London Notes

Feb. 11 2002 2:34 PM

London Notes

Not enough trouble.

Not Trouble Enough
"Disobedience is my joy," Princess Margaret once said; and as most of the obituaries point out, she was often very naughty. The Sunday People's Nicholas Davies said she "craved danger and excitement and danger … she found them all in drink, cigs, and sex, sex, sex." "She was a princess who swung," writes novelist Tony Parsons in today's Daily Mirror, "a royal rat pack of one, the dry run for Diana." But Princess Margaret's sense of joy wasn't admired by everyone. In a letter written in May 1960, shortly before the princess married the photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the young and rebellious Kingsley Amis implied to an American friend that Margaret and her future husband weren't disobedient enough. "Such a symbol of the age we live in, when a royal princess, famed for her devotion to all that is most vapid and mindless in the world of entertainment, her habit of reminding people of her status whenever they venture to disagree with her in conversation, and her appalling taste in clothes, is united with a dog-faced tight-jeaned fotog [photographer] of fruitarian tastes such as can be found in dozens in any pseudo-arty drinking cellar in fashionable unfashionable London. I'm seriously considering forming a British Republican party [no connection with the GOP] to burn the happy couple in effigy on their wedding night."

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Put Out More Flags
It was reported this morning that only by leaving Buckingham Palace for Windsor after Princess Margaret's death did the Queen make it possible for the Union Flag to be flown at half-mast on the roof of her official London residence. Some newspaper readers may have been surprised by this information, but in fact it was absolutely correct. When Her Majesty returned to the Palace today, the Union Flag was pulled down and the Sovereign's Standard was raised in its place. As a Palace spokesman pointed out, the Palace only has one flagpole. And it is an unbreakable rule that the Sovereign's Standard has to fly at full mast whenever the monarch is at home. So if the Queen wants any other flag to fly on the Palace, she has to go out.

When, bowing to a surge of popular grief following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Palace flew the Union Flag at half-mast in 1997, the Queen wasn't inside. She couldn't be. The Sovereign's Standard is flown on whatever construction the monarch is in—on Sandringham or Balmoral, on a car or a plane. And it is never flown at half-mast, because there is always a monarch. If one dies, there is immediately another one. So the Queen can only express her mourning by flying a flag at half-mast by not being indoors. This is a tough and inconvenient rule. So maybe Buckingham Palace should buy itself a second flagpole.

Spirit of London
Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, arrives in London this week to receive an honorary knighthood from the Queen at Buckingham Palace for his leadership after September 11. He will also be advising Tony Blair and David Blunkett on how British police forces should deal with the current surge in crime in Britain. London is now widely felt to be less safe than the city Giuliani presided over for eight years, and the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are reportedly eager to learn how the New York Police Department handled its crime problem in the early 1990s. Compstat, as the New York anti-crime programme was called, was the brainchild of the late Jack Maple, then a lieutenant in the force. One of his simple innovations was to order top police officers to attend a weekly meeting to discuss the latest crime statistics and thus acquire a better understanding of where and why crimes happened in New York. Armed with a battery of statistics and maps, senior officers could now point their subordinates in the right direction. When Giuliani meets the Queen, the former mayor may well repeat what he often said after September 11: that he sought inspiration in the London Blitz and Winston Churchill's speeches. When the mayor meets Blair and Blunkett, they may be surprised to learn that Maple's anti-crime plan, which Giuliani says made "New York City the safest large city in America", was also inspired by Britain in the War. Maple modelled Compstat on Britain's methods of detection and interception of German planes on their way across the Channel to bomb British cities. If these two New Yorkers, who in their separate ways, rescued their city from crime and terrorism, found inspiration in Britain's wartime past, why haven't Britain's crime-busters been similarly inspired?

Prodding the Giant
When the world is dominated by just one superpower, what are the pigmy nations supposed to do? Stand "shoulder to shoulder" is Tony Blair's advice, and Margaret Thatcher agrees with him. But she feels more keenly than he does that the giant needs watching and guiding if it is not to misuse its colossal strength. Writing yesterday in the New York Times, Lady Thatcher urged "that the United States, as the only global military superpower, deploy its energies militarily rather than on social work". In other words, it shouldn't "allow itself to become bogged down with ambitious nation-building" in the "treacherous territory" of Afghanistan. That was "best left to others" like Britain, she said; though Britain, too, she warned Mr. Blair, should be "realistic" about what could, or could not, be achieved in promoting Afghan democracy.

Instead, the US should "act vigorously" to eliminate Islamic terror from the face of the earth. And as part of this, it should get rid of Saddam Hussein. "How and when, not whether, to remove him are the only important questions," she wrote. And this—yum, yum—would probably involve "a massive use of force". Clearly, Lady Thatcher hasn't yet forgiven the first President Bush (whom she once accused of going "wobbly") for failing to topple the Iraqi dictator during the Gulf War. But she has high hopes of his son, George W. "The West as a whole needs to strengthen its resolve against rogue regimes and upgrade its defences," she wrote. "The good news is that America has a president who can offer the leadership necessary to do so."

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