Great hacks of our time (4): Alan Watkins

We are fortunate to still have Alan Watkins in the commentariat. He is a living link, like the coelacanth,  to the dinosaurs of our political past. Although he has a slight tendency to lionise big name flops like Roy Jenkins, his historical perspective is always illuminating, and highly entertaining.

Possibly a rather old photo

Today’s column on the nature of hung parliaments is a classic case in point. Like Samuel Pepys, whom he dextrously imitates from time to time, he has an engagingly  formal (” Mr Tony Blair”) or descriptive (“the ageing roué Bob Boothby”) style. He is an antidote to the now all-pervasive 24 hour news stream, with a calming literary manner that reliably stands back from the action and delivers the events of the day in their true context.

His memoir A Short Walk Down Fleet Street is good, but doesn’t really match the precise pleasures of his newspaper columns. To finish with a recent quote:

“.. In the last few weeks a consensus has been building up. It is to the effect that Mr David Cameron is not sure of winning the general election. The Tories are – to a certain extent, always have been – obsessed by John Major’s victory on the soapbox. The worry is not that he won but that they might lose.

The worries have been multiplied in the last month. There have been a couple of unsure performances at Prime Minster’s Questions. At all events, sapient observers pronounced immediately afterwards that the performances had been unsure. From my seat before the television set, I was less definite in my opinions. To me Gordon Brown was always the same boastful, charmless, bullying, even menacing self…”

Definitely a sapient observer.


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