In the past, great benefactors to the visual arts have generally doubled as tastemakers. Their success, as the US critic Jed Perl recently noted, is often best judged by the extent to which their avidities become what the culture takes for granted. But how does taste, which is private, become public in this way? It's a complicated question, and in answering it one can never hope to filter out sheer force of personality as a decisive factor.
Simon Nixon says that we must build more motorways – and scrap railway linesPerhaps the most important discovery I have made over the last few years is that the way to stay sane in Britain is never to use public transport. The Department of Health tells us to eat five portions of fruit a day and to give up booze and fags. But what it dare not tell us is that the best way to reduce the risk of a heart attack and a host of other stress-related ailments is never to use the bus, Tube or train when you can drive a car or ride a bicycle instead.
A n early-morning phone call the other day alerted me to the news that my midday appointment in New Delhi had been 'pre-poned'. Could I 'do the needful', the voice said, and 'get my skates on'.A few months ago, I received an invitation from an Indian ministry. First they sent a fax giving me 'advance intimation' of the event, then two more faxes advising me of a 'formal intimation'. After this, an invitation card arrived with the preamble: 'Sir, we would like to confirm our intimation.
Something strange is happening when a left-wing government publicly accuses the BBC, riddled with institutionalised political correctness, of – can you think of a more wounding insult? – a 'Powellite anti-immigration agenda'. The Pope publicly denouncing one of his cardinals as a Satanist would hardly be more surprising. It is not just cats of the postwar fractured Left scratching each other's eyes out; David Blunkett's intemperate outburst was in reality an admission that he is losing the most important political argument of the day.
Tony Woodley, the new head of the Transport and General Workers' Union, intends to make sure that Tony Blair suffers. His plan is to call a meeting of top union guns and instigate a new form of entryism that will select left-wing, union-friendly parliamentary candidates. After this, he will concentrate on ousting Blair from the union. Woodley's antipathy to Blair is such that he is to instigate a review of all 91 MPs on his payroll to determine which ones are 'too close to the gaffer' (a wonderfully evocative phrase, this, rarely heard since the high old days of the three-day week).
Lady Thatcher so disliked British Airways's ethnic tailfins that she famously took out a paper napkin and covered up the tail of a model plane on the BA stand at a Tory party conference. Should she be passing a model of a BA plane in the next few days, she'll want a tablecloth to cover up the whole damn thing. It wasn't meant to end this way, not when British Airways was liberated from state control in the first flush of privatisations in the early 1980s.