The worse things are for the Tories, the better for Boris Johnson. If the Tories were ahead in the polls, he’d have little hope of becoming leader. MPs would choose someone more clubbable, less divisive, and more interested in them personally: who didn’t annoy so many of them so much. But Tory MPs are now contemplating an existential crisis. Tory voters are defecting en masse to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.
If you have heard of Alexander Nix, you probably think he’s a villain. He is the former head of Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics company that helped Donald Trump win the presidential election. Nix and his colleagues have been accused of all sorts of other dastardly deeds: conniving with the Kremlin to hack democracy, ‘dark messaging’ people with racist ads on Facebook in the run-up to Brexit, and more and worse.
In the 1990s film The Usual Suspects, the detective character explains how to spot a murderer. You arrest three men for the same killing and put them in jail. The next morning, whoever’s sleeping is your killer. That’s because the nightmare of being on the run is over. It’s a relief to be caught. ‘You get some rest: let your guard down, you follow?’ I sometimes wonder if it’s the same for leaders arrested for crimes against humanity, a Karadzic or a Milosevic — and whether President Assad of Syria has the same feeling of being hunted.
Ew! Are you squeamish? Are you grossed out by meat, by fish, by eggs, by scales and suckers and shells and bones? We live in fastidious times. Now we pick, we prod, we send dietary requirements by return of post. ‘Super excited to see you guys! Btw I’m vegan, non-gluten, non-soy, no-nuts. Sorry to be a pain!’
Last year, Sainsbury’s launched chicken pieces in ‘no touch’ pouches for millennials who won’t handle raw meat unless it’s sans teeth, eyes, taste, everything.
We are, of course, in the midst of an air pollution crisis which, like every other threat to our health these days, is ‘worse than smoking’. According to the Royal College of Physicians, everyone in Britain is effectively smoking at least one cigarette a day, rising to many more in the most polluted cities. What’s more, as Bloomberg once put it, London has a ‘Dirty Secret: Pollution Worse than Beijing’s’.
It was Lionel Shriver who saw the writing on the wall. Giving a keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival three years ago in which she decried the scourge of modern identity politics, Shriver observed that the dogma of ‘cultural appropriation’ —which demands no less than complete racial segregation in the arts — had not yet wrapped its osseous fingers around the publishing industry. But, she warned: ‘This same sensibility is coming to a bookstore near you.
An easy one: what links Jack Straw’s Castle, The Labouring Boys and The Jolly Taxpayer? No, not the parliamentary expenses scandal of yesteryear, but the weird and whimsical world of British pub names.
It was in 1393 that Richard II ordered brewers to announce their beery business by a prominent sign. Colourful names quickly abounded, invented by publicans and patrons alike. The intervening six centuries have given ample scope for praise and play.