No wonder the TV series Six Feet Under, with its rude, full-frontal assault on mortality, seems so ground-breaking.What Six Feet Under dramatises so brilliantly is the surreal aspect of death and the black humour that is frequently the companion to even the profoundest grief. How could death threaten anyone who owned a colour TV and a Humber Snipe? When death did interrupt the new standards of gracious living, it seemed as distasteful as a guest farting at the Sunday lunch table - and in the same way it was best not dwelt upon. The painful details were glossed over as people "battled bravely" and "passed away peacefully" when, in truth, most people are scared witless of dying and only the lucky few conk out in their sleep. But over the past century we have rather lost our way with the grim reaper; perhaps because the world wars made death too painfully universal for individual grandiose statements, and then the prosperity of the post-war years gave people a false sense of security. Ritual and lavish monuments were their ways of coping with cholera, tuberculosis and the other vagaries of pre-NHS life.
They gave it a magnificent structure, just as they did steam engines, bridges and municipal buildings. The Victorians were good at death. The pattern of politics is changing: so that with the election, we may have Mr Blair without his majority, and the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats contending for the position of second party, which would not be such good news for Mr Howard More from Alan Watkins. The retired majors and their ladies tended to support Mr Clarke.The official Conservative position, which, as far as I can see, Mr Howard has adopted, will make it very difficult for him to mount an effective attack on Mr Blair when Lord Hutton's report is published in January This is some months later than the date originally promised Some of us are used to producing commissioned work on time No matter. Whatever Mr Howard's forensic skills may be - a word which I suggest should now be given a long rest, at any rate in relation to the leader of the Conservative party - he will find it hard to assault Mr Blair when he approved the enterprise on which Mr Blair was engaged.Not so Mr Kennedy, though his party adopted the curious position that a wrong action was no longer wrong - at least, not to be denounced - once it had been embarked on. But this should not blind us to the broad change that has been happening for the last decade or so.The Conservatives who ran the party in the past are now turning to the Liberal Democrats.
The war in Iraq provides a recent illustration of this phenomenon. I could never understand, by the way, why the lobby correspondents virtually unanimously described Mr Clarke's opposition to that war as a "blunder" - that was the approved word - for all the world as if he had stepped into a cowpat while he was looking up at the heavens. For it is unlikely that they will all be made by the Conservatives. This is slightly more than the average loss after a previous landslide in the 1945-70 period, but many fewer than the Conservative loss in 1997 I write of Labour losses rather than of Conservative gains. Admittedly, about three-quarters of the seats - including Mr Howard's at Folkestone - on which the Liberal Democrats have aligned their telescopes are held by the Tories. Mr Brown and Mr Blair will get all the blame.To be deprived of its absolute majority, Labour has to lose 82 seats.