A Change of Government is as good a time as any other for a national stocktaking-especially when, as now, the change takes place after 13 years of leadership by one party. The new Ministers are busy learning the facts of life which for all that time they have been ignoring in opposition. After a preliminary bout of Paradise Lost, Book One, the fallen Ministers are stiffly climbing out of the strait jackets imposed by collective responsibility and beginning to air personal opinions, so far as they can do so without breaking their Privy Councillor's oath.
In the meantime Britannia, that exquisite Queen Anne figure, still rules the waves on one side of our pennies-serene, confident, aloof and utterly alone. About two years ago, Time guyed this masterpiece, portraying the new Britain as a bothered and painted matron with a middle-aged spread, clearly worried about her housekeeping, unable to employ domestic staff and harassed by her grown-up children. A witty and unkind but penetrating criticism of our present situation.
It is possible, however, and even tempting, to overstate the contrast between pre-1914 Britannia and the perplexed Mrs. Britain of the 'sixties, proud of her past but eager to keep up with the present.
Our gold currency is paper. Our empire is no more. No more are we the leading-in some continental markets almost the only-industrial nation. The two-power navy which sailed to Jutland belching smoke from her coal-or, latest innovation, oil-fired boiler rooms-is as remote as the fleets of Nelson or of Drake, one, in under half a century, "with Nineveh and Tyre." Our aristocratic class system is a memory, the middle class basemented, and now flat-converted houses of Belgravia and South Kensington its only visible memorial, apart from a few noble families perched precariously on the bachelor wings of stately castles which, open to the public, remain stuffed with the hoarded treasures of the past.
On second thoughts, the lack of continuity is less convincing, as de Gaulle reminded us in the
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