There is an old saying: ‘judge a man for his words, love a man for his garden’. This simple phrase has lived with me, and shaped me, for as long as I can remember. It has been the key to all my notable political, social and romantic successes, and it’s almost certainly the criterion I will be using to decide the nations fate in the upcoming general election.
I know there are others who share my monstrously over-proportioned and under-thought political philosophy. There must be thousands of people across the nation willing to shape their countrymen’s future around who has a nicer birdbath. But where is our voice? Discussions in the British media and on the floor of the commons all seem to focus on superficial titbits and ‘policies’. It seems that this election will be discussed in terms of healthcare, electoral reform and budget cuts, with no indication as to whether Gordon Brown is a man who can be trusted with a pruning saw.
So my capricious and enfranchised flower lovers. I have decided to slide my head above the parapet and talk political gardens – if you don’t like the agenda, be the agenda.
Up until 2007 political garden commentating was far too easy, we had Anthony Blair. Tony knew what he liked in a garden – he liked playing football with Noel Gallagher. Tony’s simple, fun-guy, beers ‘n’ barbeques attitude towards the garden was designed to speak volumes about the laid back kind of bloke he was. It spoke of his hedonistic student days studying art at Goldsmiths College, it spoke of the early years of his career playing rhythm guitar for Blur, it said ‘hey, I might be Prime Minister of Great Britain, but I like birds and lager and Loaded Magazine, just like you’.
On the other side of the boundary fence Tory gardening policy has been one long process of recovery from 1986, when Neal Kinnock adopted the red rose as the Labour Party logo. All Conservative leaders since that day have been searching for a suitable replacement for red roses in their stately English gardens. Thatcher supported true blue delphiniums, Major felt empathy towards forget-me-nots, Hague tried hop vines, Ian Duncan Smith was also leader and Michael Howard liked Ivy. Confused planting choices from confused minds, it’s no wonder they were in opposition for 13 years.
What then of the New Tory Prince? We know he once came 92nd in New Woman’s poll of the 100 sexiest men alive, despite having a face like a suet pudding, we know he likes oatcakes with butter and cheese, but all has been quiet on the garden front. That is, until now. All you other garden bloggers can consider yourselves scooped – I’ve got the low down on David Cameron’s garden.
Dave recently repaid £680 that he had claimed in expenses for clearing wisteria from his chimney. Scandalous! Why was this wisteria ever allowed to reach the chimney? As one of the most senior politicians in Britain Cameron should know that wisteria is best pruned twice yearly (once in July or August and once in January or February) to encourage flowering and control growth. Overgrown wisteria of this nature leads me to believe that Cameron’s garden is all about popular crowd-pleasing plants that have been improperly researched and will be ineffectively maintained. He almost certainly has a hugely overgrown clump of bamboo in his quaint Cotswold garden, probably planted in the ground force days to go with his decking, and left to run wild now that local stone is back in. He probably has an apple tree that has fallen over for some reason; he definitely hasn’t checked why it fell over because this year it’s all about vegetable plots. I’m not in the business of trying to influence votes, but would you trust a man with a fallen-over apple tree and a garden full of bamboo?
So what has Gordon Brown got to combat the fickle might of Tory wisteria? Never a man to be seduced by the lure of hot tubs and naked statuary Gordon’s garden has been inspired by the landscapes and plants of his native Scotland, more specifically by the landscape and plants of the Sherrifhall Roundabout on Scotland’s Edinburgh Bypass. Stands of Pyracantha bland tastefully into a background of Hedra helix, while Aucuba japonica (spotted laurel) provides the excitement by clashing with everything, including itself. This is a garden by a man who has tired of gardening. Devoid of imagination, inspiration and direction it almost makes you wish that Tony Blair were back at number 10 with his novelty full size trampoline. Again not a vote worthy garden.
The Tories are shallow and Labour is hopeless. I’m afraid that this year it looks like another spoiled ballot from Ben’s Garden.