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Front-line report

19 August 2016


IT WOULD have made a splendid TV comedy programme — except that it was real life, with real consequences. The almost unbelievable events of the referendum campaign and its aftermath contradicted the idea that politics is boring. Passion, fury, and downright lies filled our screens; and, in the end, like a Shakespearean tragedy, the empty stage was littered with bodies, with merely the hint of rescue later from somewhere in the wings.

It was heady stuff while it lasted, and, through it all, like a one-woman Greek chorus, was the BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, interpreting the drama.

In Brexit: The battle for Britain (BBC2, Monday of last week) she surveyed the whole bizarre story. She had been the epitome of the BBC’s commitment to impartiality, and yet a raised eyebrow or a politely barbed question had helped to make sense of the most outrageous month in British politics that I can remember.

As she leant forward, quietly probing, we began to see how honourable men and women became so wedded to a cause that they lost hold of the moral inhibitors that we expect of those in high office. Backs were stabbed; lifelong loyalties were abandoned; truth was twisted.

We were offered yet another Greek chorus: the voters. They provided an oddly moving commentary on the whole incredible story. Their views, often in accents we seldom hear on television, were angry and frustrat­ed. Posh boys at Westminster — indeed, all of England south of Watford, one man said — were responsible for the whole sorry mess.

Those who watched this pro­gramme will remember it for a long time, although probably not as long as we shall live with the consequences of that month.

One of the questions priests are regularly asked about heaven is “Will I have my cat there?” Some­times it’s “dog”, or “pony”. The British people’s abiding love of their pets is well known; so it is not surprising that our television feeds the fascination. At the moment, the most popular offering is The Supervet: Bionic specials (Channel 4, Thursdays), which has just started another series.

It features the remarkable skills of the veterinary surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick. No animal problem seems too hard, no incapacity so complicated that, with the help of a brilliant surgical team and the most advanced bionic techniques, it cannot be solved.

Last week, it was a terrier in need of a rebuilt elbow, and Molly, a delightful King Charles spaniel who had a cancerous tumour under her skull. Not only would it be difficult and risky to remove, but it would require a bone tran­splant to repair her skull. Molly’s owners were not sure. Supervet said: “If you don’t do it, what you will ultimately have is a dead dog.” That clinched it. Specialists created a made-to-measure replacement skull-part, and, lo and behold, Molly lives.

Our dog is a King Charles spaniel, and I love her dearly, but the thought did flicker through my mind that no one said what all this cost, or what the NHS or the British Red Cross could do with that sort of money to meet des­perate human needs.


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