked with the Conservatives towards victory in the war. And then she was actively involved in the campaign for victory in the peace. At the 1945 election Attlee’s Labour finally won a parliamentary majority, in a landslide victory over Churchill’s Conservatives.

It was that government which launched the NHS in 1948.

Health Minister Aneurin Bevan visiting a patient in Trafford, Manchester
on the first day of the NHS, 5 July 1948
Unfortunately, that’s not the only link between my mother and the health service. She has been occupying a bed in one of the great teaching hospitals of the NHS for two weeks now with no sign of her being discharged. She is unresponsive, spends most of her time asleep and, even when she does open her eyes, seems not to recognise any of us, relatives or friends, who come to visit her.

It was only three weeks ago that I had lunch with her for the last time, in her favourite Oxford restaurant. We both knew she was getting weaker, that she was spending an increasing proportion of her time asleep, that she was losing some of the acuteness of her conversation. But a real exchange was still possible: she and I talked about her favourite subject, history, and also about politics and the fact that Labour is again in a difficult state today.

Yet it was only days later that she started the precipitous decline that led to her present condition. Will she recover? Who knows. At the moment there’s little sign of it. My wife and I took our youngest son and his fiancée over to see her two weeks ago, and then she was alert enough to recognise us all and to wish the engaged couple well with their wedding, even though she was already having trouble finishing some of her sentences. I saw her again with my brother a few days later, and sentences seemed beyond her reach, though at least there was still recognition.

Today, that too has gone. I can’t help feeling that I’ve said goodbye to her already, in those earlier visits. Physically, she survives and continues to eat and drink a little, but my mother, the sharp, sometimes exasperating, but always intellectually bright woman I’ve known for 65 years, is already gone. Or at least away, with no certainty she’ll come back.

So I’m not sure whether she’ll see her 94th birthday. She may survive until it happens, but is it really a birthday if one isn’t conscious of it? All that kind of thing, I fear, is behind us.

The story is not without its more comforting side. She is in no pain. She is being looked after by a group of people, both physicians and nurses, who strike me as highly committed and professional but, above all, humane and focused on helping people. My mother has been in pain for many years; I’m glad to say that she seems now to be out of all pain and at peace.

For that I’m deeply grateful. And all the more so because at no point has anyone asked for any kind of payment for all this. The fundamental principle of the NHS, still one of the best-loved institutions in Britain, remains: as when the Attlee government founded it, the NHS prides itself on being free at the point of care. You need help? They provide it. And no one asks for a credit card first.

The great old NHS that my mother worked to make possible keeps doing what it does best: looking after patients as well and as kindly as it can. And today it’s doing it for her.
My mother in happier times with, I believe, my brother

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The fine British tradition of wishing Americans well on Independence Day

Best wishes to all my American friends, this fourth of July.

I say that with complete sincerity, even though I’m British, and the celebration is of American independence from Britain. In fact, by wishing them well on this day, I’m merely perpetuating a tradition fully rooted in Britain. It stretches back to the time of that breach, nearly two and a half centuries ago.

The names of many of the leaders of the American side in that struggle still resonate today. Men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton or Benjamin Franklin, though we draw a delicate veil over the inconvenient truth that the first two of those champions of liberty were slave owners, and the other two endorsed a constitution which allowed them to continue.

Their opposite numbers in Britain are far less well remembered. Maybe some retain a vague sense that there were two William Pitts, the elder and his son the younger, and even maybe that they both became Prime Minister. Some still recall the name of Edmund Burke, if only as the father of modern Conservatism. And there may even be those who remember the great wit and maverick, rival of the younger Pitt, Charles James Fox.
Pitt the Elder, Pitt the Younger, Charles James Fox, Edmund Burke
If I had to pick four figures who stand out as extraordinary from that period of British history, it would certainly be those. And they stand head and shoulders above those who prosecuted the war against the Americans, most notably King George III and his Prime Minister, Lord North.

What did those four have to say about British action against the colonists?

In 1775, even before the Declaration of Independence was issued, the elder Pitt, by then Earl of Chatham, by then already suffering from his final illness, came into the House of Lords to call for conciliation of the colonists:

We shall be forced ultimately to retract. Let us retract while we can, not when we must.

On 12 June 1781, his 22-year old son, by then a Member of Parliament himself, made his own heartfelt declaration about the conflict in America to the House of Commons:

It is a most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust and diabolical war… Where is the Englishman who on reading the narrative of those bloody and well-fought contests can refrain lamenting the loss of so much British blood shed in such a cause, or from weeping on whatever side victory might be declared?

The British blood whose loss he lamented was being shed on both sides – like most of his contemporaries, he saw this fight as pitting British subjects against British subjects.

Charles James Fox said something similar, speaking presciently to denounce Lord North’s behaviour towards the colonists in October 1775. He was:

the blundering pilot who had brought the nation into its present difficulties ... Lord Chatham, the King of Prussia, nay, Alexander the Great, never gained more in one campaign than the noble lord has lost—he has lost a whole continent.

In a pamphlet of April 1777, Edmund Burke was even blunter in his denunciation of British government policy:

When any community is subordinately connected with another, the great danger of the connection is the extreme pride and self-complacency of the superior, which in all matters of controversy will probably decide in its own favour…

They have been told that their dissent from violent measures is an encouragement to rebellion. Men of great presumption will hold a language which is contradicted by a whole course of history.
General rebellion and revolts of an whole people were never encouraged, now or at any time. They were always provoked.

The government had provoked the uprising against its rule. But it wasn’t an uprising against Britain, only against certain British leaders. Burke, Irish born and therefore aware of what oppression from London could feel like, knew what he was talking about and backed an opposition that would have hoped to do things differently had it been in office.

It was indeed the short government in which he held ministerial office that ultimately forced the King to recognise American independence.

It’s not the outlook of the men who waged a brutal and futile war in North America, but that of these outstanding figures, that I’d like to emulate.

And it’s in the spirit that I wish all my American friends a happy July the fourth.