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The Spectator's Notes

The Spectator's Notes: Max Clifford's conviction vindicates juries. But so did the acquittals

Plus: Fighting Auberon Waugh over Europe, and what Britain will lose without Christianity

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

The conviction of Max Clifford for indecent assaults feels like a vindication of the jury system, as did the acquittal of the many other showbiz characters charged under Operation Yewtree. One reason I keep raising questions of justice about the current obsession with paedophilia is out of suspicion that those most zealous in their accusations are unhealthily interested in the subject. This was the case with Clifford himself and, of course, with the newspapers with which he did business. Celebrity culture is, in essence, a form of pornography which incites powerful people to exploit unpowerful people. It acquires an extra twist of perversion when it turns on those it has incited. It should not be allowed that escape route.

‘She touched every child she taught’, it is said of poor Ann Maguire, the teacher stabbed to death in Leeds. The phrase illustrates the difference between the sexes. If the same were said of a man, he would be arrested.

So far, I am disinclined to vote for Ukip in the forthcoming Euro-elections. Our area has been represented for many years by the great Daniel Hannan, the leading practising Eurosceptic of our times, so I have resisted the Faragiste temptation. But I felt a bit wobbly after reading an interview with Nigel Farage in the Guardian. According to its author, Decca Aitkenhead, Ukip supporters — though not the libertarian Nigel himself — want to make dressing up for the theatre compulsory. They are so right. It is now almost compulsory not to dress up for the theatre, even in the West End. This has had the predictable result that theatre-goers pay less attention, eat and send texts all through the performance. Although ‘audience participation’ has been theatre orthodoxy for 40 years now, the simplest way for an audience to participate in a production is to dress up. By doing so, they recognise they are part of the performance. (For this very reason, audiences at experimental theatres should not dress up.) If they feel no duty of performance, they become just like a cinema audience, indifferent to the live reality of what the actors are doing.


Continentals tend to be more persuasive for the European Union than our home-grown Europhiles, who are rarely honest about what it entails. The only English public figure who ever made the case well was the late Auberon Waugh. He argued the EU was a good thing ‘precisely [because of] the limitations it sets on the influence of British politicians and the British electorate’. He thought it much less harmful if we could all be run by ‘Belgian ticket inspectors’. When we argued in print about this 20 years ago, Bron looked forward to the single currency, because ‘no single government will be able to inflate by printing money to overspend at will. At a stroke, it takes away the greatest power for mischief which our politicians possess.’ I trusted his instinct for who the bossiest people were and how best to frustrate them, so I fretted. But he has been proved wrong about the euro. Far from reining in politicians, it enabled them to borrow without limit because they believed that someone else would stand behind it. That someone else is ultimately Germany who, understandably, wants no repetition. The likely solution, therefore, is rule not by Belgian, but by German ticket inspectors. An altogether more serious matter.

One short addition to the lengthy debate about whether Britain is a Christian country. If it is not, or ceases to be so, this will not harm the Christian faith. Christianity was born in persecution and, in the grim phrase, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ The harm will be to the country. All those citizens who, without knowing much about the source, have found their lives improved by the practice of Christian charity and neighbourliness, will suffer — only gradually, but more with each passing year.

The infiltration of Birmingham schools by an Islamist faction is undoubtedly a great scandal. But the objections to what these governors are doing lay emphasis on the wrong things. Is segregation by sex within a classroom, for example, really so wicked? If you go past pre-war state schools, you often see separate entrances with the words ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ carved in stone. These are not signs of discrimination against women, more of a preoccupation with modesty which is considered old-fashioned today, but probably matters to moderate Muslim parents as well as fanatical ones. The issue between the sexes is surely not about whether they sit together, but whether they learn together, the same things, to the same standard. It is reported that in some of these schools, girls are not allowed to ask questions. That truly is a bad thing.

Continuing this column’s search for startling facts about the first world war, I learnt the other day that Sellar’s and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That was so named as a deliberate echo of Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That. I went back to the text to remind myself what it concludes about the conflict: ‘King Edward’s new policy of peace was very successful and culminated in the Great War to End War. This pacific and inevitable struggle … was the cause of nowadays and the End of History [so Fukuyama is a plagiarist].’ Then there was ‘The Peace to End Peace’ which ‘was terrible and costly … and was signed afterwards in the ever-memorable Chamber of Horrors at Versailles’. As a result, ‘America was thus clearly top nation and history came to a.’ It is interesting to read this now, during the Ukraine crisis. For the first time in my life, I seriously wonder whether America will remain top nation much longer.

In this wonderful spring, the woods and valleys round us are looking particularly lovely, but they are too silent. Now it is May, and we have heard a cuckoo only once. The last cuckoo is becoming the favoured subject, instead of the first.


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