The party’s MPs are fatally conflicted over Gordon Brown’s leadership, says Rod Liddle. Their craven conduct reflects the awkward fact that they overwhelminglychose him in the first placeThere was an interesting story in the newspapers this week about an American dog which rang 911, the emergency services, when his owner had a seizure. The details were a little hazy; we know that the dog was a German shepherd, but we do not know his or her name.
In at the deep end. That’s how Intelligence Squared likes to kick off, and the first debate of the new season plunged straight into the perilous waters of the Israel–Palestine conflict. David Lindley, the chair, asked each speaker to present ideas for a workable peace. Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, opened on a note of gloomy optimism. There were dark signs on the horizon, yet he was encouraged because ‘never have so many parties been so desperate for a settlement’.
It’s not often a chap gets to shake a hand that has personally accounted for 31 Japs in the space of one battle. But such was your correspondent’s privilege outside the Royal Courts of Justice this week at the launch of a splendidly righteous case demanding fair and just citizenship rights for Gurkha veterans. A tearful Joanna Lumley was there — her father fought with the Chindits as a major in the 6th Gurkha Rifles — as was a typically well-mannered crowd of perhaps 300 ex-Gurkhas and their families.
This summer, as a consequence of the credit crunch, rising air fares and a strong euro, more than half of all Britons chose to spend their holidays in this country. Predictably this was also the summer that proved to be one of the dullest and wettest on record. August may have been, according to the Met Office, the UK’s seventh wettest since records began in 1929, but for me there was a silver lining to the rainclouds.
When I first met John Abbott 20 years ago he told me a story: as a young teacher at the prestigious Manchester Grammar School he had led several expeditions of boys to study agriculture in rural pre-revolutionary Iran. After a week the village headman felt he knew John well enough to ask him a difficult question: ‘These young men,’ he said, ‘they are so tall, so strong, so beautiful. But what use are they? They cannot reap, they cannot ride a donkey, they cannot make a fire, they cannot even sew or sweep or cook like our girls.
On Monday afternoon I rang a Wall Street friend who used to work at Lehman Brothers. ‘What’s the mood?’ I asked him. ‘Do you think this is the turning point?’‘Hold on a moment,’ he replied. ‘Let me just climb back in off the window ledge.’ There was a pause, then a nervous chuckle. For the half-second of that pause, I actually wondered whether he was serious. And that was just Monday: since then, things have got really frightening.
A few months before the general election which brought New Labour to power, Geoffrey Robinson had David Davis to dinner in his flat overlooking Hyde Park. The flat had been the scene of much recent political activity, used as a den by Gordon Brown who would invite his allies around and plot his personal strategy, pausing only to watch the football and eat pizzas. But that night the Labour guests had cleared off, and the then Tory Europe Minister was treated to the disorientating experience of being served supper by the butler of a Labour MP.