There is much to be terrified about in today’s global economy. The eurozone’s death dance, China’s slowdown and America’s inability to create jobs are enough to make the most upbeat investors gloomy. But even these problems pale in comparison with the biggest threat, one with implications so hideous that financiers are reluctant to talk about it even now. The truth is that the economies of rich countries, including the UK, are being kept alive by another and astonishingly under-reported bull market — in government debt.
Why can’t British men show a natural, healthy appreciation of women?Last week, on the Paris Métro, I had a marvellous boost. I’d been feeling wretched after a flaming row with my boyfriend on the station platform, when a charming man winked at me and offered me his seat. I gratefully accepted. My eyes sparkled and my pulse quickened. Suddenly the day seemed so much brighter.
I can’t remember the last time I saw this happen on the London Tube.
The former Lib Dem leader on learning to love the Tories – and the fate of the euro ‘Have you ever been in the world’s smallest lift?’ Paddy Ashdown asks when we meet at the entrance to the House of Lords. ‘It was designed by William Gladstone!’ We travel up in the lift, admiring the old-fashioned sliding doors and suited attendant. Ashdown explains that the parliamentary authorities tried to shut it down on health and safety grounds but, he says proudly, he fought to keep it open.
The Mandela years are well and truly over. Now, sharp-suited Mugabe fan Julius Malema has the people’s earIt is spring here in Johannesburg, and in the spring, one’s thoughts turn to throttling Jonny Steinberg, a newspaper columnist who would have us believe that Julius Malema is about to be expelled from the ruling African National Congress for daring to speak ‘the truth’. Malema is the ANC youth leader presently fighting for his political life at an intra-party disciplinary hearing, and Steinberg is a normally rational fellow who seems to have lost his bearings while trying to pin down a fairly tricky idea.
John Galliano, the fashion designer who likes to dress up as a pirate, was convicted of anti-Semitism in a Parisian court last week, and fined. Galliano was once chief designer at Dior, but he got drunk in a Paris bar and screamed anti-Semitic abuse at some fat people (I am guessing they were fat) who were so upset they recorded it on their mobiles. I do not mind saying that the anti-Semitic element does not bother me in this case, even though I am a Jew.
There’s a passage in Willy Russell’s wonderful novel, The Wrong Boy, which could almost be funny — except, wisely, Russell doesn’t play it for laughs. The book chronicles a childhood blighted by adult misunderstanding, and describes an instance of it in which zealous ‘educationalists’ observe that the Boy’s artwork is harshly, relentlessly black: echo and evidence, all agree, of a darkness in the child’s soul.
Yes!Philip HensherIn April, I published a novel, King of the Badgers, about a series of events in a small town in Devon called Hanmouth. It is, in a way, about private and public lives, and the surprising and sometimes deplorable events that happen between people when their front doors are closed. It got very enthusiastic reviews: the Sunday Times said it was ‘a really good old-fashioned novel: the sort of thing George Eliot might have written if she was interested in gay orgies and abducted chavs’.
It took me more than three hours by taxi to get from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to the centre of town. My Bulgarian friend, Ivan Krastev, a shrewd political analyst, describes the difference between Russia and the Soviet Union as one between traffic jams and queues. Queues were tedious, freezing in winter, but sometimes convivial. Traffic jams are just as tedious, warmer, but often lonely. Compared with the last time I was here, in 2001, I notice more ethnic diversity in the streets: dark Middle Eastern-looking faces from the Caucasus, Chinese-looking people from the various Asian republics, an area which a well known American expert once described as Trashcanistan.
Loudly and eccentrically religious candidates represent the Republicans’ best chance of losing to ObamaAtlanta, GeorgiaThe prelude to the first presidential primaries is always an entertaining phase of the American electoral cycle. Exotic blooms flower for a moment or two, but shrivel almost as quickly when the voters discover what they actually represent. Two of this year’s morning glories are Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Congresswoman, and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas.