If progress is ever made in the ‘war on drugs’, it will be thanks to people like Lorna Hughes. She runs a community centre in the Bell Foundry council estate in Loughborough. It was set up by residents appalled at how their neighbourhood had sunk into an underworld of drugs and crime. They wanted someone there keeping an eye out and helping those who needed it. One of the disused flats, a burnt-out drugs den, was converted into an office and the Marios Tinenti Centre was born.
‘You can appoint your own chief executive,’ boomed the PM over a rather sad bottle of wine. He was asking if I would like to chair the media regulator Ofcom because, he declared, he was determined to do something to end the usual suspects’ control of our public bodies. It was soon apparent that I couldn’t appoint my own chief executive. Or take people with me. And as all the key positions at Ofcom are chosen by ‘independent’ panels, the chairman’s role is heavily circumscribed.
Of all the global trends exacerbated by Covid, the demise of the necktie is probably not the most important. It is, however, worth noting — because the way we dress tells us a lot about who we are.
The tie has been on the retreat as a quintessential item of the male wardrobe for the past 30 or so years. Thanks to all that working from home, it is now at the edge of imminent extinction: soon it will be worn only by eccentrics, dictators or eccentric dictators.
A Presbyterian minister, a Pentecostalist pastor and a Sunni imam come to worship in the same place. It’s not the start of a joke: this is literally what happens at my local church in east London which, strangely, now encompasses a mosque. It was in danger of being closed, but instead the walled church complex has been partitioned, with a chunk of it sold off to Muslims while the main church building remains the home of two different Christian denominations.
I’ve been occupied this year recording and promoting a new album. I was pleased to finally see the release of the latest Bond film — I recorded the soundtrack mostly at Hans Zimmer’s studio in Soho. Hans and I are pretty tight, we’ve been working together for around ten years now. Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas came in with a great song — my job was just to ‘Bondify’ it without it not sounding like a Billie Eilish record.
Only a dictator can save Oxford now. Local government simply cannot grasp how precious this marvellous, unrivalled city is, and how easy it will be to erode it into bare, dispiriting bleakness and ugliness. Any fool can see that the ancient colleges of the university must be preserved, but the setting in which they stand has no reliable defenders. It is true that a plan to put a bypass through the ancient pastures of Christ Church meadow was defeated in 1968.
Over the last nine weeks Vladimir Putin has moved more than 90,000 troops to the borders of Ukraine and, according to US intelligence, ordered his military planners to draw up detailed blueprints for a full-scale invasion. Putin insists the build-up is defensive. Russia is acting only in response to a ‘growing threat on our western border’, he told an audience of newly accredited diplomats in the Kremlin earlier this month, and to accuse Moscow of escalating tensions would be ‘laying the blame at the wrong door’.
China reacted to the news of the US government’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics with predictable fury — a foreign ministry spokesman described it as a ‘naked political provocation’. He then added that US officials had jumped the gun because they had not even been invited. That seemed like a bit of added petulance, but it is entirely in keeping with China’s growing mood of self-isolation — a mood that is beginning to have some bizarre and dangerous consequences.
Give us a snog. Pucker up at the Christmas party. Kiss me quick at the Nativity play. Will you be snogging this season? Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work, Pensions and Office Passion, has spoken. ‘I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe.’ she told Robert Peston on ITV. Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health, weighed in: ‘I’ll certainly be kissing my wife under the mistletoe — it’s a Javid family tradition.