Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, Count-Duke of Olivares. A relatively youthful Olivares in 1624, three years into his time in power. By Velazquez.

I know it’s a bit late, but I was thinking in the bath today of ideas for the British election campaign.  Everyone — well, really, it’s just John Lanchester of the LRB, but I trust him —  thinks there will have to be massive public spending cuts in Britain by whoever wins, and it’s going to be horrible all round.  Well, I had an idea:  why not scale back British defence spending to the level of Norway?  Britain spends ₤36 billion a year on defence, while Norway uses a mere ₤3.6 billion.  What does Britain get for the extra money ?  Nothing at all.  All they really need is the changing of the guard for the tourists and a couple of butch  young men with assault rifles at the airports.   Britain could save ₤32 billion a year!  They could funnel the former soldiers into teaching, gardening and major public works.  If nobody likes that idea (I’m betting the Tory party will be against it), Britain could always just privatise the military: sell it off, like Mrs Thatcher & co. did with the railways and the water supply.

The Count-Duke Of Olivares. Velázquez, 1634.