Tony Blair’s coming conversion to the Catholic faith will not be welcomed by all Catholics. There are many in the Vatican, and the Catholic church in this country, who wonder how a politician with his voting record can be admitted to the church.‘My First Confession’ would be a great title for Tony Blair’s memoirs. At any rate, though the book may be years away, Tony Blair will soon confess his sins to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and later (no one is sure, but the Vatican has heard it will be after Christmas) Mr Blair will be received into the Roman Catholic Church.
As one of the Marxists named in James Delingpole’s recent Spectator article (3 November) on his alleged conversion to the commie cause, I really should be angrier about reckless, risk-hungry, overambitious bankers. Yet I find myself in the curious position today of thinking capitalism isn’t risk-hungry enough, certainly in areas where it matters: developing the forces of production and creating new wealth.
KievWell, this was a fine one — the story of my fellow Yank Robert Fletcher, who’d been making a living hiring himself out in Ukraine, where I live, as a ‘millionaire mentor’ — that is, someone who could teach strivers from Sumy and Dniprodzerzhinsk how to get rich, for a reported fee of about $3,000 a head. Fletcher, I read in the news here, had been arrested trying to cross into Russia using a fraudulent passport, and he was the greatest thing I’d seen in a while: a massive hillbilly of early middle age, his hot-curled blond locks flowing around the crumb-eyed head of the rustic who rips you for another 80 bucks after he adjusts your muffler.
Here is a little paradox. For 30 years during the Troubles you have been taking the Belfast to Stranraer ferry. No one asked you for identification: you just bought your ticket and off you went, even though it is quite possible that among your fellow passengers on one of those journeys was a terrorist smuggling bomb-making equipment into mainland Britain. Eventually, peace is restored to Northern Ireland.
Last Tuesday at nightfall, as the servants of democracy fled SW1, a young Somali woman stood spotlit on a stage in Westminster. Behind her was the illuminated logo for the Centre for Social Cohesion: a white hand reaching down across England to help a brown one up; in front, an audience of some of Britain’s biggest brains — politicians, editors, academics. She drew her shawl a little closer round her shoulders, looked up and said: ‘We are not at war with “terror”, that would make no sense.
In these times of green awareness, waste management has become an increasingly fashionable issue for the public sector, always keen to find new excuses for bureaucratic intervention. The South East England Development Agency (Seeda), one of the many quangos created by Labour over the past decade, has certainly latched on to this cause in a big way. It has drawn up a ‘Waste Strategy’, set up a ‘Waste Market Development Group’, established a ‘Business Resource Efficiency and Waste Programme’, and convened ‘stakeholder workshops’ to promote ‘sustainable waste management’.
Tarnow, Poland (maybe)
I’m hungry, stuck here with a tube of flavoured pork fat, a bottle of bison grass vodka and 400 cut-price English cigarettes. This is the sleeper train from Krakow to Bucharest, via Budapest, at the bad, cold hour of midnight — and there’s no dining car. Just pork fat and vodka for dinner — and lunch was a hastily taken affair at the Auschwitz burger bar ’n’ grill, just down from Crematorium No.
There is a new French ambassador arriving in London this week. He is Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, known as — what else? — MGM in Quai d’Orsay. It is fashionable to downplay the role of the ambassador in the modern world. Has not instant communication made the profession of diplomacy redundant? When the president of France and the prime minister of the United Kingdom see each other at EU, G8 or other meetings with more regularity than they talk to their ministers, who needs ambassadors? Moreover, with so much of the common business between France and Britain conducted at European level, surely it is in Brussels, not London and Paris, that problems between the two countries are resolved?Nothing could be further from the truth.