Speaking on the Today programme on Monday, Sir David Attenborough, who wants a global agreement to control carbon emissions, pointed out that ‘Never in the history of humanity have all the people of the world got together to deal with a particular problem and agreed what the solution could be. Never, ever, ever.’ He is right. But he seemed to defy the logic of his own observation. They never have. Probably, since the truth is best arrived at through disagreement, they never should. The key point is that they never will. So it is a waste of time to try.
When someone commits suicide, those close to that person naturally reproach themselves. In politics, and similarly contested areas of life, people reproach others too. So it is not surprising that when a 21-year-old Conservative party worker, Elliott Johnson, killed himself in September, accusations about Tory bullying arose. Judging from what is reported about Mark Clarke, the leader of the party’s campaign RoadTrip group, he should never have been in charge of any youth wing. But there are couple of other things to bear in mind. For some reason, it has not been reported, though it is widely said, that Mr Johnson had been in a relationship with a party colleague and that he had felt betrayed when the relationship was broken off. It seems reasonable to guess that this break-up would have added to his despair, and therefore have made him more likely to commit suicide. It does not seem reasonable to think that the party chairman, Lord Feldman, can be arraigned for Mr Johnson’s death, although he should certainly be criticised for his joint role in appointing Clarke. Why is this worth saying? Only because this case is yet another example of the false exaltation of victims.