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The five must-read posts from today, on the election date, Rod Liddle and Vince Cable

1. Bob Ainsworth doesn't reveal election decision

Over at Comment Central, Daniel Finkelstein says the Defence Secretary hasn't given away the date of the election; he was making an educated guess, like the rest of us. The only person who knows when the election will be is Gordon Brown.

2. The politics of evil

Hopi Sen argues that the problem with David Cameron's speech on the Edlington case was not the purpose, but the content. A speech that promised to answer some "pretty deep questions" turned out to be a laundry list of existing Tory policies.

3. Indie journos send coded messages to Rod Liddle

Liberal Conspiracy's Sunny Hundal suggests that a favourable article in the Independent on Mary Seacole, the celebrated black Victorian nurse, was intended to be a wind-up to Rod Liddle, potential Indie editor.

4. Tony Blair to receive £££ from Tory hedge fund

The FT's Westminster blog reports that Blair is to become a paid speaker on foreign policy for Lansdowne Partners. And it points out that Paul Ruddock, co-founder of this hedge fund, is a prominent Tory donor.

5. Cable sets out economic vision, but tax policy could be more "radical"

Vince Cable admits that the Lib Dems' tax cut plans aren't as redistributive as tax credits, reports Left Foot Forward.

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As the strangers approach the bed, I wonder if this could be a moment of great gentleness

I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do.

It’s 1.13am on an autumn morning some time towards the end of the 20th century and I’m awake in a vast hotel bed in a small town in the east of England. The mysterious east, with its horizons that seem to stretch further than they should be allowed to stretch by law. I can’t sleep. My asthma is bad and I’m wheezing. The clock I bought for £3 many years earlier ticks my life away with its long, slow music. The street light outside makes the room glow and shimmer.

I can hear footsteps coming down the corridor – some returning drunks, I guess, wrecked on the reef of a night on the town. I gaze at the ceiling, waiting for the footsteps to pass.

They don’t pass. They stop outside my door. I can hear whispering and suppressed laughter. My clock ticks. I hear a key card being presented, then withdrawn. The door opens slowly, creaking like a door on a Radio 4 play might. The whispering susurrates like leaves on a tree.

It’s an odd intrusion, this, as though somebody is clambering into your shirt, taking their time. A hotel room is your space, your personal kingdom. I’ve thrown my socks on the floor and my toothbrush is almost bald in the bathroom even though there’s a new one in my bag because I thought I would be alone in my intimacy.

Two figures enter. A man and a woman make their way towards the bed. In the half-dark, I can recognise the man as the one who checked me in earlier. He says, “It’s all right, there’s nobody in here,” and the woman laughs like he has just told her a joke.

This is a moment. I feel like I’m in a film. It’s not like being burgled because this isn’t my house and I’m sure they don’t mean me any harm. In fact, they mean each other the opposite.

Surely they can hear my clock dripping seconds? Surely they can hear me wheezing?

They approach, closer and closer, towards the bed. The room isn’t huge but it seems to be taking them ages to cross it. I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do. I should speak. I should say with authority, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” But I don’t.

I could just lie here, as still as a book, and let them get in. It could be a moment of great gentleness, a moment between strangers. I would be like a chubby, wheezing Yorkshire pillow between them. I could be a metaphor for something timeless and unspoken.

They get closer. The woman reaches her hand across the bed and she touches the man’s hand in a gesture of tenderness so fragile that it almost makes me sob.

I sit up and shout, “Bugger off!” and they turn and run, almost knocking my clock from the bedside table. The door crashes shut shakily and the room seems to reverberate.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge