It’s a long way from Westminster to the banks of the Zambesi. But last week, for me, they linked up. I was lolling on my bed in the Sausage Tree Safari Camp, writing up notes for a travel article. Then a single, iridescent, rather delicate green wasp buzzed into my room and settled on my mosquito net. I folded my laptop. Looked at the wasp. And I got a sudden vision of Jeremy Corbyn and the fate of the Labour party.
Next time it comes to redesigning the PPE course at Oxford, I suggest a module beginning with a quotation from George Osborne. It’s something he said to the Treasury Select Committee in May, back when he was still Chancellor: ‘If you look at the sheer weight of opinion, it is overwhelmingly the case that people who look at the case for leaving the EU come to the conclusion it would make the country poorer, and it would make the individuals in the country poorer, too.
Last week rumours swirled round Zimbabwe that Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old president, had either died or been incapacitated. The government banned demonstrations after Mugabe’s-presidential aircraft had been diverted in mid-air to Dubai during a scheduled journey to Singapore. Then the man himself turned up alive (though far from well) at Harare-airport, where he made a reasonably good joke about his ‘resurrection’.
In one village after another across the country, pubs are closing, as many as 25 a week by some counts, and this is accepted with English fatalism. But the people of South Stoke, near Bath, chose not to accept the loss of the Packhorse mutely; the locals decided to save their local. And in the process they may have demonstrated that ‘community’ and indeed ‘local’ or localism are not merely empty rhetoric.
I am not surprised that Keith Vaz has been caught sleeping with male hookers. I’m one myself and so I know that overweight married Asians are our staple. We often joke that without Indians and-Middle Eastern guys, we’d all be broke. They are always married. I’ve always been sickened by the way they betray their wives, but they aren’t paying me for my judgment.
There are different types of rent boy.
Phyllis Schlafly could have been America’s number one feminist. She graduated from good universities, wrote important books on serious topics, was an outspoken orator and political organiser, didn’t let her life be defined by her husband’s career, and stood up to bitter abuse from her opponents. In reality, however, she was America’s leading anti-feminist.
Her death this week, at the age of 92, marks the passing of an organisational and publicity genius who did all she could to fight against the spirit of the age.
I have just returned from one of the world’s most secretive states. I had to apply for a visa a month beforehand and send in a copy of my passport. There is no way into this place by road; you have to arrive on an authorised boat and a policeman checks your visa against your passport before you board. Private boats must keep well offshore and may not land. The visa is valid for only three nights; you have to book each night in advance and may not spend more than one night in the same place.
They’re called quintas, Joana tells us, because the rich families who owned the land along this stretch of the Douro river used to let others work it in return for a fifth of the profits. And in this part of northern Portugal, ‘work’ means only one thing: wine. We’re here in the Douro Valley to learn more about it all, including this trip to Quinta do Bomfim, the winery where Dow’s port is made. The valley also produces Cockburn’s — but don’t worry, the Portuguese needed those TV adverts telling them that the Scottish name is pronounced ‘Co-burn’ too.