When I dropped off my kids at school early last week, I noticed that -another parent’s car was covered in ash — it had been parked in a garage where arsonists had been at work, attacking scores of vehicles. His Volvo had got away: just. ‘My car can be cleaned,’ the father told me, ‘but how can I explain this to my young kids?’
As Sweden goes to the polls next weekend, its politicians face another conundrum: how do they explain all this to the country?
I live in Uppsala, a leafy and prosperous university town north of Stockholm.
It may seem odd that a cabal of politicians, celebrities and millionaires can successfully present themselves as a great democratic force and seek to overturn Brexit. But the people behind the People’s Vote have one big advantage: their opponents are in disarray.
Vote Leave ceased campaigning after the referendum. Its organisers felt they had accomplished their mission, and the Conservative government could be trusted to execute Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
When Muslims make headlines, it’s invariably for the wrong reasons. The fuss over Boris Johnson’s burka joke is a case in point: he was making an argument in defence of Muslims, but was instead condemned for attacking us. Why the confusion? Because of how little our faith is understood.
Let’s start with the burka. Islam makes various demands of its followers, but — despite what you might think from the headlines — covering our faces isn’t one of them.
The very best impressionists do not simply mimic the mannerisms, speech patterns and facial expressions of their targets — they also cleverly satirise the beliefs, character and political dispositions of those targets. Most of us would not remember Mike Yarwood with great fondness because he was quite unable to do any of that. It was enough for Mike simply to raise his shoulders and laugh when evoking Ted Heath; there was no depth to the performance, nothing which gnawed away at Heath’s petulance and obstinacy and insecurity.
A couple of weeks ago I met David Grime and Alan Noble, members of the Lakes Line Rail User Group, over a very good dinner in the Brown Horse pub in Winster in the heart of the Lake District. They had contacted me in despair at the collapse of services on their beloved ten-mile Windermere branch line. This once reliable and well-used service is now a shadow of its former self: characterised by cancellations, rampant overcrowding, bus replacement services and — sometimes — an absence of any trains at all.
Christopher Howse has just written a book about Soho. He drank there regularly with Michael Heath, The Spectator’s cartoon editor, in the 1980s. Last week, in the editor’s office, they remembered a vanished world.
MICHAEL HEATH: I introduced you to Soho.
CHRISTOPHER HOWSE: Well, I don’t know if you’re entirely to blame for that. But you taught me a thing or two.
HEATH: There were such things as groupies for cartoonists in those days.
The Democrats will face a dilemma if they win control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections. Should they impeach President Trump over the Russia affair? Or should they impeach him over the Stormy Daniels porn-star payoff? Or should they impeach him over something else?
There’s no doubt the party’s base of voters is more than ready to stick it to Trump. A recent poll by Axios found that 79 per cent of Democrats believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.
Whenever I visit a country I try to pitch high and meet the president or prime minister. In Australia this proves tricky. At the start of the week Malcolm Turnbull and I are on for lunch, but commitments force me to call off. By the end of my visit he is no longer prime minister. One of his excellent predecessors comes to see me at my hotel. At first I marvel at the ease with which former prime ministers can move about in Australia.
Battersea Power Station once generated nearly a fifth of London’s power. It must have hummed and clanked almost as much as it does today while its transformation proceeds noisily.
Graphic prints of it are two a penny across the capital, but I’m fond of them because the power station is my near neighbour. I still thrill to glimpse it framed by rows of Victorian semis, especially now that the new chimneys are lit dramatically at night, red crane lights dotted about them like a spiky ruby crown.