Before the summer, the occupants of Downing Street were being worn down by coalition, battered by bad news and demoralised by dire economic data. One No. 10 source says: ‘We were all so depressed we wanted to slit our wrists. But now we’ve got our confidence back.’
This is just as well, for the electoral mountain they have to climb is now considerably steeper. With the boundary review went one of the central planks of the Tory plan for a majority, and Ed Miliband’s conference speech suggested that there’s more political life in him than many had appreciated.
The place to look for investment bargains, said the fund manager Sir John Templeton, is not where the news is good, but where it is really bad. Today that means looking for advantage amid the volatility and extreme valuations which the crisis in the embattled eurozone has brought in its wake. The strikes and riots that are spreading across southern Europe are exactly the kind of scary scenario in which investors with ice-cold blood in their veins, as one admirer once described Templeton, have historically been able to profit.
Like the War of Jenkins’ Ear in 18th-century Anglo-Spanish relations, Heathrow is becoming something of a totem in the fight for the soul of the Conservative party. Whether you prefer your new runways to the east or west of London positions you on the other great issue of the day: who should be leader. If you’re an MP with a constituency anywhere near west London, you’ll probably be in the Cameron camp, shifting uncomfortably in your brogues, wondering how best to perform the Yeo flip and support a third runway at Heathrow.
‘I would like to be the person who safeguards Andrew Lansley’s legacy,’ says Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, as he sits in his new office. Hunt is touchingly eager to praise his predecessor. He predicts that Lansley ‘will be seen as the architect of the modern NHS’ and stresses that he is in regular touch ‘to make sure that I learn as much as I can from him, because I don’t think there is anyone who knows more about the NHS than Andrew’.
Is Barack Obama really as clever as he looks? Ever since he first appeared in the public eye, it’s been taken as read that he’s a major intellectual. Liberals say, in fact, that brilliance is his greatest flaw. He’s too academic, too nuanced; too eager to understand both sides to be an effective leader. The right, meanwhile, regards him as a professorial Marxist, a tenured radical in the White House.
By now, it will be clear even to David Cameron that he is on course to lose the next general election. The British electoral system always was rigged against the Conservatives, and his hopes for changing that were dashed by Nick Clegg before the summer holidays, when he scuppered Tory plans for boundary reform. All parties are returning to a new reality: the economic recovery has evaporated, and with it the Tories’ chances of winning next time.
If I subtracted from my life all the time spent either thinking about sex, or engaging in behaviour calculated to achieve it (by which I mean most of my social life and career choices); or dealing with the consequences of having achieved it (by which I mean all of my romantic life), well, I don’t know how much of my life I’d actually have left. Childhood. The useful bit.
Fifteen years ago, in August, I boarded a train in New Orleans bound for New York.
First rule of Twitter: if you don’t use it, you can’t understand it. Nor should you try to: it is a kind of digital crack cocaine for a tiny minority addicted to gossip. In the old days, political gossip had to be exchanged in bars, corridors and (famously) urinals of the Commons. Twitter delivers these fixes straight to the addicts’ mobile telephones. The good news is that anyone can open a Twitter account under an assumed name, and have a little fun with our elected representatives — if you know, or can guess, how their minds work.
Voltaire said it best: ‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.’ Investors seeking certainty — safety, in other words — are in for a shock: there is no longer any such thing.
How did we get into such a terrific mess? Rather than rehash the causes of the financial crisis and the current depression, there is a two-word answer: central banks. There was once a more innocent age when central banks performed a sole function: they acted as lenders of last resort to the banking system.
The London Stock Exchange recently unveiled a glossy new guide to best practice in corporate governance for companies quoted on its platforms. This must be regarded as a timely exercise, given the increasing domination of the FTSE100 by natural resources groups with operations in the most exotic corners of the world.
In its desire to be the world’s IPO capital, the City through the ages has offered a haven to overseas miners.
It was 50 years ago today... well, this week, that the Beatles released their first hit single, ‘Love Me Do’, on 5 October 1962. Within 12 months, John Lennon and the other three Beatles were household names throughout the world, and in the years since then Lennon’s reputation has expanded with each new wave of listeners. He even has an airport (Liverpool John Lennon Airport: ‘Above us only sky’). Have we now placed him among the greatest English composers and musicians of all time — say, Dunstable, Tallis, Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Elgar and Britten? Will history’s verdict be that Lennon truly deserves to rub shoulders with these geniuses, or was he an accomplished craftsman with a pretty face?
It is tempting to evade comparison by saying that he was a different kind of musician, a writer of pop songs rather than a creator of grand works of art.
We sang a hymn called ‘Poble en Marxa’ at the beginning of Mass in the working-class parish of Sant Blai. ‘Marxa’ was not a reference to the bearded prophet of revolution; it’s just the Catalan way of spelling marcha. People on the march. There was a lot of it about. In Barcelona, a million (the Catalans say two million) had marched to demand independence from an economically incompetent Madrid. In broke Madrid there were ten demonstrations in one day, with teachers and firemen being bused in to hold up banners and shout and blow whistles.