President Trump has ended US participation in the Iran deal and imposed sanctions. No doubt this is annoying to the British and other Europeans who mistakenly helped devise it, but why are they — especially we — clinging to it still? Without the United States, it cannot work. Trump’s move is supported by our allies in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Israel — who are constantly threatened by Iranian-backed terrorism. Inside Iran, once again (but little reported), people seeking freedom and work are protesting, yet we actively support a regime which has, for 40 years, been bitterly hostile to our interests and way of life. The EU has even gone so far as to threaten European firms which withdraw from dealings with Iran because of US sanctions with legal suits unless they have Commission authorisation. Some see the Iran deal as the embodiment of ‘European values’. Thank goodness we’re off.
According to the Daily Express, a tightly knit group of fanatical Labour moderates have been meeting in a country retreat to plot the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and another ten or so smoothy-chops have met secretly for away-days at Fair Oak Farm, near Mayfield in Sussex, the paper claims. This scoop is a slight blow to me, since I live only a few miles away and failed to notice the plotters, but a much graver one to this country’s greatest defender of ordinary decent people, Paul Dacre, whose large southern estate all but borders Fair Oak. How did the Daily Mail’s inferior rival steal this story from under his nose? Those of us — including, of course, Mr Dacre — who support the cause of Leave, do not welcome such plots. Although Mr Corbyn would be the worst prime minister since records began, we are also grateful to him for his help in making Brexit possible. Given his history as a lifelong Eurosceptic, he has not been brave in standing up for Leave, but his lack of enthusiasm for Remain has been crucial in preventing its full mobilisation. If he were to be toppled in the coming months, the attempt by frenzied centrists to frustrate the wishes of the referendum majority might just, at the last minute, succeed. He deserves to go, for his association with anti-Semites and those who hate western civilisation, but right now he is in the right place. Lord, make him toast, but not yet.
Four times on Tuesday morning, Radio 4 news took advantage of the heatwave to announce a new report predicting ‘hothouse earth’. A ‘team of international researchers’ had worked out that unless we could keep the global temperature from rising an extra 1˚C over our current 1˚C above pre-industrial levels, Gaia would get sick of absorbing carbon in forests and oceans and would belch it all up at us, with ‘irretrievable’ consequences, such as 60ft waves several centuries hence. This could be stopped, of course, only by ‘worldwide action’ now. What the BBC would not tell me was who this team of international researchers were: no news bulletins gave any name at all. ‘Scientists’ said it, and that was enough. At last, the Today programme stepped in and interviewed a professor called something like Bent Brainstrom, who was one of the authors of the report and comes from the ‘non-profit Stockholm Resilience Centre’. Even then, it was not made clear what organisation was responsible. I like ‘non-profit’. Almost all think-tanks are non-profit, but when the programme was attacking the Institute of Economic Affairs last week, it failed to mention its non-profit status, describing it only as ‘right-wing’.
One should not rise to the bait, but the latest little ‘Rhodes must fall’-type story makes it hard. Cambridge University, of which Jan Smuts was once Chancellor, has removed his bust from public display. According to John Shakeshaft, the deputy chairman of the university’s governing council, Smuts has ‘uncomfortable contemporary significance’, as ‘part of the system that led to apartheid’. No mention that the party that Smuts led was the fierce opponent of the National Party, which introduced apartheid in South Africa. True, Smuts, like virtually every white leader of his generation, did not want full democratic rights for black people in South Africa, but there are other things to be said. That he helped Britain win two world wars, put forward the plan for the League of Nations after the Great War and helped compose the UN Charter after the next, that he was a leading botanist, a great general, and the man who created the Union of South Africa, thus bringing into being the most important country in Africa. Above all, in this context at least, he is a fascinating study as a white man who fought the colonial power, led his country to independence, yet maintained the value of the British connection. It was partly under Smuts’s influence that the present Queen made her famous promise to the Commonwealth in Cape Town (‘All of my life, whether it be long or short…’) in 1947. I wonder if his detractors have thought about any of this. Whether they have or not, Cambridge should.
Why does President Xi Jinping of China dislike being compared to Winnie-the-Pooh? The new film about Christopher Robin and his teddy bear has been banned in China, apparently because Chinese dissidents make the comparison. True, Pooh is a bear of very little brain, lacks leadership skills and is somewhat stout, but it seems a friendly thought all the same. Wouldn’t a dictator be pleased to be considered cuddly? It is interesting that characters from children’s books are seen as subversive. Saparmurat Niyazov (‘Turkmenbashi’), the late dictator of Turkmenistan, passed a law banning anyone from dressing up as a hobbit. I wonder if, in Pooh’s case, there is some cultural misunderstanding. Have President’s Xi’s advisers on British culture in some way conflated (as I did as a child) Pooh-bear with Pooh-bah from the Mikado? A Pooh-bah echo would be doubly upsetting to President Xi since the original is both Japanese and useless.