Much fun is made of old men like me who constantly moan that everything is getting worse and worse. We were to be found, it is said, in every generation. But life goes on. Our complaints always come to nothing. Life, indeed, gets better and better, not worse and worse.
I daresay there is an element of truth in that. I ask myself, for instance, whether, in as few as ten years, anyone will worry, as I do every day, about the illiterate use of the word “gender” to mean “sex”, something which has become more and more widespread. I know, though bitterly regret, that the notion that gender and sex have two different meanings will be completely forgotten very soon, and we will carry on living happy or sad lives which will be entirely unaffected by that mutilation of our language. Continue reading
I wonder if any of you remember the horrific attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in January 2015? The satirical magazine had published cartoons depicting Muhammad. Many, but not all, Muslims object to any attempt to produce likenesses of the prophet. Two brothers, Islamist fanatics, entered the magazine’s premises and slaughtered 12 members of its staff. At about the same time, another terrorist attacked a Jewish supermarket, killing 4 customers.
There was an international outcry. Statesmen throughout the world, including our then Home Secretary (one Theresa May), declared their total commitment to freedom of expression and, particularly, emphasised that free men and women should never be prevented from ridiculing religions. The people joined in. The cry, Je Suis Charlie, was heard throughout the world. Continue reading
Writing the title to this piece caused me genuine distress. I like Mrs May. I don’t know her well, but I have seen her on and off since the day, twenty eight years ago, when she, our local councillor, knocked on our door and asked whether we would like to join the Wimbledon Conservatives. She and Philip were very pleasant fellow guests at dinner parties. Eventually, they left Wimbledon because she had become a Parliamentary candidate elsewhere. I rejoiced at her success when she was elected. But I didn’t see much of her after that, though we had friends in common who reported to us on her progress. And then, of course, she became Home Secretary and everyone had heard of her. When she became Prime Minister I admit I was very nervous. I didn’t doubt her competence, but I wondered how someone who had never held a political opinion in her life could cope with the demands of her new office. I was also worried because I knew that, in the Home Office, she had gone native, she had convinced herself that that department’s civil servants, the most authoritarian in the land, could never be wrong about anything. That wasn’t her fault. She should never have been left in the same post for so long. But she was, and that has had a lasting effect. Continue reading
I am, as most of you know, desperately opposed to our membership of the EU. I have stuck to that position through thick and thin for fifty years or more (a lot longer than almost any others of you). It doesn’t really matter what my reasons are, though I suppose it is worth pointing out that immigration, obviously, is not one of them (when we – people like genuine Left Wing Socialists and dyed in the wool Tories – tried to convince the electorate in 1975 that the Common Market was a bad thing no one ever dreamt that immigration would be a problem).
I was pleased when, contrary to my expectations, the electorate, in 2016, voted by a significant majority for us to come out of the EU. I assumed, without thinking about it, that the government would make arrangements for our departure and that would be that. Continue reading
I wonder if anyone else has noticed the strange tendency of a minority of obsessive people to turn every topic of discussion to Brexit?
Yesterday was a splendid day for the phenomenon. Continue reading
It is not always easy to imagine Islington dinner party conversations, but I think I can do this one.
‘I mean marriage is just so historically hetereonormative.’
‘Not just that, but patriarchal as well.’
‘So true. And were you really told by the registrar that you weren’t allowed to have a civil partnership instead’?
‘We were. I doubt anyone has ever suffered as much as we did when we were told that. I know the holocaust was awful, but it can’t have been anything like as bad as our visit to the Islington Town Hall.’ Continue reading
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has told us that God is a remainer. Continue reading
I haven’t seen the terms of the injunction and must, to some extent, guess what I am allowed to say. I will tread very warily.
A judge, I don’t know whether I am allowed to name him and will assume I am not, has conducted a court hearing into the antics of a rather obnoxious chap called Tommy Robinson. I know the result of that hearing, but the judge has ordered that I must not reveal it. I do seem to be able to say that, as a result of the hearing, Mr Robinson is no longer at liberty. More than that I may not say without risking incarceration myself. I am not, for instance, allowed to tell you whether the judge thought it would be reasonable for Mr Robinson to be represented by a lawyer. Continue reading
Let us be clear about one very important thing: the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. It is an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. True, there are one or two passing references to the EU, but they are wholly peripheral.
That really is obvious to anyone who bothers to read the agreement. But it looks as though quite a few politicians have not bothered to read it. Even Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister at the time it was signed (by him), seems to be quite unaware of its contents. That can be the only explanation for his barmy assertion that Britain leaving the EU will destroy the Good Friday Agreement and return Northern Ireland to bloody civil war. Continue reading
“A family on the throne is an interesting idea also. It brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life. No feeling could seem more childish than the enthusiasm of the English at the marriage of the Prince of Wales. They treated as a great political event, what, looked at as a matter of pure business, was very small indeed. But no feeling could be more like common human nature as it is, and as it is likely to be. The women – one half the human race at least – care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry. All but a few cynics like to see a pretty novel touching for a moment the dry scenes of the grave world. A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and as such, it rivets mankind. … Just so a royal family sweetens politics by the seasonable addition of nice and pretty events. It introduces irrelevant facts into the business of government, but they are facts which speak to ‘men’s bosoms’ and employ their thoughts.”
That passage from Walter Bagheot’s The English Constitution has probably been in the minds of all my readers over the last few days. It certainly sprang to my mind as I listened, yesterday and this morning, to the Today programme’s efforts to convince the nation that we all despise the fuss being made about the wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Continue reading