Joe Biden started spouting nonsense about his background again this week. Trying to sound all man of the people, he told a rally in Ohio that he would be the first president ‘in 80 or 90 years’ who did not attend one of those fancy Ivy League schools. Well no, Joe — Reagan didn’t go to an Ivy, nor did Carter, Nixon, Johnson, Eisenhower, Truman or Hoover. Joe also likes to claim that he is ‘the first in his family to go to college’.
For as long as I was old enough to think about politics, I have been a Republican. When my dad told me, aged six, that Bill Clinton had beaten Bob Dole, I’m told I cried. I don’t remember this, but do have vivid memories of running around St Andrews in my first year at university in a handmade McCain-Palin T-shirt with ‘NO-bama’ sketched in sharpie on the back. I graduated into an internship on Mitt Romney’s campaign and when I moved to London I became a spokesman for Republicans Overseas.
Victimhood has always been the core of nationalism. We are oppressed by Them: if We were free, our problems would be solved. This has been the lure of nationalism, and the reason why it is invariably disappointing once achieved. Scottish nationalists have their own myth of victimhood, but it has to go way back into the mists of time: to William Wallace (died 1305), Robert the Bruce (died 1329) and the Declaration of Arbroath (1320).
Just over a week ago, Emanuel Macron said he wanted to end ‘Islamist separatism’ in France because a minority of the country’s estimated six million Muslims risk forming a ‘counter-society’. On Friday, we saw yet another example of this when a history teacher was decapitated in the street on his way home in a Paris suburb. Samuel Paty had discussed the free speech in the classroom and shown cartoons of Mohammed. Some parents had protested, leading to a wider fuss - and, eventually, his murder.
It is counterintuitive but the current spread of Covid may on balance be the least worst thing that could happen now. In the absence of a vaccine, and with no real prospect of eradicating the disease, the virus spreading among younger people, mostly without hitting the vulnerable, is creating immunity that will eventually slow the epidemic. The second wave is real, but it is not like the first. It would be a mistake to tackle it with compulsory lockdowns (even if called ‘circuit breakers’), whether national or local.
Just now, I wrote an email and I couldn’t for the life of me think how to sign it off. ‘Kind regards’, the default setting for most messages, felt a bit too formal, given I am on friendly terms with the recipient; he’s older than me and a priest. ‘Yours ever’ seems forward. ‘Best wishes’ is fine for strangers but may be stilted for someone you know quite well. ‘M’, my most frequent sign-off, would look downright rude.
Is locking down again the right remedy for Britain, or will it only add to this country’s suffering in the long-term? It’s certainly been a disaster for many British charities — one report earlier this year estimated that there would be a £12 billion black hole in funding. And it’s been catastrophic for the charity I support: the Teenage Cancer Trust, which provides bespoke care for ill teenagers.
An awful lot of people have heard of the Teenage Cancer Trust — but there’s something about teenagers that means they don’t pull at people’s heartstrings the same way that children do, so raising money is that bit more difficult.
For the first time in 30-odd years, many Brits have started eating winkles again. Unable to holiday abroad this summer, we headed to the British seaside and rediscovered the winkle stalls that were once part of everyday life. Winkle recipes — similar to snail recipes — are suddenly popping up, and October is the perfect month for picking these shore-dwelling molluscs.
For me, a winkle has a Proustian effect. Every Sunday when I was a child, we’d have winkles for tea.