Damian Thompson reveals the turmoil behind the scenes in the preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s keenly awaited visit to Britain — and how the trip has been hijacked by a Blairite cadreLast week, the Catholic Arch-bishops of England and Wales were summoned to a private meeting in London where they were given astonishing news about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain. The pontiff is due in four months’ time (16-19 September), yet preparations were going badly wrong.
South Africa has all but bankrupted itself to stage a glorious World Cup, says Rian Malan. Shame that all foreigners can do is worry about the nation’s crime ratesHere in Johannesburg, the most striking symptom of World Cup fever is a steady procession of taxis bringing foreign correspondents to my door in search of tips as to how the land lies. Honour requires hacks to help each other, so I always invite the visitors inside to meet my dog, Arabella, pointedly introduced as a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Rod Liddle wouldn’t risk more than a tenner on the team getting beyond the group stage in the football World Cup. The truth is, we usually perform more or less exactly as well as might be expected given the size of the countryNobody outside of this country thinks that England stands a cat’s chance in hell of winning the association football World Cup, which is due to kick off in South Africa very shortly — if all the teams are not abducted upon arrival and shot.
Vittorio Sgarbi, the mayor of Salemi in Sicily, is a notorious philanderer who is obsessed with art, beauty — and the mafia. James Silver spends a day with himWhen Silvio Berlusconi was in trouble last year, accused of trysts with girls young enough to be his granddaughters, his former undersecretary for culture Vittorio Sgarbi rode nobly to his defence. ‘The thing you have to understand about Silvio,’ he declared, ‘is that unless he gains sexual satisfaction he cannot govern properly.
Andrew Gilligan says the new coalition must reformulate our relationship with moderate Muslims — and marginalise the extremists for goodOne of the unsung heroes of this year’s election campaign was the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Jim Fitzpatrick. Alone in his party, Mr Fitzpatrick stood up before the election and said something that everyone in east London Labour knew, but no one else had the guts to put on record.
Perhaps the least important aspect of Sunday night’s events in international waters off Israel is what actually happened. In the world in which Israel operates, the rights or wrongs of what Israel actually does are irrelevant. Reaction to Israeli behaviour is no longer governed by facts or by rational responses. The country is judged — and found guilty in advance — in the context of a perception on which all right-thinking people agree — that Israel is the enemy of peace.
The idea of ‘squeezing the rich’ may be politically attractive. But, says Arthur B. Laffer, it means less tax revenue — as the coalition may be about to learn the hard wayBritain’s new coalition government has a simple mission: to walk the thin line separating huge deficits and political correctness. Just how can a government patched together from former political adversaries raise the revenues needed — and still be fair to the poor, the various minorities and the disenfranchised? The answer they seem to have alighted on is the old saw of ‘tax the rich’.