In the downstairs loo of Richard Dawkins’s house in Oxford there’s a framed award from the Royal Society; to remind visitors, or maybe Richard himself, that here lives a man of some purpose, some gravitas and intellectual clout. The Faraday prize is given to those who communicate science with brilliance and verve to the scientifically ignorant, thick general public. Richard has done a lot of that, ever since The Selfish Gene in 1976.
‘Innocent people can’t do any good in the world. First of all, there are no innocent people, and, second of all, exercising power is not an innocent activity.’ This is not the kind of straight talk you expect to hear in Brussels, but Bob Kagan is a man with little time for polite fictions. Three years ago he ruffled feathers by arguing that the trans-Atlantic falling-out over Iraq was not an unfortunate misunderstanding but a consequence of the fact that today Europeans are from Kantian Venus while Americans are from Hobbesian Mars.
Neil Kinnock on the Home Secretary’s ambitions, and Cameron‘Call me Neil, for God’s sake,’ says Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty when he welcomes me to the chairman’s office at the British Council with its panoramic views over Whitehall and the South Bank. ‘That title makes me sound like the bloody Royal Albert Hall.’Kinnock has always been too self-deprecating for his own good. Tony Blair’s propagandists like to suggest that Year Zero in the Labour party’s history was 1994, when their Dear Leader took charge.
Dhiren Barot’s case faded because it revealed unbearable truthsDhiren who? Mention Dhiren Barot to anyone and the chances are that you’ll be met with a blank look. At best, some might say, ‘Oh, wasn’t he that guy who, er, that trial recently, yeah, bit worrying....’ Thus the British have somehow failed to register the significance of the conviction last month of a man who was one of al-Qa’eda’s biggest fishes, guilty of the most devastating terrorist plot ever known in this country and one which would have made 9/11 look like a minor warm-up act.
Oxford University has become headline news again, with everybody chipping in to say how they think it would best be run. The reasons for this new-found interest are radical proposals put forward by its vice chancellor, John Hood, which suggest replacing the traditional system of governance with a more ‘top-down’ managerial approach. Vice chancellor Hood wants ‘outsiders’ to supervise the running of the university.