Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Boris campaigning against Sky News, Channel 4 and the BBC

The only knowledge of psychology that a historian needs is that all men seek power. 

It is not quite true (the eighth Duke of Devonshire turned down the premiership three times, for good reasons) but it is true enough and it applies to the media too.

British broadcasters, most of them ardent Remainers, worked very hard to get debates between candidates in the first round of the Tory leadership election, in which only Tory MPs voted. That round would have been better conducted behind closed doors but debates and interviews on television and radio let the media set the agenda, for the country as well as for the programme. 

Now in the final run-off, decided by Tory members, the media are trying to pin down Boris (hard to do, more because he is chaotic than devious, though he is both). They will limit his freedom to find a creative solution to the Gordian knot of Brexit.

TalkRADIO’s Ross Kempsell  won plaudits from other journalists for eliciting Boris Johnson’s assertion that the U.K. will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, “do or die,” something Johnson said when repeating Mr. Kempsell’s question about no deal back to him. A transcript of the interview is here.

Mr Kempsell also got Boris to reveal that  he makes toy buses out of wine cases in order to relax. Quentin Letts in the Times sets this in context, as they say, by pointing out something I didn't know, that Jeremy Corbyn collects manhole covers.

Sky News, which is out to get Boris, mocked his decision not to attend a debate they sought to organise and questioned the other candidate, one Jeremy Hunt, instead, under the hashtag #BoJoNoShow. The Huffington Post records that Mr Hunt made good jokes about Mrs May's trousers and four letter words. 

He is not as colourless as I had thought, is not Theresa May thank God, but he did vote Remain and so cannot lead the country out of the EU.

Walking around among members of the public yesterday one female passer-by told Boris “Just don’t have any more rows” to which he muttered the reply: “No more rows. No, no, no. All quiet, all quiet.”

Even more than the broadcasters, the civil service is opposed to Boris and Brexit. The former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake said in a speech yesterday: “Boris has placed at the very center of his campaign the commitment that we will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal. This a complete hostage to fortune. At the same time parliament has been clear, rightly in my view, that it will not countenance leaving the EU without a deal. It is always a good maxim in politics not to enter a room unless you know that you can get out of it … Boris Johnson has not only entered the room but he has put on the straitjacket, padlocked the door and started the tap running.”

Boris's Plan A, he has been forced to say, is to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Irish Backstop. 

His Plan B is a temporary tariff free union under Article 24 of the GATT but, as the Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox was pushed by Andrew Marr of the BBC yesterday into saying, this cannot happen without an agreement between the U.K. and EU. This statement has been questioned by Robert Tombs, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others.

Presumably, as Liam Fox conceded, a temporary free trade agreement wouldn’t cover non-tariff barriers to trade. Or would it?

Plan C, of course, which now looks fairly likely, is leaving the EU without a deal, but this depends on whether Parliament can prevent it happening. Boris says he thinks it can't, Jeremy Hunt that it can. 

Both men are being disingenuous and neither knows. Boris might well be hoping that he is mistaken.

YouGov poll in the Times finds that 28% of the country want to a no-deal Brexit as their first choice,  43% want to stay in the EU, 13% want the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Mrs May  and 16% want a soft Brexit. 

I suspect that if there is a second referendum Leave will win it again.

It was clear all along that no-one could tell what would happen in the end. They still can't. 

At the start of the year I'd have bet on Mrs May's non deal passing, if I'd been forced to bet. After Brexit was delayed, it looked like it would be delayed year after year and never happen. 

Leaving the UK with no deal always looked very unlikely indeed to me, until Nigel Farage's victory in the European Parliament elections, but now Brexit looks sure to happen and very possibly with no deal.

Nigel Farage is the reason the referendum was held in 2016 and it looks like he will be the reason the result of the referendum is honoured on Hallowe'en this year or sometime afterwards. 

If so, this makes him the most important British politician since Clement Attlee's cabinet, even more important than Edward Heath or Alex Salmond. 

Boris might be not much less important. Or he might only last as Prime Minister a few months. Whatever happens he will be a blessed relief after the humourless, secretive, deceitful, cruel and excruciatingly boring Theresa May. He is also, unlike her, a Tory.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Everything you need to know about Boris Johnson

Life is short and we all have a lot of things to do. Even if you are interested in politics, there are a lot of things to read. However, the one thing you should read this year about world politics is this very funny account by Jeremy Vine of how Boris Johnson turned up at an awards ceremony four minutes before he was due to speak, unaware that he was due to speak and completely unaware of the subject about which he would speak on.
Boris had the look of a man who had been dragged out of a well by his ankles. His blond hair seemed to spring vertically from his head as he embarked on some opening remarks, where the occasional word, not always the obvious one, was shouted at double-volume.
‘…errrrr, Welcome to THE International. Errrrr…’
The catastrophe had happened. He did not know, could not remember, what event he was at. This is one of the biggest fears any speaker has, forgetting where they are.
Johnson then did a crazy thing. To find out where he was, he very obviously turned around and looked at the large logo projected at the back of the stage.
‘…to the International SECURITISATION Awards! YES!’ he cried triumphantly, and to my amazement it brought the house down. There was a huge cheer. Everyone realised this was not going to be a normal speech. The chaos had descended on us, we were in it, and we were going to enjoy it.
He even managed to forget the punchline to the story about George Brown and the woman in the red dress and it didn't matter.

There is always one anecdote that tells you everything you need to know about a historical figure. With General Franco it is the story of his signing death warrants while talking to the Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano by the fireside in his snug, occasionally scribbling the word 'Garotte' beside his signature. 'I can come back later if you are busy.' 'Oh no this is just routine.' 

With Boris this is the story you need to keep in mind.

Boris is the necessary man

An argument with his girlfriend over some wine he spilt on her white sofa seems an insubstantial reason for thinking Boris Johnson unfit for high office but the anti-Boris press has used the wine stain artfully to try to destroy him. 

The Sunday Times published an interesting character assassination of Boris Johnson by Sonia Purnell, who was his colleague on the Daily Telegraph, and a good case for the defence by his biographer, Andrew Gimson.

Once leaving his wife for a girlfriend could have been fatal to his chances but Tories seem not to care about that any more. Nigel Lawson, Douglas Hurd and many other Tories even in the old days did this. The return of Alan Clark to the House as a Tory MP, after he published in his diaries his relations with a married woman and her two daughters, marked the absolute end of the era of Tory sexual morality.

In any event, Mrs Johnson, née Marina Wheeler, was Boris's girlfriend when he was married to his first wife.  

Ed Miliband lived with his girlfriend when he was expected to become Prime Minister in 2010 (what a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then), as did a number of European leaders. Once, not long ago, being a lesbian and mother of a test tube baby would have ruled out the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, from a career in Tory politics.

Boris lied about his love affair with Petronella Wyatt and was therefore sacked by Michael Howard from the front bench, which meant he was unable to take part in the next leadership election and perhaps become Michael Howard's successor. He was at the start of his career fired by the Times for making up two stories. He has several illegitimate children and cheated on both his wives. However there is no alternative, at least now that Michael Gove and Dominic Raab failed to make the cut. 

Michael Gove anyway lost his chance by not resigning over Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement and Dominic Raab, who did resign, does not have magic. 

Magic is needed.

Boris is the best, perhaps the only hope for his party and his country.

Jeremy Hunt, who Alison Pearson accurately said looks like a frightened gerbil, was in favour of Remain and, after the referendum went the way he didn't like, wanted it to be held again. Later he decided he wanted to leave the EU after all. He is a manager, not a leader. He would be Theresa May 2, though not quite as dull.

He should step down and let Boris come to office and try to sort out the crisis. No-one imagines, spilt wine or not, that Jeremy Hunt will win the hearts and minds of Tory members.

George Osborne, who was clever to accept the job of editor of the Evening Standard but should have combined it with staying in the Commons, endorsed Boris Johnson for leader of the party in an editorial. 
‘If Mr Johnson governs as the “modern Conservative” he promises to be today he can put his party, and country back on track.
That’s why we believe if there’s one of these candidates who can give Britain back its mojo, it’s BoJo.’
This is a reminder that Boris Johnson a social liberal who is very easy-going on immigration once argued for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. This is very unfortunate, as halting Third World and inter-European immigration is an existential matter, much more important than leaving the EU. 

Despite this, and despite being married to a half Indian wife, he is assailed by accusations of being a racist. 

Young people in the media hate Mr Johnson as much as they hate Mr Trump. Mr Johnson having met Steve Bannon, who wrote Donald Trump's inauguration speech, is treated by the Sunday Times as evidence of a far right connection. (Far right used to mean Sir Oswald Mosley and General Franco - is Donald Trump far right?) 

George Osborne took the opposite line in his editorial:
‘Ask yourself which of these potential Prime Ministers is most likely to persuade the Conservative Party to vote for a repacked version of the existing deal? The one with the greatest credibility with hard Brexiteers.’

After the referendum some Brexiteers warned that if Boris were Prime Minister he would go for a soft Brexit, like the Norwegian model. Jeremy Hunt argued for something similar. This might be the best solution for now at least. 

Otherwise we have to leave without a deal.

Monday, 24 June 2019


“One can never successfully lie to a fiction writer, because we know all about making things up.”

William Trevor

"People are of immense importance but the relations between them are not."

E.M. Forster

"There's something about a 'varsity man that distinguishes him from a cad:

You can tell by his tie and blazer he's a 'varsity undergrad,

And you know that he's always ready and up to a bit of a lark,

With a toy balloon and a whistle and some cider after dark."

Sir John Betjeman

"Drugs are instead of people."

Eric Berne

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Lending votes to kill Michael Gove

If they have any sense, which they have, Team Boris will lend votes to Mr. Javid or Mr. Hunt, equally useless politicians, to make sure that Michael Gove, who is very substantial indeed, is not in the last round with Boris.

Whoever it is should promptly stand down and let Boris get down to work as Prime Minister.

The media are trying to kill Boris

Rory Stewart, the Tory candidate that people who are not Tories like, is out. 

He was very impressive, but the joke had worn thin.

Boris's managers lent votes to Jeremy Hunt last time, because he is a weak candidate, and may have lent some this time to Sajid Javid, another weak one, to get rid of the vexatious, not very Tory Rory.

Or maybe they lent votes to Rory Stewart to delete Dominic Raab.

The London media class and a large part of London graduates, especially ones from Oxford and Cambridge, liked him because they hate Brexit and hate Boris Johnson, just as the same class once hated Margaret Thatcher. Reader I, though a Tory in theory, was one of them.

Their equivalents in New York hate Mr. Trump. In Budapest the same sort of people hate Mr. Orban, in Milan they hate Mr. Salvini and in Warsaw....

So it was very stupid of Boris to have agreed to take part in a BBC debate, especially one over which Emily Maitlis presided. She struggled to contain her annoyance at him for refusing to let her interrupt him.

if you want to see her politics, click on the extraordinarily hostile and outrageously rude grilling she gave the Hungarian Foreign Minister, who had the temerity to say to her
“We want to keep Hungary a Hungarian country and we don’t think that multiculturalism is by definition good.”
Sky News is as bad. Sky’s political editor, Beth Rigby, said to Boris (note they were statements not questions):
“You brandish your Brexit credentials, but many of your colleagues worry about your character.

“You brought shame on your party when you described veiled Muslim women as letterboxes and bank robbers. 

“People who have worked closely with you do not think you’re fit to be prime minister.”
Scarcely impartial. She then pinned the tweet to her Twitter feed (meaning it stays at the top of her tweets).

The interviewer on Radio Four this morning attacked the Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi with real and prolonged fury because he had moved from supporting Dominic Raab to supporting Boris. 

The interviewer complained that Boris had scarcely allowed himself to be interviewed. No wonder.

No-one who hear it could have failed to see that in England many in the mainstream media are activists rather than journalists. This is much more true in the USA than in Great Britain, but true in my country too.
It is very stupid of the Tory party to allow this divisive election to drag on for weeks when speed is vital. And stupid of Sajid Javid to let some plant in the audience bounce him into calling for an investigation into lslampohobia in his party and this look like an identity politician and therefore not a Tory.

This is now about the media versus Boris. But it is also about the astonishing power of the media. Journalists like passionate globalist Robert Peston, and all the rest, use it to force the candidates to take positions on issues, like the Irish border for example, which should remain constructively ambiguous if a negotiated outcome is to be possible. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

Borisophobia and a debate that should not have happened

"Think of it as Westminster’s answer to the World Cup third-place play-off." (Charlie Cooper in Politico)
The mainstream media is in steep decline in many ways, thanks to the internet which provides a sort of free speech and makes publishing virtually free. This is a good thing, obviously. On the other hand, the legacy media's power to coerce people was never greater. In Britain at least.

I was angered by the way in which the BBC, Sky News and the papers have criticised and ridiculed Boris Johnson for not taking part in the debate on (the notoriously left-wing) Channel Four yesterday.

Channel 4 left an empty lectern in the middle of the stage, which is not really the way an impartial publicly funded channel should behave. But the media has a tremendous feeling of entitlement.

I completely agree, for once, with James Cleverley, the Conservative Party Chairman and himself a candidate who stood down, who tweeted

This #C4Debate is geared up to encourage @Conservatives leadership candidates to knock chunks out of each other. That’s not how this campaign should be conducted.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Lukewarm about climate change

In the 1980s I detested Margaret Thatcher and in the 1990s disliked the Thatcherites. That's why I sort of accepted John Major's arguments in favour of the Maastricht Treaty. 

Naturally I am ashamed of this mistake but I also find that, nice though Ken Clarke and Rory Stewart are, they have very mistaken opinions on a huge number of things. While 'the bastards' as John Major called his three opponents in the Cabinet, are right about many things. 

Lord (Peter) Lilley was one of those three, along with John Redwood and Michael Portillo, who, a Lib Dem friend recently said to me, would make a good Prime Minister now. 

Peter Lilley was among just five MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act in the House of Commons in 2008. He says in the most recent Spectator podcast that climate change is happening, human activity contributes to it, but its effect will be to raise world temperatures by half a degree, which is negligible. The melting of the polar ice caps is a huge thing, but is not expected to happen for millenia.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Boris looks headed to No 10 - maybe Andrew Neil should be drafted in

Boris seems overwhelmingly the choice of Tory MPs, winning the votes of 141 MPs. Jeremy Hunt, a Remainer who has flip-flopped so many times over Brexit, won 43 votes, and Michael Gove, despite the cocaine, 37.

27 votes apiece went to Dominic Raab, a reasonable man who resigned from the cabinet over the way Mrs May misled it and Sajid Javid, who is so boring and who is playing the class and race cardsThey should drop out now. 

Shocklingly, 20 people voted for the gormless Matt Hancock, who should have been dropped from the government after his hilarious humiliation at the hands of Andrew Neil. 

Perhaps Andrew Neil should be the next Prime Minister. He is cleverer than any of the candidates, a Tory and a Brexiteer.

The selfishness and vanity of Theresa May have postponed the Tory election, at a time

Wednesday, 12 June 2019


I remember that when one nobleman and politician died in the period before 1914, another peer praised him for his faithfulness 'to his wife even though she was a woman of no great physical attraction'. These were Hansard's words. What the noble lord said was 'Even though she was a d-ned ugly old bitch.' I wish I could remember who said it of whom - I think both were former cabinet ministers.

Popes speaking impromptu is a very new thing

An interesting article in the Catholic Herald says that, well into the reign of Pope St John XXIII, the Vatican's official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, would report that a statement had been “gathered from the august lips of the Supreme Pontiff”. 

The habit of popes answering questions from journalists is a new one (but so is the habit of journalists questioning British ministers or intruding on Tory leadership elections). Pope St Paul VI occasionally made extemporaneous remarks, Pope St John Paul II started the

From an interview with Jean-Claude Juncker published yesterday

"I’ve had the impression for months now that the main interest of British politicians was to find a way to replace Theresa May, not to find an agreement with the Europeans.”

"I will not repeat that everybody understands English, but nobody understands England.”

Catholic priests interfering with boys and, much more rarely, girls

I recently mentioned a German professor who is being prosecuted for making a link between paedophilia and homosexuality. 

I wrote about him out of concern about free speech, rather than interest in paedophilia, but on the subject of paedophilia it might be useful if I mentioned the 2004 'John Jay report' by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on surveys completed throughout the United States. It came to this conclusion about incidents of priests interfering with children:  
"The largest group of alleged victims (50.9%) was between the ages of 11 and 14, 27.3% were 15-17, 16% were 8-10 and nearly 6% were under age 7. Overall, 81% of victims were male and 19% female. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Boris Johnson talks about God, women and multiracial London

Boris Johnson in an interview in Time in January 2015 said he was not a serious practicing Christian but thinks about religion a lot. He said his faith comes and goes like coverage of Magic FM (a radio station) in the Chilterns.

I thought that this clever remark was made by David Cameron, and so it was, but he was plagiarising Boris.

No period is more forgotten than the recent past. Back in January 2015 Boris said

“I think Brexit is possible ... [Britain] would very rapidly come to an alternative arrangement that protected our basic trading interests. I must be clear. I think there would be a pretty testy, scratchy period ... [but] it wouldn’t be disastrous.”
He said he does not miss monochrome 1970s London.

Monday, 10 June 2019

No deal

"Although no-deal is now the only realistic way to deliver a proper Brexit, British politics has become so warped that even success risks destroying the PM. The stone cold truth is that while it is possible to make no-deal a success, it is impossible to make it a political success. The entire corporate establishment and metropolitan elite, and vast majority of MPs are against it. Being proved wrong willonly make their opposition to the government more vindictive. They will seek to wash away the embarrassing inaccuracies of their Domesday premonitions in a spitting megastorm of autocratic fury and apoplectic pessimism, the likes of which this country has never witnessed.

"Only a Trump-like figure whose whole identity is anchored in taking on the establishment could weather such a supercyclone of ruling class outrage."
Sherelle Jacobs in today's Daily Telegraph.  

She is right, though leaving with no deal has big dangers. But if anyone can be Trumpian it is Boris. And he says he will play our strongest card, which is a very strong one, the hard border that no deal makes unavoidable in Ireland, unless the EU makes useful concessions.

Why can't they let us have the Norway option, but with no more free movement for Europeans? 

Though it is non-European immigrants that are the big issue, on which the future of Europe hinges.

German professor prosecuted for alleging link between paedophilia and homosexuality

Der Spiegel the German newspaper has the story that at a court in Kassel, Ulrich Kutschera, Professor of Biology at Kassel University, is being tried for slander for comments he made on a Catholic website about homosexual relationships, the unfitness of homosexuals to adopt children and links between homosexuality and paedophilia.

According to a statement by the public prosecutor's office in Kassel, the university teacher allegedly accused homosexual persons of a fundamental tendency towards sexual abuse of children in an interview. The professor is said to have defended his statements as based on biology.

The Lancet argues for LGBTQ rights and abortion, opposes Italy's refugee policy

The Lancet is perhaps the world's most authoritative general medical journal. It informs doctors of medical developments but now it has widened its scope. Writers it publishes argue, for example, for a 
"progressive agenda that demands gender equality for girls and women and gender norms that promote health and wellbeing for all, including gender minorities.”
They also speak in favour of what they call reproductive rights, which means abortion, even though doctors by their Hippocratic oath swear not to perform abortions. 

Even further removed from medicine, an article by Raffaella Casolino in the latest issue of the journal attacks the Italian government's immigration policy and tells the physicians of Great Britain:
“Italy has been witnessing a rapid escalation towards racism and xenophobia since the new government came into power in June, 2018."

Sunday, 9 June 2019


“A person's life isn't orderly runs about all over the place, in and out through time. The present's hardly there; the future doesn't exist. Only love matters in the bits and pieces of a person's life.” 
William Trevor

"False happiness is like false money; it passes for a time as well as the true, and serves some ordinary occasions; but when it is brought to the touch, we find the lightness and alloy, and feel the loss." Alexander Pope

“Whether a belief is considered to be a delusion or not depends partly upon the intensity with which it is defended, and partly upon the numbers of people subscribing to it.”
Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus

More fake news about Syria

I wrote on Tuesday about biassed and unreliable reporting from Syria, which makes understanding the situation so difficult. 

I, like you, am too busy to do deep research into the subject, but via the redoubtable Peter Hitchens I read this blog post by a distinguished British expert on the Middle East, Helena Cobban, which sets things straight. 

I wrote about a misleading article in the W
ashington Post, which said it was unsafe for refugees to return to Syria. Helena Cobban takes apart a May 30 piece in The New York Times, jointly written by a journalist in Turkey and one in Lebanon, about the humanitarian crisis in Idlib. It does not make the obvious point that the inhabitants are being effectively held captive by the rebel fighters, who are also in charge of distributing aid. The article fails too to mention the rebel forces are strongly dominated by the Al-Qaeda affiliate known as Hai’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies, or
...that under the September agreement Turkey expressly agreed to intervene in Idlib to pull HTS and its allies back from the frontline and eventually from the whole of the enclave. Russia agreed, in return, to hold its Syrian allies back from attacking the rebel positions in Idlib. Turkey has not done what it promised. In early May, Turkey’s non-performance of the agreement prompted Syria and Russia to resume their attempts to reassert Syrian government control over Syria’s national territory in Idlib through military means.

The article, and all the articles I read in the newspapers, seem to be based on information provided by rebel activists, for the good and sufficient reason that the HTS and its allies have killed too many journalists.

Articles like these - and there are so many - are more than shoddy journalism. They are perhaps the most scandalous thing I can think of, as they inform public policy and the desire of people like Hillary Clinton and Boris Johnson to intervene in Syria on the side of Al Qaeda to remove the Syrian government. All that is needed is some intelligence and integrity from the newspapers in question to report in a fair way.

Boris Invictus

John O'Sullivan described the Tory leadership election with the wit of his 1970s Commons Sketches in the Telegraph, my teenage reading over breakfast.
'The appropriate response to these candidates is Ray Clooney’s:
“Sergeant, arrest some of these vicars.”
'My main impression of the Conservative leadership race so far is of a repertory theatre that has advertised the wrong play: a small audience has turned up for a serious drama but a very large cast of actors is performing a light farce.'

I really hate British party leadership campaigns taking place in public. Leadership campaigns used to happen among MPs in private. The campaigns we are watching illustrate the decline of the House of Commons as a clubby organism, the increase in the power of the legacy media and the Americanisation of British politics. It's becoming a semi-presidential system, which is why people ask why the electors cannot decide who the next Prime Minister should be.

I detested Tony Benn for publishing his manifesto for the Labour leadership in 1976, but they are all at it now. 

How much better had the MPs made their minds up in five days a week or two ago. Boris might have been Prime Minister in time to meet Donald Trump, as the number two candidate would probably have dropped out. 

Boris Johnson is pretty sure to be the next British Prime Minister and for all his faults there is no-one else. 

'This isn't the Britain we fought for’

I wish I had spoken to my father, who signed up for the army on 1 September 1939 (he was in the Territorials and was called up two days before everyone else) about whether England was the country he went off to fight for. He is not here, unfortunately, to ask, but it is very clear that the country his contemporaries fought for has been lost. I hope Brexit undoes some of the damage but most is irremediable.

Nicholas Pringle three years ago sent letters to local newspapers across the United Kingdom asking people who lived through the war to write to him with their experiences and asking
'Are you happy with how your country has turned out? What do you think your fallen comrades would have made of life in 21st-century Britain?'
He has published the articles in a book. 

One writer said Britain was still the best in the world, which is true. Another said that living standards, educational standards and opportunities for women had enormously improved, which is also true. At least one spoke favourably of the EU, but almost all were bleakly disappointed.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The lessons of D-Day

The 40th anniversary of D-Day was celebrated on a very big scale because by the 50th anniversary many veterans would have died. It took place the summer I went down from university and seems very recent to me. Mrs Thatcher, Reagan, Mitterand and Pierre Trudeau, who took part, did not seem big figures then, but do now. They have been lucky in being followed by much lesser men and, in the case of Theresa May, a much lesser woman. In Trudeau's case by his very much lesser son.

People said it was unusual and pleasant to see the American, British and French leaders without Helmut Kohl being there. Nor were the Russians, who won the war, invited.

Russia dismissed the ceremonies as a ''pompous propaganda campaign''. Izvestia, the Soviet newspaper, had recently carried an article saying that Hitler and President Reagan shared the ''distorted consciousness of a maniac killer.''

Mrs Thatcher, whatever one thinks of her economic policies, which I opposed at the

Getting through the red boxes

Theresa May wanted to know the detail about all sorts of government policies, which at first made her cabinet happy, until they realised that issues went to her and stayed in her inbox. She prevaricated and postponed decisions. 

She found it very hard to get through her red boxes, unlike the Queen who always gets through hers speedily. I read that David Cameron always cleared the contents of his red box before his first meeting in the morning and that Foreign Office mandarins were surprised that Boris always mastered his brief. The Prime Minister who was best of all at this was the diligent John Major.

Theresa May was never up to a cabinet job - and it is partly a question of intellectual capacity, partly of character (lack of self-confidence and qualities of a leader). Why was she not pushed out of office by her party after the 2017 election?

Harold Macmillan found time to read Miss Austen and Trollope in the afternoons, or so he