On this week’s bumper episode we discuss the cult of Corbyn, sharia courts, the golden age of gossip, and orchid delirium.
First: in this week’s magazine Rod Liddle examines the phenomenon that is Jeremy Corbyn, and describes how he has brought Labour voters together in a 'bizarre coalition'. To discuss this subject, we were joined by Hugo Rifkind, who writes his column this week on witnessing Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury, and Ellie Mae O’Hagan, a Corbyn supporting journalist. As Hugo writes:
"Honestly, the whole Corbyn thing still does my head in. I understand what his adoring fans believe he represents, but I’m buggered if I can figure out why they think he represents it. Why not do a better speech? Why not get some help, craft some uplifting lines, have a crack at immortality? Decades from now, researching now, historians will watch that speech, baffled, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. How, they will ask, did a man with nothing much to say and no talent for saying it manage to attract crowds like that? What did they all think they were getting out of it? Why did they decide he was the one?"
Next, around the country, sharia courts are continuing to operate outside of British law. James Fergusson spent a year visiting Muslim communities in Britain and writes in the magazine about finding himself more sympathetic to these councils than he had anticipated. He joined the podcast, along with Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters. As James writes:
"British sharia is not without its problems. The way it is implemented varies too much from council to council, and there is a good case for greater regulation. A formal government review has been underway since last year. But the notion that it is subversive is nonsense. Sharia scholars meet in councils, not courts, which operate subserviently to and in careful conjunction with English law, not in parallel to it. Islam, Ejaz told me, is clear on the matter of jurisdictional precedence: a good Muslim must follow the law of the land in which he lives. I found no Sharia ‘ghettos’, and the figure of 80 councils in Britain is a myth: Ejaz knew of no more than six. Given the essential public service his ulama provide, it may be that we need more of them, not fewer."
Nigel Dempster, the legendary gossip columnist, died 10 years ago this July. The Daily Mail’s John McEntee is celebrating his life in the magazine this week, and he sat down with Sam Leith, our literary editor and a former diarist, to discuss Dempster (and his many feuds) and the dying art of the gossip pages,. As John writes, on the subject of their reconciliation:
"Some years later, as I was about to join the Mail, Nigel and I had an opportunity to be friends again. We were both invited to one of Richard Shepherd’s splendid luncheons at Langan’s. Other guests included the great sports writer Ian Wooldridge, raconteur Ned Sherrin and the up-and-coming Sam Leith from the Telegraph. Nigel arrived late and sat in the vacant chair next to me. ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ he snapped. ‘I was invited,’ I replied. Nigel then flexed his cuffs, exposing a chunky gold cufflink embossed with a rampant dog. Pointing to it, Nigel said: ‘That’s the dog you killed.’ It was indeed a gold memorial to Tulip. I protested: ‘I didn’t kill your dog. I mocked its death and for that I am sorry. I underestimated how upset you would be. Will you accept my apology?’ He did. We shook hands and the subject was never mentioned again."
And finally, in fields and forests across the land, stooped figures pause beside the slender stems of our native orchids. Over the past year, Isabel Hardman has become fascinated by these flowers in all their varieties – from butterfly to burnt to bee – and we were joined by Professor Richard Bateman, President of the Hardy Orchid Society to discuss. As Isabel writes:
"Why did we bother combing the dunes to find just two tiny yellow flower stalks? Why am I now planning an even longer journey to find that goat-scented lizard orchid? This grown-up treasure hunt isn’t just about the excitement of finding something rare and valuable. Orchidelirium can soothe a troubled mind — it has helped mine heal. Hunting for the flowers, peering intently at the ground as you plod along, forces you to forget yourself and all your troubles. And then the wonder of discovering a flower evolved to look just like a fly! It makes life seem worth sticking around for."