In Competition No. 3209, you were invited to provide Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of a Tory MP.
Inspiration for this challenge came from a parody of Jaques’s monologue from As You Like It by the writer and politician — and Shakespearean scholar — Horace Twiss (1787–1849). The closing lines of his ‘The Patriot’s Progress’
…Scene the last,
That ends this comfortable history,
Is a fat pension and a pompous peerage,
With cash, with coronet — with all but conscience.
found a strong echo in this week’s entry, whose tone was mostly, if not unanimously, scathing. The winners earn £25 each and an honourable mention goes to Fiona Clark.
All infants age and err, and err did she
When, as a chaplain’s daughter, chaste and pure,
In golden wheat fields she succumbed to sin
And, running through them, roused farmer’s wrath.
This darling bud of May in schoolchild days
Soon blossomed as a flower that bloomed aloft
And did to Oxford’s dreaming spires ascend
Where, as a lover, lured by learning’s lore,
Then later, as a soldier of the Right
And worthy justice for the fairer sex,
She winged her way from work to Parliament
Where, rising through the ranks of lesser men,
She won the Premier’s crown and right to rule.
But now this ageing, erstwhile dancing queen
Did stumble on the stage towards decline
And, as the curtain fell, so felled was she!
All the world’s a hi-vis photo op
And all the MPs photo opportunists.
They have their Brexits and their mistresses
And one man in his time pays many tarts.
Enter the baby, silver-spooned, fork-tongued,
His other face towards his mother’s breast;
And then the schoolboy: Floreat Etona!
He’s eaten by ambition, flourishing
On myths and Metamorphoses and plots.
Then Magdalen, Balliol, King’s, Gonville and Caius?
A double first in not answering questions,
In Politics, Philandering, Evasion,
And then the lover, then the husband, then the lover,
All perfect prep for Parliament and power:
Two-faced, two wives, sans truth, sans trust, sans sense,
Sans moral compass — yea! — sans everything.
Bawling from the backwoods crawls the babe,
Bellowing for Jacobites and kings and hymns
And thus begins this Tory story; slight
And neophyte, he serves the Head Boy, Pitt
And damns the French. The state conserved,
He sets out on his wooden bench to win the world
As Disraeli woos his Empress, and must then
Fortress it, gallant member or old fire-watcher,
He shrugs, then lugs and shoulders Churchill
Into history. Tempered blade now, deployed behind
A mighty battle-axe, he fades and fails and serves
The not-so-nasty party for its twenty years of grey.
At last, a second infancy intrudes:
He postures, pouts and spouts progressive platitudes
No climb of seven steps, but like the tides,
From Jacobite to Jacobin, he rises and subsides
Born for the most part into privilege,
Weaned in a world of warmth and tutelage,
Whence to appropriate establishments
Further to foster such accomplishments
Requisite for success in governance.
Third, confidence, aplomb; insouciance,
Hail-fellow camaraderie, bluff kinship
Engendered by old school tie, gymkhana, gymslip.
Fourth, a career not difficult to handle
(Barring the inconvenience of scandal.)
Fifthly, a firm, unquenchable ambition
To trammel, trounce, traduce the opposition.
Sixth comes the lightbulb moment, an awareness
That public life’s no bedfellow to fairness.
For peerless service, seventh, the reward:
Discredited, despised? Nay, worse: ignored.
At first the New Boy in the care of Whips,
With maiden speech half ass-lick and half preen,
Then the Do-Gooder, a fresh Cause every month,
Declaring war on badgers, potholes, yobs.
Next, Sponsor of Doomed Bills, old Bagehot at his side,
Devising documents of clauses dense as thickets
To small avail. Comes Fourth Age: Committee Man,
Earnest on any subject if a junket’s on the cards.
Next, Minister — nowhere major, Fish & Ag,
To test him, find him wanting, throw him back.
Where Sixth Age, Rent-a-Quote, he finds his métier,
His soundbites chewed before his front room flag
And, lastly comes The Character, his Seventh Age,
All motley weskit and filibusterous chunter
Burbled out before this Covid-emptied House;
Sans Whip, sans relevance, sans sense — sans everything.
Even when young, he knows his destiny,
So studies some strange thing called PPE.
To Central Office next and then a Spad;
Advising ministers? He’s just a lad.
In his advance, a safe seat’s surely his;
He’s neither been there nor knows where it is.
A minister, he’s now a rising star;
His aim? Be interviewed by Andrew Marr.
Alas, adultery is the next stage,
‘Affair with aide’ all over the front page.
Sixth is the statesman, speaking sense at last;
How sad that people think his days are passed.
Then, once he’s dead, the last of his awards:
He’s elevated to the House of Lords.
No. 3212: trip adviser
You are invited to supply a spiel that a well-known character from the field of fact or fiction (please specify) might give in their capacity as a tourist guide to a capital city or notable monument. Please email entries of up 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 11 August.
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