Max Hastings

Diary – 24 August 2017

Also: The charm of the circus, the lure of bagpipes, and the fear I just don’t get popular plays

It has been a summer of tears, both of joy and sorrow. The latter first: how could stones not weep at the spectacle of this Gadarene government leading us towards the cliff edge with a show of insouciance on the part of Fox, Davis, Johnson that would be thought excessive at a wedding, never mind a funeral? At Daily Telegraph leader conferences 25 years ago, our young turks bewailed John Major’s government as the worst in history. Bill Deedes justly rebuked such hyperbole: ‘Are we really saying that Samuel Hoare was a better foreign secretary than Malcolm Rifkind?’ Today, however, it is hard to name a senior minister, with the possible exception of Philip Hammond, who seems to compare favourably with Hoare. However serious the Corbyn menace, and for that matter the Rees-Mogg one, I shall never vote for a Brexit Tory party.

One entirely foreseeable consequence of Brexit is that although it is irrelevant to the gravest problems facing the nation, the government talks about nothing else. There is a black hole in the defence budget: instead of reshaping policy to address this, starting by mothballing the Royal Navy’s absurd new aircraftless-carrier, ministers merely scrabble to keep the crisis away from the Commons and front pages. My wife Penny says, with her accustomed good sense: ‘People only really care about terrorism and cyber-attacks. They are not interested in the Russian threat to the Baltic states.’ Yet real political leaders, as distinct from placemen, would aspire to inform voters, rather than merely chortle because they can scrap soldiers without losing by-elections.

Now for the tears of joy, the kind to which mawkish septuagenarians fall prey. First was the experience of taking the grandchildren to Giffords Circus, which tours southern England between May and September.

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