Lech Walesa is probably the most famous of all the thousands — actually millions — who struggled against the oppression of Communist rule in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The only person with a similar level of fame is Vaclav Havel in what was then Czechoslovakia. Walesa was the leader of the Solidarity trade union which, according to the legend, grew from ten members to ten million in a single year, fundamentally challenging the totalitarian rule of the Communist party.
We Jews have evolved to be neurotic; so neurotic that, in certain circumstances, the Syrian border feels slightly safer than Muswell Hill. I’ll take Muswell Hill. Polls say that only 7 per cent of British Jews will consider voting for Labour on 12 December, while 47 per cent of British Jews will consider leaving the country if Labour win. I’d rather fight Dave (generic name) from the Labour Representation Committee than Dave from Hezbollah (likewise generic).
It’s easy to forget, as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of her birth, how radical George Eliot actually was. The face that smiles tenderly out at us from François d’Albert-Durade’s portrait (pictured), on the dust jacket of her books, seems to epitomise the moralising Victorians — very establishment. And perhaps this is why her dramatic and shocking life story is so oddly absent from the English public imagination.
Mo Ming zig-zagged through the tear-gas. He ran across a central Hong Kong flyover in a low crouch he learned from the shoot-’em-up video game Counter-Strike. It was 1 October, China’s National Day, and the confrontations in Hong Kong were in their 17th week.
I followed him as he picked a path through the thickening fog, slingshot at the ready for a counterstrike of his own against the police’s water cannon — their most formidable weapon, which sprays protesters with blue, irritant-laced water.
If you believe the headlines, President Donald Trump is in deep trouble. The great impeachment saga is gathering pace. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff has been conducting closed-door interviews as part of his investigations into whether the President abused his executive power in his efforts to dig up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden, the former vice president under Obama. Did Trump threaten to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless its government told him what he wanted to hear? More leaked transcripts this week suggest that he did.
I was no sooner in Madrid than General Franco was exhumed from his mausoleum not far from El Escorial. An air force helicopter ferried his remains from the Valley of the Fallen, where a gigantic stone cross marks the dictator’s grave as well as that of 34,000 Spanish Civil War dead. For four decades the dictator had lain beneath a 1.5 ton granite slab. No longer. As eight of his descendants shouldered the coffin to the helicopter, shouts went up of ‘Viva España! Viva Franco!’ from Falangist diehards behind a police cordon.
At 6.50 p.m. on 31 August 1997 a plane touched down at Northolt Airport. It was a lamentable and dismal evening. Prince Charles, wretched and ghastly, accompanied the coffin that carried the body of his former wife Diana. Watching from the wings was Tony Blair. The nation mourned. And Northolt Airport did the job it has done so often — being the receiver of the great and the good and the bad, dead and alive.