What a long and nasty campaign that was. It is hard to imagine that a political race of such magnitude could be so intellectually and emotionally bunged-up. But it’s over, and we can now ask ourselves what the point was of President Obama clubbing his way to another four years of access to the White House gym. What now? Because even after so many months of campaigning, it’s not entirely clear.
Certainly not the way it was in 2008, when voters swooned over his promise of hope and change.
‘I’ve come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote,’ said President Obama at an emotional ‘last ever’ campaign meeting. ‘Because this is where our movement for change began, right here. Right here.’ And his eyes briefly moistened. The nostalgia was doubtless sincere, and the address correct, but it was misleading to describe his 2012 election campaign as a continuation of his earlier ‘movement for change’.
What has happened to butlers? They used to be the epitome of discretion and loyalty: but last week the Pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, began an 18-month prison sentence for passing documents from his employer’s desk on to a journalist. The trial of Paoletto, or ‘Little Paul’, as the Pope fondly called him, follows the trial of another butler nicknamed ‘Small Paul’, Paul Burrell, who was also found to have concealed his employers’ property in his home.
Few have been more influential in the process of Tory modernisation than Nick Boles. He founded Policy Exchange, the think tank that came up with most of its ideas, and has been a tireless, tieless advocate for the cause. But when we meet in the Palace of Westminster, he is in reflective mood. The first phase of his career is complete (he was elevated to the government in the recent reshuffle) and he wants to talk about what he and his fellow modernisers got right and what they got wrong.
No institution is more vividly expressive of the English genius for creative muddle than the Anglican Church. A Protestant church whose liturgy declares it to be Catholic; a national church with a worldwide congregation; a repository of holy sacraments, which is regulated by a secular parliament; an apostolic communion whose authority descends from St Peter, but whose head is the English monarch: looked at from close up it is all nonsense, fragments left over from forgotten conflicts, about as coherent as the heap of broken crockery that remains after a lifetime of marital -quarrels.
This week the National Theatre opened another new play — its seventh — by Alan Bennett. For those who know only his earlier work, Bennett remains the Queen Mother of British literature, a national treasure adored by all for his cosy charm and twinkly-eyed naughtiness. But anyone who holds this view has clearly not seen, or is blind to the failings of, his recent work. For me, sitting through new Alan Bennett plays has increasingly become like discovering that in old age the Queen Mother developed a sideline as a flasher.
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? In US energy issues today, the irresistible force is broad public support for more energy consumption; the immovable object, on the other hand, is elite opposition to that energy consumption, specifically hydrocarbons.
Four-fifths of American energy comes from fossil fuels, and so that accounts for a huge force of folks accustomed to driving their cars, heating their homes, and powering their workplaces by burning oil, natural gas or coal.
The energy debate is stuck in a rut: all politicians seem to be able to talk about is a narrow set of existing technologies — coal, gas and nuclear power stations, supplemented by wind farms and rooftop solar. Each of these technologies has its own lobby, and they fight each other for subsidies. Should we, like Germany, build more coal power stations, or go for a big nuclear programme, embark on another dash for gas, or build lots more wind farms on- and offshore?
In one sense this is not surprising.
When we looked out of the window last Sunday morning to see thick snow blotting out the Mendip hills above our Somerset village, I’m afraid I immediately thought: ‘The Gore Effect.’ The previous evening, I had been reading how poor Al Gore had belatedly jumped on the latest warmist bandwagon by ascribing Storm Sandy to global warming. It was in 2004 that climate sceptics first noted the Gore Effect when his visits to Boston and New York to preach his warming gospel coincided with the lowest temperatures those cities had known for half a century.