The conviction has been spreading among French people in recent days that les Britanniques have just elected Donald Trump. The papers are filled with meditations on British anxieties over lost empire, descriptions of Boris Johnson’s hair and the wildest speculations about what he might do as Prime Minister. Every squib about European overregulation that Johnson wrote during his stint as a Brussels correspondent for the Telegraph in the 1980s and 1990s has by now been vetted, stripped of its humorous intent and found wanting.
On Sunday, Boris Johnson’s cabinet ministers were summoned to a conference call for an update on his Brexit strategy. The EU had not yet indicated any shift in its position, he said, but that should in no way deter the government from its current course. He was confident, he told his cabinet, that if he stuck to his guns the EU would move eventually.
This, then, is the new government’s position. The Prime Minister told ministers that he does not think no deal is the most likely outcome — but if the government is not prepared for it, nothing will change.
I’ve lost track of the number of features I’ve seen joyfully hailing the edible insect revolution, entitled ‘Grub’s up!’ Barclays has released a report which predicts that the market for edible insects will hit $8 billion by 2030, and you can already buy Smoky BBQ Crunchy Roasted Crickets in Sainsbury’s. Research last month showed that certain species of edible insect contain higher quantities of antioxidants than freshly squeezed orange juice.
I’ve never voted Conservative and I never will. Having been raised in a working-class home, I can’t get past the fact that had the Labour party not come into being, the Tories would have kept my people serfs for as long as inhumanly possible. But I’m also an extreme Brexiteer; far from the past three years being boring (anyone who says this reveals themselves as such a monumental dullard that we should remove their right to vote), I consider that this nation spent the four decades up to 23 June 2016 sleepwalking into the shadowlands of EU dreariness — and disaster.
Am I allowed to mention Nigel Farage? Of course I am, this is The Spectator, and its readers enjoy analysing all kinds of people and ideas, even those they find unpalatable. Readers of Campaign, however, aren’t quite as broad-minded. Campaign is the trade magazine of the advertising industry, and when it published an interview with Farage some of its readers went into meltdown.
Why? Surely Farage is the ideal subject for Campaign.
Just 48 hours before the conclusion of the Conservative leadership contest, Allan Cook, chairman of HS2, wrote to the government to confess that the costs of the project could rise from the current projection of £56 billion to as much as £86 billion. Given that Boris had already announced that he is to review the project, it was pretty much akin to a condemned prisoner writing a letter of confession.
Look down from the mountains outside Beirut and, on most days, you’ll see a grey blanket of smog choking the city. The smog comes from diesel generators: almost every building in Lebanon is hooked up to one because of rolling power cuts. This isn’t because Israel bombed one of the country’s few power stations in 2006, though it did. Instead, the power cuts are a constant reminder to the Lebanese of their politicians’ greed, venality and incompetence.
Gisborough Priory was founded in 1119, although the gothic chunks which remain of it today — including the grimly magnificent east end — date largely from the 13th century. A fire had destroyed much of the original building. It has great antiquity, then, nestled on the northern edge of the North York Moors in the market town of Guisborough, within spitting distance of (still, just about) industrial Teesside.