You just can’t win with a conspiracy theorist. For him or her, the long-established association of conspiracy theory with paranoia goes to show that there is a secret plot to conceal the truth and discredit truth-tellers. However, as Joseph Heller put it, ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.’ And, in any case, perhaps the sanest response to the prevailing conditions is paranoia.
‘How do we get children reading?’ the minister asked me, just a week after Michael Gove had got them reciting poetry, more or less by making it illegal for them not to. This was his number two, Nick Gibb, who had invited me to the Ministry of Education for a 40-minute chat. I’m not sure how impressed he was with my thoughts as I’ve heard nothing since, so it seems fair enough to share them with Spectator readers.
Dear Director General Many congratulations on getting the best job in world broadcasting. Enjoy it as much as you can, while you can; in my 46 years at the Beeb, few directors-general have left as they would have chosen. Several were forced out before their time was up — usually as the result of bad behaviour by governments, Conservative and Labour. Mark Thompson made it through to the end, but I imagine he’s glad to go.
As Katie Holmes emerged from her New York apartment in a pair of strappy heels, a contingent of women scattered throughout the world will have punched the air with joy. I searched through the pictures of her first appearance since filing for divorce feverishly on my iPad. ‘Come on, come on, let’s see the feet,’ I muttered, as I scrolled down. I need not have worried. There they were, gloriously arched in a pair of ostentatious, leopard-print stilettos.
Understanding the American class system is elementary. In Ruggles of Red Gap, the striving American wife instructs her new English butler on the duties she expects him to perform for her husband. ‘I want him to look like somebody,’ she explains. ‘Like who, madam?’ asks the perplexed servant. ‘Like somebody,’ she repeats firmly. There you have it. Our upper class are Somebody, our lower class are Nobody, and our middle class are Everybody.
Who should we get to sort out our venal and cavalier bankers? It’s an interesting question. The Labour party wishes to inflict upon them a plague of lawyers, to use Jeremy Bentham’s apt expression, presided over by some bewigged and self-regarding judge. A judicial inquiry, then, which will end up costing the equivalent of a whole bunch of bankers bonuses and then some. The argument seems to be that the government, in preferring the inquiry to be carried out by parliamentarians, is affording the matter too little seriousness.
Walk into George Osborne’s suite of offices in the Treasury and you are struck straightaway by a new excited mood. People who a month ago looked worn down by the burdens of office are now full of life. In no one has the transformation been more dramatic than the Chancellor himself. He strides out of his room, shoulders back, a smile playing across his face, and says, ‘Come on, stop gossiping with the political advisers.