It is usually a bad idea for a presidential candidate to leave himself open to the accusation that he is soft on law and order. Yet last weekend Joseph Robinette Biden Jr did exactly that. He attacked the ‘egregious tactics’ of the federal officers trying to control the apparently never-ending riots in Portland, Oregon. Sensing an open goal, President Trump’s campaign promptly accused Biden of ‘siding with the criminals’.
The federal courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon, has become ground-zero for the nightly orgy of assaults, looting, arson, and public nudity — and, most recently, a surrealistic duel between protestors and federal agents using leaf-blowers to drive back each other’s tear gas — that continues to enliven America’s so-called Rose City in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
It’s a curious thing, this new alignment of some of America’s most high-profile mayors with the very people burning down their towns.
It was on a foggy walk to Hell’s Mouth that the sea fret lifted and I looked down, down, down at sea smashing against rocks and yes, it felt like a sign.
I was on a socially distanced hols — if we define ‘socially distanced’ as ‘a bunch of mainly metropolitan friends romping in north Cornwall’ — for my summer of 2020 epiphany, which was this. Of the dozen or so happy, shiny, busy fiftysomethings bodyboarding, yakking and stuffing down Kettle Chips in their wetsuits, only one had what a retired major in Tunbridge Wells might call a job — and that was the books editor of the Oldie.
The Scottish National party and its supporters like the world to see Scottish independence as a final act of decolonisation, Scots throwing off the yoke of English imperialism and, with it, the taint of having been imperialists themselves. Last week Scots academic Sir Geoff Palmer compared it to the process that led to his native Jamaica gaining its independence. Yet Scots were the greatest of British colonialists and, for most of the 300-odd years of the Union, strong unionists.
For years Westminster has been obsessing over Russian interference in Britain. Yet while we fret over oligarchs and social-media bots, the most dangerous assault on our democracy and security goes not just unchallenged, but largely unnoticed. Beijing is richer and more sophisticated than Moscow on every level, and its influence more prevalent across British society. But even as we witness events in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, we still struggle to see China as a threat to our way of life.
Iran’s new meddler-in-chief in Iraq is a bespectacled general called Esmail Ghaani. Brought in to replace Qassem Soleimani after his death in a US airstrike in January, he has the same green uniform as his predecessor, the same grey beard, and the same orders to make Iraq’s Shia militias do Tehran’s bidding.
That, though, is where the similarities end. Soleimani was a legend among his followers in Iraq — he spent years building contacts with local commanders and joined them on the battlefield against Isis in Mosul.
A study has shown that protestors who took part in Extinction Rebellion’s demonstrations last year were overwhelmingly middle-class, highly educated and southern. Well, there’s a surprise. It turns out some 85 per cent of the London protestors had a degree, a third had a postgraduate qualification and two thirds described themselves as middle-class. Three quarters of those charged with offences lived in the south.
And, if the accents I heard from the protestors as I biked through the throng on my way to work were anything to go on, a high percentage were public school--educated, too.
Guess which theatre is the first to open to the paying public post-Covid? Not Lloyd Webber’s London Palladium, where small audiences have been invited on trials, nor any of the other West End giants. This weekend the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome — Britain’s last stand-alone circus building — is welcoming audiences to its ringside seats for the first time since March.
The Hippodrome is tucked behind a row of kerchinging arcades on Great Yarmouth’s decaying, half-lit seafront.