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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 96 - Stop Teflon Tone's rollercoaster, I want to get off

I HAVE to admire our Prime Minister who, in his indestructibility, has proved a combination of the Victorian boys’ comic character, Spring-heeled Jack, James Bond and the great escapologist, Houdini. No matter how much danger he is in of losing high office, ethical credibility, the moral high ground and the chance of VIP holiday freebies, with one bound he is free of blame, as pure as Snow White and with a grin that could either represent triumphant innocence or suggest - wrongly, of course - a banker who has just found a foolproof embezzlement scheme.

Give Teflon Tone his due, he is not boring. His period in office has been like a trip on a roller-coaster, full of cabinet intrigues and counter-conspiracies, clashes of will with our revered iron Chancellor, dossiers, dodgy or otherwise, war and regime change, not to mention - but I will - Cherie’s house-purchasing adventures and shopping for second-hand goods on the internet.

It has all been for this reeling realm altogether too stressful. What this country needs, in my breathless submission, is a period of restful boredom, its placid and prosperous affairs guided by a prime minister, perhaps like Sir Anthony Eden, who, although he gave us the Suez episode, was said to be not only boring in himself but that he bored for Britain.

I was never socially introduced to him but, at a Conservative rally in Edinburgh in the 1950s, he graciously ignored me at the press benches as he made his way to address the big blue battalions.

I ADMIRED him, not only because of his sartorial elegance - "the best advertisement the Fifty Shilling Tailors ever had," according to Labour luminary Michael Foot, almost always dressed as the last loser in a sack-race - but also because his speeches were often masterpieces of the mundane, carefully crafted with clichés and honed to banal perfection with a plethora of platitudes delivered in the over-ingratiating manner of an ex-public schoolboy trying to sell encyclopaedias at the front door.

True, he effortlessly created a yawning gulf between himself and the reeling realm, but he was still regarded by the British, always suspicious of brilliance in politics, with some affection as a man not too clever by half. Of other prime ministers, Clement Attlee was, in conversation, terse and stilted and on the cusp of being boring, and was once described as sitting "hunched and looking like an elf just out of its chrysalis".

Stanley Baldwin, who, it is said, decided to make politics dull and succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations, was nevertheless described as being "half Machiavelli, half Milton", while Neville Chamberlain, who led Britain reluctantly into war, had a flat, not to say, boring speaking style, described by Aneurin Bevan as "like a visit to Woolworth’s - everything in its place and nothing over sixpence".

IN ANY case, I admire skilled and irrepressible bores. To be expertly bored is, in my grateful view, a mind-calming escape from reality, the verbal equivalent of aromatherapy, hypnosis or tranquillisers.

In my good-listening life, I have had the privilege of been talked at by grandmasters of the craft who probably operate under the rules of the Board of Boredom Control, people whose words, like the mills of God, grind slowly and, of course, surely, and others who sweep interruptions aside like matchsticks swirled in rain-swept gutters.

I believe that Britain’s boring potential is underused in this high-powered, hyper-tense world and that National Health Service clinics, staffed by experts in boring skills, could soothe stressed patients into restful, word-induced slumbers from which they would emerge with a new zest to face constant nerve-wracking challenges at work, rest and play.

Pardon my approving yawn while I recall that British and American sociologists, leading a backlash against excitement, launched several years ago a learned periodical called the Journal of Mundane Behaviour. Devoted to extolling the ordinary and playing down the extreme, the journal has included articles that examined banal and tedious conduct on a global scale. One, on shaving, explored how "masculinity as a gender construct and a politicised tool of identity formation is presented through facial hair".

Marvellous. A new boring day may be dawning to soothe this frenetic and fearful planet. The humdrums are beating out yawnder. Ennui go - to another Eden perhaps.

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