It is difficult not to be depressed as I write this during the heatwave. I would in fact enjoy the hot weather if it were not the sign of significant climate change and, worse, there are other reasons to be depressed.
Chief among them is the Tory party leadership ‘contest’. I do realise that this bad bunch – now whittled down to three – are playing to the narrowest of audiences, but if they are aware that the mean-minded tax-cutting self-interested presentations they are making is what their members want, then why the hell do they not join another party? Are they not interested in expressing views on any of the big issues of the day, whether it is the education system, housing, welfare or even defence beyond trite comments about Ukraine.
Moreover, what makes the whole ghastly process worse is that they are all so bad at it. Gosh one prays for a joke, a quick riposte, a smile, a mischievous wink – anything but their callow earnestness that would not enliven a 6th form debating society.
Then there is the state of the railways. I have just attended the launch of Rail Partners, which is taking up much of the role of the little mourned Rail Delivery Group and it made me realise that all the effort to create Great British Railways has nothing to do with the notion that railways should provide a better service for the public. Perish the thought. The more this process unfolds, the clearer it is that it is ideology and the obsession with private sector involvement that is determining the new structure of the railways. The whole thing is being set up to fail because, at the end of the day, all the politicians care about it is cutting subsidy and making sure their friends in the private sector can take a big bite out of cherry.
But at least on a personal basis there is one aspect of cheer. I have started writing my book on the role of the railways after the Normandy landings and all the research I have done suggest that it will fulfil my hopes in being one of the most interesting stories I have told. How these giants who built bridges in days, braved air attacks as they rebuilt railway lines and devised all sorts of clever techniques to put back broken lines compare with the spineless MPs who left Boris Johnson in power for a year or more longer than he ought to be. It is not surprising that this generation produced Prime Ministers of quality such as Atlee, Churchill, Macmillan and even Wilson – all substantial if flawed figures. As I write, I suspect Liz Truss, a human being devoid of any discernible attributes for the job, is probably heading for number 10. I know that for Labour it might be a positive to have such a clearly unfit candidate for office, but in terms of the bigger picture, for the good of the country and its people, I can only suggest that this is shameful and disastrous.
Signed copies of my new book on British Rail are still available for £25 plus £3 by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org