A woman can’t possibly conduct this, bemoaned some. It’s a bit like asking one to reverse-park their Ford Ka into a not-so-tight spot. And an American? Good grief, it’s the end of civilisation as we know it, lamented others. It is as though the spirit of Wallis Simpson had returned from Baltimore to purloin the Crown of England. The Proms are international, sure, but the Last Night is a peculiarly British affair, and at all costs we must preserve this sacred institution from the BBC’s interminable trendy ‘modernising’ and its lefty notions of political ‘progress’. Continue reading →
‘Hetero gentile @Adrian_Hilton thinks it’s ok to misrepresent @stephenfry as comparing Putin Russia to holocaust… Imagine being paid to smuther opposition to homophobia. We don’t need bigoted straight people telling us what to do thanks… kindly remove yourself from telling people who suffer an oppression you do not, to shut up about it.’
This was one of the more judgmental but eloquent rants I received from Stephen Fry’s Twitter hordes following my perfectly reasonable question as to why a ban on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is an ‘essential’ response to Putin’s anti-gay legislation, but no such ban is warranted on the arts. Another of them helpfully advised: ‘Please go jump in a lake. I dare say you can swim, but it might just wash off the stench of smug self-righteousness.’ One of Fry’s more intelligent and articulate followers called me a ‘c**t biscuit t**t’, whatever one of those is. Continue reading →
A free main-evening Prom in the Royal Albert Hall. What a great idea. And before anyone bleats about the outrageous cost of elite arts subsidy to the poor BBC licence fee payer, no musicians were paid in the making of this Prom. In fact, I am assured that no money exchanged hands at all. Tickets were allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, and they flew out of the box office faster than semi quavers in an allegro. This was real orchestral outreach – making music available to anyone and everyone. Sir Henry would have been proud. Continue reading →
“An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential,” says Stephen Fry in an impassioned letter to the Prime Minister and the International Olympic Committee, apparently written on behalf of the entire civilised world.
By ‘civilised’, one assumes he means the superior, enlightened and cultured proponents of equality and human rights, as opposed to the barbaric hordes whose primitive tribal impulses seek to outlaw the propagation of ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientations, ban gay-pride marches and prohibit the adoption of children by same-sex couples, as President Putin seems determined to do. Continue reading →
“He has not apologised to Howard Flight or to Arundel and South Downs. For that matter, he has never apologised to Boris Johnson over Liverpool, to Danny Kruger over Sedgefield, or Adrian Hilton, in Slough” wrote William Rees-Mogg of Michael Howard in The Times following the 2005 General Election, just after the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat had spilt rather a lot of blood after a tyrannical sacking spree.
You may recall that Boris had accused Liverpudlians of wallowing in their ‘victim status’ following the murder of Ken Bigley. Danny Kruger had invoked the Schumpterian doctrine of ‘creative destruction’ of the public services. And I’d had the audacity to defend the Protestant Constitution and the Act of Settlement in The Spectator two years before, in articles which had been commissioned by Boris and approved by the then chief whip David Maclean. As a consequence, we were all publicly humiliated, demoted or summarily dispensed with. Continue reading →
Back in 2009, in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal and a profound crisis in the British political system, David Cameron made a speech that electrified the Conservative Party and promised to usher in a revival of democracy. With great rhetorical flourish, he expounded his core conviction like an article of faith:
“I believe the central objective of the new politics we need should be a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power: from the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities; from the EU to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power from the elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.”
It was wonderful Whiggish stuff, which is no real surprise as it echoed (indeed, lifted almost verbatim) the words of self-professed Whig Daniel Hannan MEP and his Roundhead compatriot Douglas Carswell MP, who had co-written just months before: Continue reading →
Dementia is a purgatorial madness. Whatever form it takes – Alzheimer’s, Vascular, Fronto-temporal, Creutzfeldt-Jacob – it is not only the patient who suffers, but their entire family.
The disease reduces the victim to a shell of humanity, emptied of all joy, emotion and recognition. As cognitive ability declines, so too does the memory, the capacity to feel, dexterity in language and the intelligence to reason. Tears give way to mourning; despair to grieving for the living. Loved ones become strangers; relationships are turned to shadows. It is a dreadful affliction; terrifying for the victim, and profoundly distressing for all around to witness. Continue reading →
I’ve never been to a First Night of the Proms before: it’s so much more elegant and stylish than the Last, and this one had a musical coherence of ambrosial heights. Or perhaps I should say Neptunian depths, since the overriding theme was oceanic, and the tide of surging waves bathed the audience in a symphony of wonder. Continue reading →
It was right to privatise British Rail, Coal, Gas, Petroleum, Steel, Telecom, Airways and Shipbuilders, along with Electricity, Cable & Wireless, Britoil, Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Removing these moribund monoliths from public ownership injected some free-market discipline and Hayekian economic stimulation into the industrial sclerosis which had bedevilled the country throughout the 1970s.
Denastionalisation led to a transformation of industrial working culture and unimaginable efficiencies in productivity. Thatcherism was the people’s capitalism, and The Lady was to be greatly admired. Continue reading →
The House of Commons has inched closer toward legislation that will, at long last, give the British people an In-Out referendum on our troubled membership of the European Union.
The whipped private member’s bill proposed by Conservative MP James Wharton may be an irregular use of a technical parliamentary process; it may not have much cross-party support; it may be a cynical device to stem the rising tide of Ukip; and it may not be binding on a future parliament. But there is no doubt that if this Bill were to become law and the Conservatives were to win an outright Commons majority at the next General Election, it would be political suicide for David Cameron (or any Conservative leader) to repeal this particular sovereign Act of Parliament. Continue reading →