It was a moment to cherish, not to spoil. But I wasn’t the only one at the grand Charlemagne prize ceremony for Emmanuel Macron in Aix-la-Chapelle last week to wonder if the French President has already accepted that the federalist game is up. The medal is awarded for services to the cause of European unification, a cause that Macron has done his best to advance. But first the Brits bailed out. Then the Hungarians and Poles dissented.
It looks indeed as if Italy — the beating pulse of European civilisation — will be the first country in western Europe to fall to what’s popularly known as populism. Those who regard populism as an affirmation of democracy are pleased; those who regard it as a negation of democracy are appalled. The markets remain silent. For the moment.
The alt-left Five Star is on the verge of forming a coalition government with the hard-right Lega in the EU’s fourth largest economy, which has been stuck in more or less permanent stagnation since the global banking crisis of 2008.
Harold Macmillan once remarked that: ‘There are three bodies no sensible man ever directly challenges: the Roman Catholic Church, the Brigade of Guards and the National Union of Mineworkers.’ Today it’s tempting to add a fourth name to this list: the Conservative Friends of Israel.
The CFI counts an estimated 80 per cent of Tory MPs among its members. It can whistle up cabinet ministers for its dinners and has superb access to Downing Street and Whitehall.
To some, Tom Wolfe’s death might seem a greater loss for readers on the right wing of American culture and politics, since he viewed himself as a conservative, very much in keeping with his upbringing in the Richmond, Virginia, of the 1930s and 1940s. His gentleman’s manners and soft-spoken demeanour recalled another era — a class-defined and racially segregated world of courtliness and formal collars.
The extermination of every single one of South Georgia’s rats, for the sake of its birds, was confirmed at a press conference in London last week. A summer of searching with dogs and bait two years after the last poison was deployed turned up no sign of a rodent. This achievement is remarkable, not least because it was deemed impossible right up until it was achieved. It was a barmy idea, way out there, crazy, bound to fail.
Spanking is back in the news. Le vice anglais was meant to be a dying art — a vestige of a time when men were more repressed, but it’s recently become clear that British men enjoy a thrashing just as much as they ever did.
In the past few weeks a London barrister, Robert Jones, has claimed he was unfairly dismissed after a consensual spanking session with a junior worker, while up north a ‘dungeon master’ called Shaun O’Driscoll, who has thrashed diplomats and a duke, gave evidence at Bolton Crown Court.
I have a phobia of wedding lists. They always seem very presumptuous. Friends ask for monstrous amounts of things that I’m sure they don’t really want. I look at their lists and my heart sinks. I know I should buy something, but what to choose from all the overpriced paraphernalia?
I wonder if the guests of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle felt the same way when their royal wedding invitations arrived.
‘Trump Make Israel Great’ reads the banner on the deserted hotel next to the new American embassy in Jerusalem. Unlike most of the world population, Israelis regard the US President as a big improvement on Barack Obama. In government, his decision to move the embassy here from Tel Aviv has elevated him to near godlike status. ‘We are very lucky that the strongest kid in the classroom is on our side in this crazy school,’ is how Yoav Gallant, Israel’s housing minister, puts it.
‘May I take a picture of your snake?’ I asked the tattooed man with a python around his neck, regretting it as the words left my mouth. He nodded. ‘What’s it called?’ ‘There’s two,’ he replied, gruffly. So there were! Two pythons comfortably coiled, glistening in the sunshine.
It was the hottest early May bank holiday since the day was introduced in 1978, and the Kent coast was in full swing. The sea looked murky, the sand muddy and there was not a palm tree in sight but that did little to dent our enjoyment.