Art tells us more about the First World War than any politician’s speech

Published by ConservativeHome

s end 3I had the fortune and great privilege when I was at school of appearing in productions of both R.C Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War!. Both, in very different ways, had a profound effect on my understanding and appreciation of the First World War, not least because my maternal grandfather (Gramps) – a veteran of both world wars – was conscripted to see me do battle in both productions. I can still remember meeting him in the school hall afterwards: I was eager for a pat on the back and words of praise, but all I got was watery eyes behind a damp hanky. There was I, the schoolboy, frolicking in the trenches of Flanders and waltzing to ‘Après la Guerre’ with Lady Haig. And there was Gramps, the veteran, for whom this was very real biography, and whose friends and colleagues were machine-gunned, gassed and buried on the Somme.

Journey’s End and Oh, What a Lovely War! are poles apart in their apprehension of the First World War. Sherriff’s 1928 play is an intimate, respectful tragedy about heroes, virtues, leadership and sacrifice. It speaks profoundly to pacifists and Just War advocates alike. Littlewood’s 1963 musical is an epic, irreverent romp through fluffy parodies and black-humoured allegory. It speaks volumes to cynics and sceptics without demeaning the memory of doomed youth. Sherriff wept with his fallen comrades, knee-deep in the muddy trenches of Passchendaele; Littlewood skipped with her pierrots, to an imagined dance of slaughter, bravura and vulgarity. Continue reading

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Daniel Hannan: ‘How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters’

Published by ConservativeHome

Dan Hannan 3Daniel Hannan “bestrides the Atlantic like a majestic combination of Winston Churchill and Piers Morgan,” says Boris Johnson on the dust jacket of this book. The precise form of that disquieting chimera troubled my mind as I began to read the Introduction. But because Boris is an astute appraiser, judicious classicist and discerning patron, I settled down to what he promises will be a feast of anthropological scrutiny, philosophical insight, political polemic and epigrammatic anecdote.

And that is exactly what you get – a narrative survey of a thousand years of evolving liberty expressed in page after page of clear-headed contemplation and premium prose. Hannan’s essential research question is: ‘What made the Anglosphere miracle possible?’, and the answer, in short, is to be found in the peculiarly English conception of liberty which incrementally defined an island nation, helped shape an empire and still interrogates the world. We obviously weren’t the first to free captives: that dispensation is found throughout classical antiquity. But the English and then the British were foremost in the conceptualisation of the principles of self-determination – individual rights, private property and personal liberty – which led inter alia to the common law, jury trials, religious pluralism, representative democracy, free markets, the rule of law and the abolition of slavery. Continue reading

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Cameron apologise? Only a directly-elected Conservative Party chairman could make him do so

Published by Daily Mail

David Cameron - puzzled

“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

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The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution

Published by Daily Mail

Queen coronationI have for many years opposed amending the Act of Settlement 1701, in particular those historic clauses which refer to the Protestant Settlement between the people, the Monarchy and the Established Church. I understand, to some, that this puts me in the ‘extremist bigot’ category, somewhere above Enoch Powell but still a little way beneath the Rev’d Dr Ian Paisley. That was the view taken by the Catholic Herald back in 2005, when they demanded that Michael Howard dismiss me as a Conservative parliamentary candidate over articles I had written on the matter for The Spectator two years earlier (which had been evaluated by the Chief Whip, no less). But there was no reasoning with the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat. Thankfully, more mature minds (like Charles Moore, William Rees-Mogg, Ann Widdecombe and Boris Johnson) fully understood my concerns, which were based on theological knowledge and constitutional history rather than any irrational prejudice or ‘bigotry’. Continue reading

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Why the London Olympics herald our exit from the EU

Published by Daily Mail

Olympic union jackHistoric, patriotic, intoxicating, mesmerising: “Team GB’s heroic success seems to have re-awoken in us our sense of national pride,” wrote Sir Roger Bannister, the first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, “a realisation perhaps that, as a people, we have the ability, the drive and the determination to be great.”

Sir Roger is one of Britain’s greatest sporting legends, into which pantheon can now be added the likes of Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy – people whose achievements are not merely exceptional, but truly and monumentally great. And that greatness is measured not only in the extent to which a triumph or victory enters the national consciousness – which is ephemeral – but also in proportion to its longevity in the league tables of history: to surpass is admirable, but to pioneer is unique and non-replicable. There is only one who can be the first. Continue reading

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Prime Minister Boris – tactics and strategy

Published by Daily Mail

Boris back in CommonsOnly the chosen ever attain the level of fame or notoriety which propels them to first-name familiarity with the wider public. I’m not taking about the manufactured pap of celebrity pop – those who are thrust onto the world stage all carefully processed and packaged, like Rihanna, Beyonce and Bjork (though with a surname like Buomundsdottir, I can understand why she dropped it). No, I’m talking about those whose mononymous identity emerges organically, as recognised by the people. In antiquity, one thinks of names like Galileo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dante and Raphael, not to mention Jesus and Mohammed. In modern times, there’s Cliff, Oprah, Vangelis, Diana…

And Boris.

How many politicians rise to such dizzy heights of popularity that the whole country knows them by their first name? Of course, you get ‘Call me Dave’ (Cameron) contempt, or ‘Gideon’ (Osborne) scorn. But mention the name of Boris and eyes dilate with visions of huggable amiability: people glow inwardly at the mere thought of his aura; they are endeared to his eccentricity. Continue reading

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