There is a naive belief at the top of government that because the Tories are only a fart’s yard behind Labour in the polls — despite daily manifestations of schism, scandal and incompetence — everything will turn out fine in the end. But this is to ignore the party’s greatest structural weakness: it is clueless in cyberspace. On the social media battlefield, it is fighting with knitting needles against Labour’s laser-guided missiles.
It’s been a miserable two weeks for our Foreign Secretary. Not only did Boris Johnson trip up over the British woman held in Iran; not only did he find himself accused of puppeteering Theresa May to further his and Michael Gove’s Brexit ambitions; he also committed the most grievous PR sin any politician can commit: he praised Donald Trump in public. ‘What you’ve got to realise is that the American President is just one of the huge, great global brands,’ Boris told Fox & Friends.
History will curse Robert Mugabe. When he took over as prime minister in the wake of the Lancaster House agreement in early 1980, Zimbabwe was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. Mugabe inherited excellent infrastructure, a strong economy, stable institutions, an independent judiciary, an excellent school system and the goodwill of the world.
In the course of nearly 38 years, he wrecked all of this.
There are many wonderful scenes in the film version of David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross, but my favourite comes towards the end, between the broken and desperate real estate salesman Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene, played by Jack Lemmon, and his vile manager John Williamson, played by Kevin Spacey. Levene, facing not merely the sack but probable imprisonment, is pleading for help, cringing and cowering.
Always go to a storyteller if you want a sparky answer to a question. What does Jeffrey Archer, bestselling author, member of the House of Lords, one-time candidate for Mayor of London and prison diarist, think will happen to American politics next? Comes the reply: Angelina Jolie. Or perhaps George Clooney. Or maybe even Tom Hanks. One of these, argues Archer, will run for president next time. ‘And why wouldn’t they win?’
One hundred years ago this month, my great-great grandfather sat down to compose a letter which would finish a long and distinguished career — and destroy his reputation. Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, had held some of the most prominent posts in the British Empire and government: governor--general of Canada, viceroy of India, secretary of state for war, foreign secretary and Conservative leader of the House of Lords.
It has long been my belief that whereas the quality of gentiles drawn to Judaism is very high (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, myself), the dregs are drawn to Islam. And leaving aside the dozy broads who gravitate to it for kinky reasons after watching one too many Turkish Delight ads (Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Booth), there is something about this religion which attracts the very weakest of Western men.
There were two mascots for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One was called Mandeville, obviously because Stoke Mandeville’s games are seen as the precursor to the Paralympics. But why Wenlock? Ever been to Much Wenlock? You should go: not only is the Shropshire town a delightful place in itself, it was also the birthplace of the modern Olympics.
Surely not, you say. Surely the International Olympic Committee was inspired by ancient Greece? Well in a more distant sense, perhaps.