Belfast Telegraph

If Raisa could talk, imagine what she'd neigh

The tale of the police horse lent to Rebekah Brooks is a satire on animal nobility and sheer human awfulness, says A N Wilson

The story of Raisa, the retired police horse, is surely asking to be made first into a schmaltzy children's book, then a stage play and finally a blockbuster by Steven Spielberg.

The human world seen through the eyes of an animal is a theme which is almost comic in itself. We (some of the time) remember that "we are but beasts", as the Bible tells us, and at other times we get above ourselves and feel little lower than the angels.

The dog, the cat, the pig and the horse, presumably never have the intimation of angelic status, and are happy, or otherwise, with their doggy, catty, piggy, or equine status. When they gaze up at us, half aware of our idiocies, and half puzzled, the comedy of things is never far from the surface.

When the animal's keeper is a figure of great power, the strangeness of the relationship becomes even more fascinating for those of a fanciful disposition.

We know a lot about what Hitler thought of his doggy friends, but rather less about what they thought of him. Later, dogs of the Fuhrer were gifts, including poor Blondi, whom Eva Braun hated so much she used to kick her under the table. It was upon Blondi that Braun and Hitler tested their cyanide capsules.

Raisa too, we believe, is now dead. She was entrusted on a long loan, or so we understand, to Rebekah Brooks in 2008. In all the murky tale of what News International journalists have done for the police, and what the police have done for the hacks, perhaps no favour seems more bizarre than this.

One imagines that the point of Raisa was that, like the Gorbachev regime to which her name makes poignant allusion, she was a thing of the distant Thatcherite past.

It was because she was past it that she was handed over to Rebekah, who is, we must assume, a less advanced equestrian than her husband, the trainer Charlie Brooks. Or maybe the horse was thought to be sufficiently dozy and gentle for a child to ride upon.

The immediate question that bothered the political pundits was: did Raisa ever meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron? At first, there were denials from Downing Street.

It was as if the poor animal was "that woman", Monica Lewinsky, with whom a president did not, famously, have sexual relations. David Cameron did not know "that horse".

Later, however, it emerged, not merely that he probably did know "that horse", but that he had ridden Raisa.

The more fanciful among Fleet Street hacks would have given his eye teeth for an exclusive interview with Raisa, especially since Cameron now admits that he "probably rode" her. Raisa, presumably, knew more than we do about why Mr Cameron chose to meet top executives of News International 26 times in 15 months. The rest of us, though, are still puzzled about why Cameron chose to fish for a Press secretary in the Murdoch swamps and how he could have come up with the editor of - of all papers - the News of the World.

Andy Coulson knew about phone-hacking, or criminal behaviour, by his journalists. Had Cameron never held a copy of the News of the World and asked what sewers had been plumbed? Face it - a horse would never have come up with a rag like that.

Raisa might have had some fascinating things to tell us about Coulson's predecessor, the great flame-headed editor, and the smooth-faced, smooth-talking politician, as they trotted along the over-manicured lanes. But the longer we meditate upon Raisa's story, the more we should be reminded of Gulliver's Travels and its terrible and misanthropic conclusions.

Gulliver, having discovered on his travels the incorruptible Houyhnhnms, who have no concept of untruth, discovers upon his return to England that he cannot tolerate human society. He spends all his time in the stables. Gulliver had observed, when he visited the Houyhnhnms in their own territory, the greatest contrast between these noble creatures and the Yahoos, brutal human animals who are dirty in their ways, quarrelsome, sexually lewd and greedy. In fact, it is very difficult to read the fourth part of Jonathan Swift's great satire, A Voyage To The Country Of The Houyhnhnms, without instantly thinking of 21st-century Britain.

When Gulliver is introduced to a female Yahoo by his kindly Houyhnhnm host, he "could not reflect without some Amazement, and much Sorrow, that the Rudiments of Lewdness, Coquetry, Censure and Scandal" should be as clearly evident in her as in the male Yahoos.

Perish the thought that such misanthropic reflections ever crossed the mind of Raisa when she patiently felt the weight of Rebekah Brooks on her back. Being like a Houyhnhnm, Raisa would have been too noble, or too innocent, to have had the reflections which might have occurred to the more censorious members of the human race.

Gulliver found the sight of "a Politician, a Whoremonger, a Traitor" just about bearable, because they made no pretence to be other than Yahoos.

It was those human beings who were "smitten with Pride" and who pretended to be virtuous which made him want to "keep my Nose well stopt with Rue, Lavender or Tobacco-Leaves".

The electorate must remember to keep these herbs in plentiful supply at the next election, as we watch Cameron and his friends forgetting their rural rides in the Cotswolds.

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