Twenty years ago, Francis Fukuyama forecast the final triumph of liberal democracy and the ‘end of history’. As pro-democracy movements falter from Ukraine to China, he revisits his thesis — and asks if history has a few more surprises to springIt looked like a revolution in reverse. The announced victory of Viktor Yanukovich in Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential election undid that country’s Orange Revolution of 2004 by returning to power the very man whom tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters came out to defeat.
In contrast to the storming of the Bastille, the spate of revolutions which have flickered across our television screens in the last two decades have tended to adopt brand images connected with colours or plants. Most of them have wilted as quickly as they flowered. Whether Burma in 2007, Armenia in 2008, Tehran in 2009, any pro-Western demonstration is now immediately given a brand. And ‘revolution’ is proclaimed even if everything stays the same as before.
Easing myself into an expensive seat on a British Airways overnight flight to Dubai, I notice two empty places to my left. The plane, I was told, was full. Someone must be very late.At this point, the rogue bookmaker who operates exclusively inside my head, laying odds on life’s little challenges, pipes up: ‘It’s 1-5 you cop a screaming toddler in that spot; 9-2 you don’t.’ My heart sinks. The bookie is shrewd; he knows the form.
I don’t think I have ever been so nervous before a telephone call. I had written to Ian Carmichael, via his agent, to ask if I could interview him for an article I was writing on the late Dennis Price, who had played Jeeves to Carmichael’s Bertie Wooster in the 1960s BBC series The World of Wooster.Carmichael had written back to say that he’d ‘try to oblige’ if I telephoned him at his North Yorkshire home.
Chair – Andrew Neil
Proposing – Correlli Barnett, Simon Jenkins
Opposing – Charles Guthrie, Andrew Roberts
Farce very nearly visited the debate on Afghanistan on Tuesday. A parliamentary three-line whip prevented the MPs Liam Fox and Peter Kilfoyle from reaching the hall. So our ancient democracy threatened a debate on Afghanistan’s brand new one. The issue that kept them in parliament? Democratic reform.
‘The older I get, the more inclined I am to say those three words: I don’t know,’ says Baroness Rendell of Babergh. She turns 80 this week, and seems milder in person than in her writing. In photographs, too, she looks a bit haughty and forbidding, with incredible Ming the Merciless eyebrows. But the door was opened by a smallish woman with a sandy helmet of hair, a quizzical expression and an illuminating smile that appears from nowhere and sends her features skywards.
I don’t suppose that anyone is about to build a community centre in commemoration of Waad al-Baghdadi, but maybe they should. There’s one for Stephen Lawrence, constructed as a token of our disgust at what Sir William Macpherson called the ‘institutional racism’ of the Metropolitan Police. Lawrence’s murder was not competently investigated by the Old Bill at least in part, Macpherson argued, for institutionally racist reasons, borrowing the phrase from the borderline psychotic black American activist Stokely Carmichael.
As a general rule, it is a mistake to go through life thinking about how much one’s house is worth. In the summer of 2002, when I bought my ‘lovely end of terrace period cottage providing compact character accommodation’ in Gospel Oak, London NW5, I assumed I had managed, with unerring incompetence, to buy at the very top of the boom. It seemed to me unimaginable that anyone would be willing to spend more than the grossly inflated sum of £385,000 which I had paid for my small, damp, jerry-built house.