A month in, and the war in Ukraine looks very different to how anyone expected. On the first day of the invasion, western intelligence sources believed that Kyiv would fall to Russian forces within 72 hours, underestimating the Ukrainians’ ability to defend their territory and overestimating the Russian military’s capabilities.
Among Vladimir Putin’s many errors was his underestimation of western unity. He did not predict the severity of the sanctions against Russia or that his act of aggression would snap Europe (most notably Germany) out of its complacency over defence spending.
Delighted though we all are that Benedict Cumberbatch has decided to allow a Ukrainian family to live in one of his houses, did he have to trumpet this to the entire population of the country? Surely these sorts of decision are best kept to oneself, no? But then, they’re always doing it, the luvvies – proclaiming their saintliness in order to protect and advance the brand, one supposes. Benedict should know that there are more than 100,000 ordinary people in this country, people who have never received a Bafta, who have offered their homes to Ukrainian refugees and they don’t go bragging about it on national media.
It is uncanny how swiftly British culture imitates the worst of American culture. Take Whoopi Goldberg, who distinguished herself again last week on The View. For anyone who does not know, The View
is a long-running US TV show in which a collection of the dimmest women in America are invited to opine angrily on things they know nothing about. Goldberg is a long-term resident of this asylum, though she recently had to take a break from the show after declaring that the Holocaust had nothing to do with race, was some white-on-white thing, and in any case (as a woman of colour) didn’t concern her.
Glasses chinked. From massive chandeliers, lights glittered beneath the high vaulted ceiling; heroic statuary around the carved stone walls stared eyelessly down; heraldic flags draped from brass rods; and a sense of history and of – how shall I say? – consequence hung in the air. We were dining at the Guildhall in the City of London, and from my place at the top table, flanked by judges, eminent barristers, our host Lord Grabiner QC of One Essex Court chambers, and the justice minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, one could survey the whole hall: perhaps 400 of the brightest and best in the English legal world.
Spring commonly augers a quickening warmth, but for Britons this year the season coincides with a chilling marker: a 54 per cent rise in the energy price cap, bringing the average annual bill to nearly £2,000. By the next increase this autumn, that average will soar to £3,000. Thus what was, until recently, my annoying eccentricity could soon become standard practice: refusal to switch on the heating.
Our gas-fired combi boiler functions pretty much as a water heater only.
Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands 40 years ago. I had joined the Daily Telegraph as a reporter in 1979 and was by then a leader writer. The Falklands was the first really seismic story I had encountered. What made it so exciting was that it was both genuinely absurd and genuinely important. The absurdity lay in Argentina’s vainglory. It violently claimed a right to the islands which not one single Falklands resident accepted.
Should you happen to spot me these days lurking outside a Calvin Klein boutique, notebook in hand, I assure you I have a serious purpose. I’m applying the method of the former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who relished statistical minutiae and believed that sales of men’s underpants – an item so out of sight that a chap could readily choose not to replace worn-out ones when he senses an economic pinch ahead – offer a reliable indicator of impending downturns.