John Gray, Britain’s foremost political philosopher, says that Ruth Kelly’s new campaign against Islamic extremism is doomed because it exaggerates the scope for cohesion in our fragmented modern worldThe only thing that can be known with reasonable certainty about Ruth Kelly’s new programme of engagement with Muslim communities, which the Prime Minister told the House of Commons at last week’s meeting of the liaison committee will tackle Islamist extremism ‘head-on’, is that it will be muddled and ineffective.
Guantanamo Bay has just marked its fifth anniversary. John Yoo was instrumental in setting up the prison camp which the normally solidly pro-American Daily Mail has called ‘the sort of show that once only dictators like Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao knew how to put on’. Yet Yoo’s infamy in America derives less from clearing the legal way for Guantanamo than from being the author of the ‘Torture Memo’, a legal opinion filed on 2 August 2002 by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a section of the Department of Justice.
A couple of years ago an over-confident Scottish woman called Dr Gillian McKeith made history by being the first person ever to examine human stools on primetime television. A nutritionist — whatever that is — by trade, her shtick was to induce indolent and feckless working-class people to defecate into a tube and then — holding the tube aloft for the benefit of the viewing audience — berate them for the spineless quality of their product.
Impatience for improvements in education is something I share. It is not a new phenomenon: in 1439 William Bingham, a London rector, petitioned Henry VI about the ‘great scarcity of masters of grammar’.What amazes me in the modern age is our collective complacency on education since the war. The independent National Foundation for Educational Research pointed out in the early 1990s that reading results in primary schools scarcely budged for almost 50 years.