What a marvellous device it is that brings moving pictures directly into the home. This enabled me last night to observe Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne "debating" their aspirations to lead our great party. I fear that debate must be a little strong a term, even in this times when the spirit of Beaconsfield appears to have triumphed and debate too often is confined to witticisms and absence of substance.
I have heard the two aspirants compared with twin characters created by that excellent writer of children's tales, Mr Dodgson, namely Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Perhaps they are not twins but with certainty they are not deadly rivals. Thus Mr Clegg says of Mr Huhne "one of the most thoughtful people I know" whilst Mr Huhne assures us Mr Clegg would be a "key" person in his team.
I listened hard to seek to distinguish them and heard that Mr Clegg is passionate about the poor and so is Mr Huhne. Mr Huhne would not raise the school leaving age and neither would Mr Clegg. Mr Clegg deplores the coup d'etat mounted by the president of Pakistan and so does Mr Huhne.
Mr Huhne does not commit himself to coalition with another party to form a government and neither does Mr Clegg, who proposes that reform should be a pre-condition of coalition, as does Mr Huhne. Mr Huhne would return the hospitals to local boards as would Mr Clegg...and so on and so forth.
So the argument is about one issue, namely a weapons system designed I understand to unleash unimaginable destruction. Mr Huhne does not want it and neither does Mr Clegg but Mr Clegg would not abandon it in advance of discussions with other countries including, it seems Persia, for he fears Persia may acquire similar weapons. Mr Huhne thereupon cites the playwright Aristophanes and accuses his rival of residing in cloud cuckoo land, nephelococcygia, stating that the Trident, the spear of Poseidon, was designed at a time when Russia was our enemy, not Persia. Mr Clegg in his turn accuses his opponent of secretly wishing to build more of these terrible bombs in our own country - a matter that he does not entirely deny.
So, in short, both consider it expeditious to reject the Trident but neither considers it a matter of principle. Both in their wisdom consider our country must have the potential to own such weapons if it is to have a place at international conferences. I fear this discussion needs much extension because so terrible are these weapons that their possessors must surely be able to answer the question: under what circumstances would you use them? It seems that John the Apostle scarcely conceived of such destruction as could be unleashed by modern mankind. You may detect a note of disappointment in my tone as I do believe these are gentlemen who could be great statesmen. But statesmanship requires an understanding of the balance of power and the moral basis of arbitration and not the issuing of empty threats or challenges, which may merely make allies of our enemies.
So I remain unable to commend either distinguished challenger over the other. Both are wise in many ways but in need of a little experience of great affairs before assuming great office. Whilst I am tempted to reconsider my decision not to enter the lists to seek a fifth ministry, I am advised this is not possible now and indeed, also, do recall the gracious words of the sovereign who asked me, repeatedly, when she offered me the mantle of office whether I was quite sure I wished to undertake such burdens or whether there was another whom I might prefer to commend.