Was a political brickbat from the left ever more elegantly lobbed than J.K. Galbraith’s jibe that conservative governments create ‘private affluence and public squalor’? It came to sum up perfectly the feelings of many people towards Britain in the 1980s, when Londoners would step over the homeless as they made their way back to flashy new homes.It is not an accusation David Cameron cares to risk being levelled at his own Britain.
Rail privatisation by the Major government heralded the largest growth in passenger numbers in decades. This was down to improvements in service and a timetable to suit passengers, coupled with some attractive fare offers. But future growth of rail travel is unlikely to be at the same high rate and there we have the nub of the arguments around High Speed 2. The Department for Transport has been less successful in forecasting passenger growth than Gordon Brown was at forecasting economic growth — and that is saying something.
The Leveson inquiry has put fear into the feral beasts of the tabloids – and that’s not in the public interestListening to Kelvin MacKenzie give evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Monday, the most striking thing was not his admission that he’d never given much thought to journalistic ethics nor even his impersonation of John Major, good though it was. Rather, it was his claim that News International should have been fined for lying to the PCC about the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World.
Recent research has shown a robust and positive correlation between the amount of democracy we enjoy and how happy we are. This is true for the Swiss, at any rate, for it was among the cantons of Switzerland that the research was conducted. If you believe the Swiss are a peculiarly unrepresentative group, you may be interested to know that the same rule holds true not only for melted-cheese-eating neutrality monkeys, but also for dogs.
Wafic Said is an exotic import, but a friend of Britain for 50 years. He has given roughly £100 million to philanthropic causes in this country, including founding and funding the Said Business School at Oxford. He also helped Britain secure with Saudi Arabia, Al-Yamamah, the biggest defence agreement in our history, which was signed in 1985. For this, he has repeatedly been called an arms dealer in the press.
OK, we get it. We’re scum. Lowest of the low. If nothing else comes from the Leveson inquiry, at least the British public may be assured that its views of the press were right all along: as poll after poll has shown, I and my comrades in ink enjoy a social standing somewhere south of traffic wardens, tax collectors and dumpers of cats into wheelie bins.We have lived with it for so long that, frankly, a few intercepted phone messages will not make much difference.
What’s the matter with Ralph Nathaniel Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes? In pictures, he looks so self-conscious and morose. Maybe it’s just his acting face. In the flesh, though, he’s different. He is friendly. Midway through what must be an exhausting press junket at the Soho Hotel, he remains remarkably enthusiastic, and eager to discuss Coriolanus, his new film, of which he is both director and leading man.
Something astonishing is happening in Scotland. For the first time in a political generation the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party has an opportunity to become relevant to public life north of the Tweed. And it is all thanks to Alex Salmond, now the unlikely potential saviour of Scottish right-of-centre politics.The First Minister is a formidable politician who appreciates that politics is frequently pregnant with irony.