‘You can work as research assistant to Ralph Miliband.’ Thus my tutor at the London School of Economics gave me the news that he had found a way for me to finance my first year of study for an intended PhD on the Labour party’s housing policy between the world wars.
The idea was that for twelve months between 1964 and 1965 I would help analyse the changing occupational structure of the British workforce by comparing statistics contained in the 1851 census with those in the 1951 census.
Climate change has done more good than harm so far and is likely to continue doing so for most of this century. This is not some barmy, right-wing fantasy; it is the consensus of expert opinion. Yet almost nobody seems to know this. Whenever I make the point in public, I am told by those who are paid to insult anybody who departs from climate alarm that I have got it embarrassingly wrong, don’t know what I am talking about, must be referring to Britain only, rather than the world as a whole, and so forth.
There’s a myth in the Spectator office, which I’ve never discouraged, that I’m Yorkshire’s answer to Franz Klammer — a veteran ski ace who likes nothing better than to have himself helicoptered to remote peaks in search of deep, virgin powder. But myth it is, I’m afraid: your business columnist is fat, 58 and was never fast on skis or any other form of self-propulsion, even in his youth.
So you might think I’m the wrong man to be telling you about my favourite Swiss winter-sports station, which is the picture-book village of Wengen in the Bernese Oberland.
The first time I met Tommy Robinson I told him to fuck off. The English Defence League (EDL) had just formed and Robinson came up to me after a public interview I was doing in London. Without knowing anything much about them, I am afraid I assumed (white, working-class, Cross of St George at demos) that the EDL were a British National Party front. Which was why I ended up advising him of the procreative way in which to travel.
When, in 1957, Harold Macmillan accepted the Queen’s invitation to become prime minister, following the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden, he returned from the Palace, marched up Downing Street to where Eden was waiting for him, and gave his old rival a man-hug, right there in front of the Pathé news cameras.
No, of course he didn’t.
But we have come a long way since then. Indeed, at the party conferences they were all at it: MPs, ministers, party activists, hug, hug, hug — and not a hoodie in sight.
There are lots of weird campaign groups around today, but none so weird as a band of unmerry men called ‘the intactivists’. If you’ve never heard of the intactivists and you’re a bit squeamish, or you are reading this while lunching on a sausage roll, then you might want to turn the page now. Intactivists are men who were circumcised at birth and who, as their name suggests, long to become ‘intact’ again.
Canadians, like the English, are known for our tendency to apologise. The difference is, we actually mean it. Our modesty is not false. Our inferiority complex is not a polite, self-deprecating joke. We really do feel inferior. And we really are sorry. Sorry for taking up so much space for so few people. Sorry for being so dull and functional compared with our glitzy neighbour to the south. Sorry about Celine Dion.