- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

LONDON — Yes, I have flown off to London. After Washington’s rainiest spring in memory followed by summer heat, I could say I have fled to London for the exquisite climate. It is sunny here, dry and graced by a cool breeze. Yet it is not that the weather in London is more pleasant than the weather in Washington. I flew over for a wedding, and after the wedding I shall fly on to Spain. In both places I shall espy what the locals are up to.

Here the news is sobering. This week the British military suffered its worst casualties in Iraq since arriving. All the newspapers’ lead stories are about the six British military policemen killed and the eight soldiers injured in two attacks on Tuesday. The tone is grim, but there is no sign of panic. The conservative papers call for discovering the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and his sons, arguing that only by assuring the Iraqis the tyrant is impotent can coalition forces expect the Iraqis to cooperate in establishing civic order and government. The left offers no suggestions, just more whining and fond hopes. Says the Guardian with its usual huffy affirmation, “What is needed is a coherent plan to hand back Iraq to the Iraqis rather than the limping measures taken so far.” Here, here for a coherent plan. But you can be sure that if the “coherent plan” issues from Washington, the Guardian will see only “limping measures.” Yet once we have the sobering reports from Iraq behind us, the London news is more amusing. The media reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being given a “czarist” welcome by the queen, as well he should. His four-day visit to London is the first state visit by a Russian since Czar Alexander II in 1874. Mrs. Putin arrived in a dress dowdier than anything worn by a British monarch since Queen Victoria. And the similarities do not end there. President Putin arrived 15 minutes late for his state visit with the queen. Czar Alexander arrived much later in 1874, his imperial yacht Derjava having run aground off the British coast, thus causing him to miss the tide and arrive at his state dinner hours after the gaudy affair commenced.

The British government has fortified Mr. Putin’s security in light of an embarrassing event that immediately preceded his arrival. A gate crasher, comedian Aaron Barschak, eluded security at Prince William’s 21st birthday and rushed up to kiss the prince on both cheeks. Worse, the gate crasher was not attired in a conservative British suit but in the unmistakable rags of an Osama bin Laden. Members of Parliament are demanding an explanation from the police for the security breach, and the Labor-dominated body is engaged in other more traditional left-wing deliberations as well. Two parliamentary committees have denounced spanking. The committees, both heavily left-wing Laborite, made it clear their opposition to spanking refers to parents spanking their children. The committee members, being Laborite, presumably have nothing against spanking between consenting adults and might even encourage it.

London this week offers other amusing stories. There is the report in the Daily Telegraph that Andrew Stapley, a chemical engineer at Loughborough University has created a scientific recipe for the “perfect cup of tea.” The story appears next to a picture of one of Britain’s most famous tea drinkers, left-wing politician Tony Benn, who, says the Telegraph, “drinks a pint of tea an hour.” He is silhouetted holding his tea cup and puffing on a pipe, a dispensation allowed a lefty who has stood for every lunatic-left proposal since Karl Marx adopted the Nazarene’s miracle of the loaves and fishes as sound economic policy for the state.

That story was not reported as a scientific story despite Dr. Stapley’s scientific findings, but the story of the smelly socks was. Yes, the Telegraph’s science editor reports “smelly socks could one day be just a nasty memory thanks to nanotechnology.” Apparently a scientist in South Korea has developed a fiber that kills bacteria and thus is a promising “weapon against malodorous feet.” The British press is famous for stories like that, and when I read it I had a good laugh. Yet I would not think the smelly foot problem was that great in London. Everywhere I go there seems to be soap.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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