Italy is preparing to go back to the polls and this time Matteo Salvini looks set to return as the undisputed king of Italian politics. His Lega party (formerly the Northern League) has split with its coalition partner, the Five Star movement. For Salvini, the appeal of a general election is obvious: Five Star’s popularity has slumped during the 14-month government, but Lega’s has soared. It now boasts of being the biggest party not only in the north of Italy but — previously unimaginably — in the south.
Last summer, when Italy became the first major European country to get a populist government, Steve Bannon was cock-a-hoop. The former White House chief strategist had spent much of his time in Europe last year aiding and abetting populists. He called Italy ‘the centre of the political universe right now’. He was full of praise for what he described as the altruism of the alt-left Five Star movement led by Luigi Di Maio and the radical right Lega led by Matteo Salvini.
Frank Johnson, editor of The Spectator until cruelly sacked to make way for Boris Johnson, never wasted ideas. He liked to reuse them. Often. Every summer he would write the same column attacking the silly season.
August, Mr Johnson maintained, was not silly at all. The first world war started in August. The Nazi-Soviet pact was signed in August. Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland in August. Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait also in the horror month of August.
How we love bringing history into our political debates. It may seem strange in a country where so little history is taught at school, but perhaps that makes it easier. We grab hold of vague notions of the past for a Punch-and-Judy brawl. There could hardly be a better example of this than Brexit, in which we skim through the whole of our history to search for analogies to batter the other side with.
The picture on the front of the Animal Blessing Service programme featured a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a goldfish, a cockatoo, a hamster, a snake and a ferret. In the event, the congregation was confined to people and dogs, including my two cockers.
We sat in a circle in the shady courtyard of St James’s Church, Piccadilly as the Reverend Lindsay Meader, resplendent in a rainbow stole, led us in prayer.
I’ve been coming to the Edinburgh Fringe for five years, but this is the first time I’ve dipped my toe into the stormy waters of performing. My show Iain Dale All Talk is a series of 24 interviews with politicians, media personalities and, er, Christopher Biggins. As I write this, I’ve just compèred the last show of the run and can look back on 12 days of variety, headline-making, insight and laughs.
Jazz died in 1959. At least, that’s what New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton wrote in 2011 as part of a series of tweets that riled jazz lovers the world over.
It later transpired that he meant jazz the word (which, he reckoned, was ‘a label forced upon musicians’) rather than jazz the genre. Semantics aside, Payton struck a chord. He fired up what many people for many decades have assumed to be an ever-shrinking band of jazz aficionados.