It’s not often you see Tory MPs celebrating anything, but on Monday a bunch of them were packed into an office high in Portcullis House to toast the rehabilitation of Nadine Dorries. Last autumn the Mid-Bedfordshire MP was suspended from the party after appearing on the reality TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! For six months she has been in limbo, unable to call herself a Tory. Last week, she was allowed back into the club.
Shortly before the Conservative party conference last year, the head of the Fresh Start Group of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs went in to see the Prime Minister in Downing Street. The group had heard that David Cameron might make his big Europe speech at the gathering and its head, Andrea Leadsom, wanted to set out what to ask for in any renegotiation.
When Leadsom returned from the meeting, her colleagues were desperate to know what the PM had said: which powers did he most want returned from the EU? What would be the centrepiece of his great diplomatic effort? All Leadsom could do was repeat what Cameron had told her: ‘I don’t like shopping lists.
Britain is a stickler for tradition and each May we now observe a relatively new one: we bomb in the Eurovision Song Contest. The protocol now is well-established. Our entry is chosen by a BBC bureaucrat who appears to see the whole thing as a bad joke. We send out Bonnie Tyler/Engelbert Humperdinck etc to face an army of talent from countries who have studied the art of winning and take it very seriously indeed.
It’s Monday lunchtime, downstairs in the Spectator office, and Boris Johnson is trying to flog a bus to a Frenchwoman. ‘What about the new Routemaster? It’s absolutely great, yup, fantastic, yup. Hey, they could be really good for Paris,’ he says. She smiles and says nothing. ‘Well what about bendy-buses then?’ he carries on. ‘We’ve got a few of those you can have…’
‘Come on, please’ she interrupts, kindly but firmly, in excellent English.
Syria is sliding rapidly into chaos. The supply of weapons to the opposition could only make matters worse, yet the Prime Minister seems to be -contemplating it.
We have misjudged the situation from the start. From the early days of the crisis, two years ago, we rode to the rescue with our rhetoric. We were all for the forces of democracy and for the downfall of a ruthless dictator. Syria was another green shoot of the Arab Spring.
I decided to become a hospital visitor last year, after being a patient and finding myself in something more like a factory than an old-fashioned ward. A terror of infection in 2011 (there were 2,053 deaths involving Clostridium difficile) has ended the cosy world of side tables covered in flowers and cards. Concerns about data protection have put paid to WRVS ladies pushing trolleys, and vicars walking around offering solace.
I like to tease my friend Wei about being a tiger mother. She once told me of an incident where her daughter Shu was making an artwork for a friend as a birthday present. Shu doodled for a few minutes, then showed her mother a sketch of a funny face. ‘I told her to knuckle down, spend more time, and come back with a far better drawing,’ said Wei. ‘It just wasn’t good enough.’
I said that was a bit harsh on her eight-year-old, especially since it was not schoolwork but part of Shu’s leisure time.