‘Say seebong-seebong, say seebong-seebong,’ sang the Filipino band in their white tuxedos, swaying cheerfully from side to side.
‘Si bon, si bon,’ whispered Sweetie to the music, smiling carefully, swaying her sumptuous jade earrings in time to the Filipinos’ narrow hips and tapping her manicured nails on the tablecloth; everyone said that before she had left her last husband, who was with the Banque de L’Indochine, she had made him pay for a face lift and a bottom lift.
‘This is a goer,’ declares Deon du Plessis. It’s Sunday afternoon, and the Great White Hyena is presiding over a news conference in the Johannesburg offices of the Daily Sun, the largest daily in Africa. Mr du Plessis is publisher and part-owner. Seated before him are his editor, Themba Khumalo, an amiable Zulu in a baseball cap, and a cheerful menagerie of subs and reporters. Some weeks ago they ran a story headlined ‘Dark Secrets of Crime Terror!’ which revealed that unscrupulous witch-doctors were charging up to £8,000 for magical potions (almost) guaranteed to render thieves and armed robbers invisible to police.
‘When it comes to the British courts,’ Charles Clarke insists, ‘I am a perpetual optimist.’ Which is fortunate, because he needs to be. We met on the day the Law Lords proclaimed that the government was not permitted to detain terrorist suspects on the basis of evidence which might have been extracted under torture. The government had been arguing that it needed to be able to use such information in court in order lawfully to detain people who were a threat to the British public.
I have just spent a week in Amazonia with Sydney Possuelo, the man I regard as the world’s greatest explorer — well, at any rate, the greatest tropical explorer. Weatherbeaten, balding, with a neat salt-and-pepper beard, 65-year-old Sydney exudes vitality and charm. Although he has just had a triple heart bypass, he looks lean and fit, as you would expect of someone who has spent much of his life in unexplored rainforests and who has by no means hung up his hammock and mosquito net.
An excited twitter filled the assembly room of the Eastside Young Leaders Academy (EYCA) in Plaistow, east London. ‘David Cameron’s arrived! He’s in the corridor! He’s nearly here!’ Day three of his leadership, and just the thought of Dave’s presence has the same effect on Tories as Will Young has on teenage girls. Middle-aged charity workers patted their hair, Dave’s female handlers began to herd hacks into ever smaller spaces; across the room our host, Iain Duncan Smith, sat up straighter.
It may have been lost in all the news about Iraq but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat Senator of New York, has received the 2005 National Farmers Union presidential award for her leadership in introducing the Milk Import Tariff Equity Act. The snippy feminist who nearly derailed her husband’s first presidential campaign by scoffing that she didn’t just ‘stay home and bake cookies’ can now be presented as the Butter Queen of the Empire State.
Roger Scruton says that it’s time for rural residents to protect the land they love by clubbing together and buying itIf you look at an electoral map of England, you will discover that most of it is blue, the occasional pockets of red corresponding to the large conurbations. Rural England is Tory and always has been. It is not surprising, therefore, if our present government has little affection for the countryside, or if it is always looking for new ways either to punish rural voters or to destroy the idyll that nourishes their dissent.