Timeless solidity in a world of change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 1997, 12:00am

At this time of great change, of departure for the old sovereign power, let us reflect in this brief look at Britain, upon the timeless solidity it represents, of a country where sometimes everything seems up in the air but really not a great deal moves on at all.

As Hong Kong strides forward, or is it backward, may I offer this brief snapshot of events this week which may prove the point that in Britain at least some things never change.

Take for instance politics. You didn't really expect the new lot to be any cleaner than the previous ones did you? This week saw what may be the first serious allegations about a Labour MP nastily on the make, up to his neck in links to the Serbian regime, accepting dubious 'consultancy fees'.

There are rumours of another scandal about to surface involving a Labour MP and dodgy property development schemes.

Then there is a deepening row over whether or not a cabinet minister threatened to have an MP expelled from the party for defying the government line on government for Wales. Tony Blair says one thing, the MP says another. Labour's honeymoon may be over.

Then there are the Tories. Yes, there is youthful William Hague running the show - but he has brought back a raft of people who have hung their heads in shame over the past decade or so over one scandal or another.

Lord Parkinson is back as party chairman, after he resigned from the same post in the 1980s after getting his secretary pregnant.

One shadow minister, Patrick Nicholls, resigned from Tory posts in the past not once but twice - first for drink driving, the second time for offensive remarks against Germans. Other examples are available on request.

And is Britain now rid of its old inefficiencies? Of course not. Government auditors demonstrated that the Ministry of Defence was paying GBP73.50 (about HK$948) to process an order for a 98 pence brass padlock.

Then we have that old chestnut - the big debate over the grand project.

Was there a huge controversy over the new Hong Kong Convention Centre? Hardly. But Britain is arguing over the Millennium Dome to be built in Greenwich. Finally after months, if not years, of debate, Mr Blair has given the GBP580 million project the go ahead.

The argument still rages over who will ever visit the place - and to cap it all the woman who will run the project will receive a GBP500,000 salary. Wasn't it Labour who were the first to complain about fat cat pay packages? Princess Diana is in trouble too - no change there. She was criticised for taking her sons to a film about the IRA which they were too young to legally see. Then she was at the centre of a storm over plans to join a House of Commons meeting over banning landmines.

To top that some lusty lord in the United States touched her buttocks as he guided her through Christies. We've heard that one before as well.

There was the traditional anti-immigrant story, another regular - this time about a Jamaican who arrived illegally in Britain complete with criminal record and managed to get a job with the Metropolitan Police as a constable for two years.

Add to that summer time fun at Sir David Frost's annual party. The famous bon viveur and womanising MP Alan Clark made a prat of himself crashing his Bentley into the Mercedes of his host.

To make it worse it has rained every day this week, Wimbledon is washed out, the cricket is off and the water companies still warn of a drought.

It's nice to see some constancy in life isn't it?