Without Boris Johnson there would be no Conservative majority. The millions who turned to him at the last election were not voting for the Tories, but for something (and someone) very different: they wanted Brexit and they trusted him to deliver it. Without Johnson, the Tories would struggle to keep his electoral coalition together, so when the Prime Minister asks his MPs to vote for something they dislike, though they denounce his madness, they do it.
In 2013 the Oxford English Dictionary
named ‘selfie’ as the word of the year. Its use had increased by 17,000 per cent in just 12 months, the OED revealed. Before long a cottage industry of feminist scholars sprang up, dedicated to producing gruesome waffle on the subject.
A paper by Emma Renold of Cardiff University and Jessica Ringrose of University College London, for example, was entitled ‘Selfies, relfies and phallic tagging: post-human participations [sic] in teen digital sexuality assemblages’.
Like a football tournament with an official beer, COP26 had an official energy provider: the Griffin wind farm in Perthshire, operated by SSE. Trouble is that for much of the conference it was not paid to generate electricity. Instead, it received £500,000 in ‘constraint payments’, which are given to owners of wind farms when they are generating too much electricity for the grid to absorb. The payments expose a huge hole in Britain’s renewables-heavy energy policy: we have little means of storing energy when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining so that we can use it on dull, windless days.
Most people have a set list to tick off when visiting a new country. The national museum, the famous bridge, the legendary music venue. For me, no holiday is complete until I’ve checked out the local chess scene.
The habit started on a solo trip to Paris a few years ago. As a keen chess player — no master, but a competent amateur — I made sure to visit Jardin du Luxembourg, where chess enthusiasts famously congregate for games.
Which is the oldest pub theatre in London? The King’s Head in Islington claims that its American founder, Dan Crawford, established the trend back in 1970. But a rival venue, Penta-meters, above the Horseshoe in Hampstead, maintains that its proprietor, Leonie Scott-Matthews, set it up as a fringe theatre in August 1968. The dispute rumbles on.
Pubs are peculiar to British culture, and their conversion into theatres owes something to the quirks of architecture.
This week, the central committee of the Chinese Communist party will issue a ‘resolution on history’. It will enshrine the official historical narrative of the Xi Jinping era. Only two CCP leaders have issued a resolution of this kind before: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Mao’s resolution set out his role as China’s sole leader; Deng’s, the conditions for the country’s economic focus. And Xi’s? Details are yet to be revealed, but it is expected to reinforce the idea of China’s historical destiny, what Xi calls the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’.
How would America respond if China attacked Taiwan? The pressure to defend the island would be compelling, if not overwhelming. Washington nominally maintains a ‘strategic ambiguity’ towards the defence of Taiwan, but the two countries are linked in many ways and the Biden administration recently reiterated its ‘rock solid’ commitment to the island.
Beijing clearly wants to subordinate self-governing Taiwan. American credibility, meanwhile, is connected to its protection.
Normally, if the response to a speech of mine was that it had been a ‘despicable and insane performance’ from a ‘failed and pitiful politician’, I’d question what went wrong. But since the comments came from Chinese communists about an address I’d made in Taiwan, it’s hard not to feel some pride. Two years ago, I’d been asked to speak at the Yushan Forum, the Taiwanese government’s annual showcase for their international links.
You can get drunk on tiramisu. I have done it. It takes two portions at least. You drink (I mean eat) the Marsala wine and the rum — and then must be escorted, tenderly, to the bus stop. I don’t usually drink alcohol. If I did, I would smash up restaurants. But I do eat tiramisu. You have to eat a lot of tiramisu to be hospitalised. That is my reasoning.
Tiramisu means ‘lift me up’. Like Caesar salad and the world, it has a detailed creation myth with its own pretenders, factions, expert witnesses and conspiracy theories.