Rory's week

Just £10 a month will enable a Lib Dem MP to spruce up his London flat with a few window boxes and a

It's already had reams written about it: the tension, the drama, the twists and turns, the not knowing which way it's going to go; the emergence of a new hero or the exposure of a flaw in an old one; the sudden focus of a nation's attention as eager viewers dare to wonder if years of humiliating defeat are about to end. Yes, that Tory leadership contest sure is riveting.

Back at the Ashes, the end, when it came, was anti-climactic: confusion about the light no substitute for the thrill of seeing the winning runs scored or the last wicket fall. I can't imagine Brian Johnston saying: "The umpires are reaching for their light meters . . . What's the reading? 2.8? 2.7? That's it! That's the Ashes!"

Instead, my mind goes back over that final afternoon's play to pinpoint the moment when an England victory was assured. With the Australians, even when defeat was inevitable, you still felt that, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Peter Mandelson throughout his career, the corpse would come back to life in a further dramatic, death-defying twist.

So what turned it? Was it Kevin Pietersen's outrageous cross-bat smash, despatching another 90mph Brett Lee delivery to the boundary? Was it Shane Warne's dropped catch? I wonder if the end of civilisation will come like this: not with a bang, but with a whimper. I feel certain that whenever historians come to search for the precise moment when our demise became inevitable, Celebrity Love Island will feature prominently.

I was unable to get to the Oval for the last Test, unlike last year, when England beat the West Indies. One of the other guests (predictably enough) was John Major, who had spent the morning wondering, among other things, who "jamodu" was, and why she/he/they had their logo painted on the pitch in garish red and white lettering. It was politely pointed out to him that because he was looking at the far end of the pitch, the name of the sponsor - npower - was appearing upside down. I'll be interested to see how the current Prime Minister responds to the England victory: "As a lifelong cricket fan, I still can't help feeling it's a bit unfair that there's only two people on one side facing eleven on the other . . ."

One of the mildly depressing things about writing a mildly satirical programme is when, in the course of researching a sketch, you find your worst suspicions confirmed. This being the week of the DSEi (Europe's largest arms fair), it was particularly galling to learn that it is only opposition from the US that is preventing Britain joining France and Germany in getting the EU embargo on arms to China lifted, and not ethical considerations. China didn't help itself by deciding to authorise force in the event of Taiwan declaring independence. Meanwhile, arms supplies to India - Blair's other port of call - continue. Our government, being nothing if not scrupulously fair (well, fair, anyway), feels duty-bound to arm Pakistan because it arms India. Having shipped £78m worth of arms to India in 2003, it has increased numbers of individual licences for arms exports to Pakistan almost threefold in the past three years. And Britain's arms sales to Africa reached £1bn in 2004, quadrupling in four years. So much for ethical foreign policy. Robin Cook must be spinning in his grave.

Spare a thought for those poor folk, starved of power, forced to live out their pitiful existence on a meagre diet of by-election victories and empty promises of proportional representation. Help the Liberal Democrats. Just £10 a month will provide enough for a Lib Dem MP to spruce up his London flat with a few window boxes and a pot plant for the spare bedroom. In return, you will receive a letter twice a year telling you what your MP is up to, how he has voted and where to buy a decent pint in Shropshire, with a badge, two complimentary tickets to a Dorset steam rally, and a quick and simple recipe for date-and-walnut cake.

Straight after the general election, from which he emerged with 62 seats, an increased share of the vote and a baby, Charles Kennedy dismissed suggestions that he should rethink his approach, declaring that the standing Lib Dem policies would serve the party well in the longer term. Three days later, he promised a review of every policy and said the party should adopt a "clean-sheet" approach. Don't say the Lib Dems don't offer you a choice.

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