Sunday, 18 August 2019

Train travel

Lord Berners, the painter, would roll down the window of his train carriage and beckon passengers in, putting his hand into his mouth and dragging down his lower lip. He always had the carriage to himself. How I admire the upper classes.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Amber Rudd is apparently stupid as well as malign

The Times Diary today says that civil servants try to make their advice to ministers so simple that even the least intelligent can understand it after three readings. They called this the Amber Rudd test until she became Home Secretary when it was renamed the Priti Patel test.

But she is now Home Secretary.

So many dim women in politics (think Andrea Leadsom) of whom the dimmest is perhaps Theresa May.

Amber Rudd, who was given her seat in Parliament by David Cameron for diversity reasons, is very bad news indeed. Apart from anything else, and there is very much else, she wants reading extremist material online to be punishable by 15 years in clink.

She is in ardent feminist and even more ardent opportunist. She chaired the Commons group combating female genital mutilation but when she was Home Secretary no prosecutions happened. There has been one so far in British history. Even as a feminist she is a fraud.

Roy Jenkins asked his civil servants how far his cabinet colleagues would have got in the civil service. None were permanent secretary material it seemed. Ernest Bevin would only have been imaginable as a lift operator in the Foreign Office had he not been Foreign Secretary.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Rod Liddle today in the Sunday Times

We broke open the champagne in the Liddle household on Friday. The United Nations had declared it a day for celebrating indigenous peoples. I am indigenous and so is my wife. In the afternoon we went out and behaved in a scornful manner towards immigrants.
Only later did I discover that this day wasn’t actually for us. 

It was for people the UN has decided are victims, such as native Americans. Except they weren’t really indigenous, were they? They migrated from Siberia once they saw the way Russia was going, and now live in casinos in Nevada.

White Afrikaners were the first settlers in large swathes of South Africa, which kind of gives them indigenous status. But I would hazard a guess the UN didn’t mean them either.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019


"A red plague is not gripping our land anymore which does not mean that there is not a new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds. Not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow." 

The Archbishop of Cracow, Marek Jedraszewski, condemning "LGBT ideology" in his sermon during Mass at St. Mary's Church marking the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

“We thought we could just stay reasonable having gotten rid of God’s scripture. And guess what, there’s no shred of truth to this at all. We tried it. We did. It turns out it was God and scripture that were holding the entire set of structures together. Not reason, tradition. You throw out Christianity and the Jewish contribution too with it, you throw out God and within two generations people can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman. They can’t tell the difference between a foreigner and a citizen. They can’t tell the difference between this side of the border and the other side of the border. They can’t tell the difference between paying back your debts and simply borrowing forever. The only way to save this country, to bring it back to cohesion, the only way to bring it back to independence and health, the only way to do it is going to be to restore those traditions.”

Yoram Hazony, an Israeli and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, talking at the (pro-Trump) National Conservatism conference in Washington D.C. two weeks ago, which he helped organise.

"I was brought up by a Victorian grandmother. You were taught to work jolly hard, you were taught to improve yourself, you were taught self-reliance, you were taught to live within your income, you were taught that cleanliness was next to godliness. You were taught self-respect, you were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour, you were taught tremendous pride in your country, you were taught to be a good member of your community. All of these things are Victorian values. [...] They are also perennial values as well."

Margaret Thatcher being interviewed by Brian Walden in 1983

"She did see the country was on its knees when we took over – we were an industrial, political laughing stock. By the time she had lost office she had transformed the country – given it a modern economy – it was a quite remarkable achievement … It was great fun if you could stand the hassle because she kept this permanent revolutionary air going inside the government, which was great fun."

Kenneth Clarke, who said Britain would be a "rust bucket ruin" if Thatcher had not been able to rescue the country. He is right - Britian did seem in deep decay in the 1970s, even though the extent that this was true was exaggerated, and by 1990 this feeling had wholly gone. 

Thank God Theresa May did not dominate Britian for ten years

"Dean Clough Mills [in Halifax] hold a special place in British political history, too. The last time I was here was in May 2017, to see Theresa May launch the election manifesto that was supposed to deliver her a huge majority in parliament and crush those pesky Brexit saboteurs. It was only two and a bit years ago, but already it feels like another age. May at that time looked untouchable, riding high on a wave of public enthusiasm, destined to be prime minister for a decade or more and the architect of Britain’s post-Brexit future. Her strategists were plotting a Tory revival in the Labour heartlands, and the decision to launch their manifesto in an old Yorkshire mill was seen as an audacious move to park the tanks firmly on Labour’s lawn. Pundits hailed another masterstroke on the Tories’ inevitable march to victory. Then we opened the manifesto, and read what was actually inside."

Jack Blanchard in Politico today. What a catastrophe Michael Gove inflicted on his country by sabotaging Boris's bid to be Prime Minister three years ago and saddling us with Theresa May instead. She threw away so many bargaining cards in the Brexit negotiations - Juliet Samuel summarises them in a minute here.

But beyond Brexit she was no conservative - and in many ways Old Labour. 

Here is a useful cut-out-and-keep list of all the anti-conservative things she did or wanted to do. 

Can the Tories get rid of these ideas and sideline MPs who believe in them?

The trouble is that Boris is a social liberal - but thank God he hates the nanny state.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019


I watched an old episode of Cheers in my hotel and it was hilarious. Especially Cliff the postman who says, when someone asks what is the secret of happiness, comfortable shoes.
Who is the greatest philosopher in history he asks. Frasier: 'Aristotle?' 'There you are. Sandals. The most comfortable footwear ever known. Confucius had thongs.'
Carla's answer is children which is true for almost everyone.
Everyone smokes cigars at the bar and everyone is white. Carla is the one woman. And the Reagan Thatcher era now seems a lost age, like watching Cary Grant or Leslie Howard. 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Action this day

A six man war cabinet will run Britain along with Dominic Cummings. Michael Gove will chair a committee of civil servants every day including Sundays until Brexit. Had it not been for Theresa May clinging to office from sheer vanity and Jeremy Hunt grandstanding this could have happened three valuable months ago but much better late than never.

I have no idea how this will end but we need imaginative opportunistic leader like Disraeli or Bismarck and I hope we have found one.

We shall see. 

My sermon

Jesus did not advocate Caesar taking from the Samaritans to finance the welfare state or letting Canaanite refugees flood into Judea and make it majority non Jewish. He said: My kingdom is not of this world. He also said that not one jot and not one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, meaning that He considered sodomy a sin and supported the death penalty. Presumably for witches, inter alia. He did not condemn slavery and did not tell the centurion to become a pacifist. He fed the five thousand with fish so was no vegetarian.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Boris is or at least might be a Tory

Philip Stephens in the Financial Times accuses Boris Johnson of being a Tory. In so doing he explains why so many Tories and non-Tories, who are fed up to the back teeth with liberal sanctimony, love him. "Britain’s new prime minister sometimes strikes a pose as a metropolitan liberal. This week, aides have ensured his new ministerial line-up nods in the direction of diversity. At heart, he is a reactionary. With a worldview drawn from Rudyard Kipling’s paeans to English exceptionalism, he mourns the loss of empire, rails against the “nanny state”, and thinks the French should be eternally grateful for being rescued in two world wars. "

Even better, Boris Johnson's great hero turns out to be mine: his illustrious namesake, Dr Johnson. Both love giving offence. This, Boris suggested, is the reason we all love the Great Cham. ‘In a nation addicted to evasion and embarrassment, we treasure people who are rude, because we assume (rather primitively) that they are more likely to tell the truth.’ 

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Boris cometh

I feel euphoric about the boy, though I know Boris is a social liberal and I do not care that much about the economic side of conservatism. Ronald Reagan set targets, chose good people and let them achieve the targets.  Boris will do the same.

Boris assumes his destiny

I confess I am very excited by the new British Prime Minister. He's the first one I have liked in my lifetime.  And he has started very well.

Boris should prorogue Parliament before the recess ends in September  until 1 November. That way no deal happens automatically unless the EU offers an acceptable deal.  That would shoot the Remainers' fox.

Despite what you read no ministers were fired by Boris Johnson. All ministers automatically resign when the Prime Minister does.

It shocks me that no political commentator pointer out what I thought every schoolboy knew.

Not appointing ministers is not the same as firing them so this is not a massacre like Harold Macmillan's Night of the Long Knives. The ministers who resigned the day before Mrs May were playing amateur dramatics. They were resigning from her ministry not the new government.

But the last cabinet failed appallingly and needed to be replaced. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Politicians are now part of the entertainment industry

Evelyn Waugh said Churchill was a radio personality who outlived his prime. 

Boris Johnson is a reality television star of genius, as is, of course, Donald Trump. 

Politics is now about entertainment, although eloquent speeches always were about entertainment, in the days when they were not beamed into your house.

Theresa May and Boris Johnson are caricatures of themselves, but Boris does it well

"Perhaps we all eventually turn into caricatures of ourselves. As time went on, May certainly appeared to. That childhood-learned sense of duty seemed to narrow to a resolve to cling on in office; the commitment to others, a conviction that the country needed her. The game was clearly up by mid-March, when MPs crushed the Withdrawal Agreement for the second time and a vote on extension was announced. The Conservatives’ poll ratings began to fold that week. These have not reached 40 per cent since.

"If you promise over 100 times that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, and it doesn’t; then say that you are not prepared to delay Brexit later than the end of June, but do; announce that it would be “unacceptable” for European elections to take place, but they happen; and if you denounce Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to the country, but then seek to work with him over Brexit, you will poison the well not only for yourself, but also for your party. Conservative MPs opted for Boris Johnson for simple, sole reason that they think he has the best chance of cleansing the waters."

I agree with this except that trying to do a deal with Labour was common sense and should have happened three years earlier. 

However, I see no redeeming feature in Mrs May.

Many of us become caricatures of ourselves. Boris deliberately crafted himself into a caricature to start with and it has served him very well indeed. 

It is not clear who said life is not about finding yourself but creating yourself. Mahler attributed it to Sir (St) Thomas More but I wonder if he said it. Whoever said it, Boris is an example of it working. 

But Boris is not an actor in the sense that Harold Macmillan was the 'old actor-manager' or even the sense in which Tony Blair is a very good actor. Everything with Boris is an act. Understand that and you understand everything.

An elderly socialist told me the best speaker he ever heard was the Tory leader Sir Austen Chamberlain,  but that was in the era of big public meetings. William Hague prepared himself to be a political leader in his precocious childhood in the 1970s and by 1997 that was out of date. Mr Anthony Blair had invented a new style of discourse for television. 

In the present era Prime Ministers and Presidents are becoming reality television stars. We want them to entertain us. Boris was born for this era. Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt were not. 

Sunday, 21 July 2019

More Brexit

Think back five years: how bored we all were with the dull political consensus and how we wished for a change in the established order. Isn’t it great that we got what we wanted?
Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times today

At a seminar at King’s College, London shortly after the 2016 EU referendum, Takis Tridimas, a professor of European Law at King’s said that the result represented the most significant constitutional event in the UK since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, since it showed that on the issue of Europe, the sovereignty of the people trumped the sovereignty of Parliament. Of course, from a legal point of view, the referendum was merely advisory, but the government committed itself to respecting the result and the outcome was seen by the majority of MPs as decisive. Since June 2016, therefore, both government and parliament have been enacting a policy to which they are opposed. That is a situation unprecedented in our long constitutional history. Europe, therefore, has been responsible for the introduction of a new concept into the UK constitution, the sovereignty of the people. On this issue, the people have in effect become a third chamber of Parliament, issuing instructions to the other two. The sovereignty of Parliament is now being constrained not by Brussels, but by the people.
Vernon Bogdanor, February 27 2019 in his LSE blog.

John Ruskin: All good architecture is the expression of national life and character

All good architecture is the expression of national life and character; and it is produced by a prevalent and eager national taste, or desire for beauty.

John Ruskin's words in Traffic, an essay written under the influence of Carlyle, are a very harsh condemnation of modern Romania. The Communist buildings after the Stalin era are very bad, except for perhaps the ones that Ceausescu built along the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism but many  buildings built since the Revolution are equally ugly but in a  different way. Political analyst Sorin Ionita said the road from the airport to Bucharest resembles a Pakistani Las Vegas.

Ruskin's words are an equally harsh condemnation of Britain in the twenty-five years before Margaret Thatcher. Public and private architecture hugely improved after she took office, when architects stopped building things that accorded with their modernist principles and started building things purely to make money. Looking back, though I disliked her at the time, this is a persuasive proof that she changed the country deeply and for the better.

Saturday, 20 July 2019


A lie may fool someone else but it tells you the truth, you're weak.

Tom Wolfe

Metternich told lies all the time, and never deceived any one; Talleyrand never told a lie and deceived the whole world.

Lord Macaulay

Fame is the sum of all the misunderstandings that grow up around a name.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Semites [he is referring to Arabs] had no half-tones in their register of vision. They were a

people of primary colours, or rather of black and white, who saw the world always in contour. They were a dogmatic people, despising doubt, our modern crown of thorns.

Ken Clarke

I like and respect Kenneth Clarke,  even though he is passionately pro-EU. 

He was one of the left-wing Tories who thought Margaret Thatcher's economics too stern and unbending, as did I. He is one of the great British Prime Ministers we never had and a much better one than Roy Jenkins or Denis Healey. Better probably than Michael Heseltine. 

But how very different a Prime Minister would Mr. Clarke have been from Tony Blair? There would have been lower taxes, no new equality laws, fewer immigrants, no devolution.  Britain would not have invaded Iraq. He would have been very different and much better, but with the same enthusiasm for a federal Europe.

Rab Butler was long before my time, though I saw his unmade grave at Saffron Walden strewn with flowers, including a  bouquet and hand-written card signed Charles, from the Prince of Wales. Hugh Gaitskell, who opposed joining the EEC, was even even longer ago. Had Labour's Peter Shore, a Brexiteer avant la lettre, been Prime Minister he might have been best of all. 

Mr. Clarke dictated his memoirs with a cigar and glass of brandy in the lonely evenings after he was widowed. Of course the book, Kind of Bluepublished under the chummy name 'Ken Clarke', reads like that. 

I picked it up in a remaindered bookshop and leafed through it so that you don't have to. 


An online friendship does not feel, to me, like friendship. It feels like an ever-receding touch.

Tanya Gold, Guardian October 14 2018 

If Facebook is for lying about being happy, Twitter is for lying about being right. It is exhausting.

It is my (admittedly mildly eccentric) belief that Brexit is not just about sovereignty; on a subconscious level, some of us are trying to claw our way out of a much more serious existential abyss. The companies of the future, like FaceApp and Neural Link, as well as Brussels, are trying to impose on us a disturbingly unchecked, unaccountable definition of human ‘progress’.

Tanya Gold on Boris and Alison Pearson on Hunt

Tanya Gold annoys me. She accused John Cleese of racism because he said the media in England is run by "half-educated tenement Scots". She is always accusing people of racism. It is her metier. But her account in Unherd of Boris Johnson at the Tories' 'final hustings' in the Docklands is funny and perceptive. She can write.
“The fantastic ExCeL building!” he shouted, waving at the interior of this massive shed, as if it were the Royal Albert Hall at the Last Night of the Proms. He can gild ExCel, is his message. He can gild anything, even darkness: it is always darkest, he reminded us, before the dawn. He meant: Brexit is the dawn....
He gave the stripping look – I would love you if I could – to a woman who asked about debt management. Does he save money? “I’ve certainly spent a lot,” he said. He might have said: “I’ve earned a lot”. It is more Tory. “I’ve spent a lot” is more Trumpian. It says: live through me, for I am a scruffy faux-aristocrat who has known hot women. I am effortless.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Brexit negotiations

The cardinal sin was that David Cameron told civil servants not to make a contingency plan in case Leave won the referendum. 

Had they made one it might have been the Norway option and everything would be very different now. 

We'd have left for one thing and on good terms with the EU - and with  no economic problems.

Michel Barnier said yesterday that Theresa May never threatened leaving the EU with no deal during the negotiations.

Martin Selmayr said yesterday that no-one took the possibility of the UK leaving with no deal seriously because they knew no preparations had been made by the UK. This was a

Three quotations

"The Apollo program was designed by men, for men. If we do not acknowledge the gender bias of the early space program, it becomes difficult to move past it."
New York Times article yesterday

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”
David Ben-Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

“Over the centuries, intellectuals and public thinkers in Europe have been ceaselessly selling Protestant theology (albeit dressed in secular clothes) as the summum of human civilisation.”

S. N. Balagangadhara

Trump's knockabout 19th century politics adds to the gaiety of nations

“In America, if you hate our Country, you are free to leave. The simple fact of the matter is, the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins, they think that America is even more wicked now, that we are all racist and evil. They’re entitled to their opinion, they’re Americans. Now I’m entitled to my opinion, and I just think they’re left wing cranks. They’re the reason there are directions on a shampoo bottle, & we should ignore them. The “squad” has moved the Democrat Party substantially LEFT, and they are destroying the Democrat Party. I’m appalled that so many of our Presidential candidates are falling all over themselves to try to agree with the four horsewomen of the apocalypse. I’m entitled to say that they’re Wack Jobs.” 
These are the words (imagine a drawl) of the irresistible Louisianan Senator John Kennedy (whom we loved in the Judge Kavanaugh hearings). 

They were tweeted yesterday by President Trump.

Donald Trump is having huge fun stirring the pot. It will, of course, help him. It is of course a distraction and a way of shunting the Democrats further leftwards and even further in the direction of identity politics.

Even Democrats can see this but nevertheless they have been triggered.

The Guardian and CNN describe his tweets as racist without inverted commas, though he says nothing about race. 

President Sarkozy made the same point when he said "Love France or leave her", in an election where he was transparently trying to win votes from the Front National.