Having worked flat-out to defend judges over the Article 50 case in the Supreme Court, the BBC has gone the other way, in relation to the judiciary, over Grenfell Tower. Its news coverage is working hard to displace the retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick from his appointment to chair the inquiry into the fire. Groups purporting to speak for the Grenfell victims are given airtime to denounce him. The idea is that they and their activist lawyers are entitled to a veto on who runs any inquiry, thus attaining effective control of what it decides. Something similar led to the hopeless, expensive collapse of chairman after chairman in Theresa May’s misguided independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. This is not in the public interest. There is no point in an inquiry if its outcome is predetermined. As I write, the government is defending Sir Martin. So I wouldn’t be surprised, given its current weakness, if he is out by the time you read this.
President Macron’s speech on Monday to the combined houses of parliament in the Palace of Versailles proved how stunningly different are the French from the British. Imagine our head of state promising to cut the size of parliament by a third. Imagine her, or even her prime minister, promising to renew the nation with ‘the spirit of conquest’, as M. Macron did. We are often accused of nostalgia for empire, but we would never say such a thing, or even think it. Imagine the ribaldry which would descend upon M. Macron’s equivalent — if our constitution could have such a phenomenon — for striding though the marble halls past a guard of honour holding their swords erect, and then dumping more than an hour of grandiloquence upon the assembly. I laughed out loud. The occasion’s pride perhaps presaged, I couldn’t help wondering, some mighty fall, as did Louis XVI’s gathering of the Estates-General in Versailles in 1789.