The truth about sea levels? They’re always fluctuatingIt has now become traditional for climate change summits to open with a new, dazzling prediction of impending catastrophe. The UN Climate Conference under way in the South African coastal town of Durban is no exception. This year’s focus is on a familiar and certainly arresting argument: that sea levels are rising at a catastrophic and unprecedented rate mainly due to man-made global warming.
The politically mobile American entrepreneur is a species which has no real equivalent in British politics. We tend to separate the moneymakers from the policymakers at an early age. And that is what Steve Forbes, the publishing billionaire and former presidential candidate, thinks has gone wrong in Britain: our political class has lost its sense of enterprise, and has no ideas for economic recovery.
Hassan the smuggler got on his motorbike and disappeared up a dirt track that led from Lebanon into Syria. He did not return and an hour or so after nightfall we heard long, echoing bursts of automatic fire. Hassan had been captured by a Syrian Army patrol, said one of the villagers. No, he had run away, said someone else. He had been killed, said a third person. He had escaped. He told us the story the next morning, grinning triumphantly.
‘Dear Heywood, I hear Mollie is leaving at the end of next week, in which case so am I. Yours ever, Nancy.’ So wrote my ever-direct aunt, Nancy Mitford, to her employer Heywood Hill, the founder of the famous Mayfair bookshop, on 17 May 1944. Whether or not Nancy’s threat had some effect, she continued to work at the shop for another year. Here I should declare a strong interest in the fate of independent bookshops.
David Starkey is no longer quite as eager to show off his bitchy side, but he can be persuaded … ‘I don’t think I could have been Dr Fluffy,’ says David Starkey, poised behind a hake. ‘No. Absolutely not Dr Fluffy.’ He takes a sip of wine. He looks like an evil Professor Yaffle.I am here because I have long wanted to interview him, principally because once, when I was working for a newspaper gossip column, he gave me a line about Tories and sado-masochism too revolting to print.
If anyone needed persuading of the deep moral disarray of modern British society, the latest figures on assaults against National Health Service staff should be more than sufficient to convince him. It is not so much their overall number — though 57,830 in a year seems quite a lot to me — that is alarming, as the variation in the way with which they are dealt. The predominant response is, as you would expect, feeble, vacillating, lazy and cowardly: or, if you prefer, forgiving.