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We have al-Qa'eda on the run,' President Bush was reported to have said in April. In May, al-Qa'eda and its associated groups masterminded a week of bombings which left more than 100 people dead. It looked like a deliberate riposte to the President's triumphant optimism. There were two explosions in Chechnya on 12 May, which killed 59 people and injured 200. There were three in Morocco on 16 May; the toll was 27 dead and more than 100 injured, not counting the blowing to smithereens of the 12 suicide bombers who had jointly detonated the bombs.
Uncontrolled immigration? A burden on the taxpayer? Terrorists in our midst? The current immigration crisis echoes events of 100 years ago which led to the passage of Britain's first piece of immigration law. From the 1880s onwards, increasing numbers of Russian and Polish Jews sought refuge from pogroms in their homelands. With its long tradition of admitting refugees, Britain was a favoured destination.
Christopher Howse says that Malcolm Muggeridge,
born 100 years ago, was very much a man of the 20th-century world – but rebelled against itTwenty years ago Malcolm Muggeridge, with a grimace of welcome, met me at Robertsbridge station, like many another. To reach the Sussex cottage that he shared with Kitty, his wife of 50 years, he had to drive across a fast main road, down which articulated lorries careered.
HermanusYou can forget car-jacking, mugging and necklacing. In South Africa the worst crime problem centres on an oddly shaped bottom-dweller. Known locally as perlemoen but elsewhere as abalone, the seawater shellfish has sparked a poaching and smuggling racket that is outgrowing all other crime in a country widely held to be the world's most criminal. Poachers have been drowned by rivals, gun battles have erupted in supposedly sleepy seaside resorts, and customs officials have been bribed on an industrial scale.
At the end of January the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, declared that 'Education for its own sake is a bit dodgy'. 'The idea,' he went on, 'that you can learn about the world sitting in your study just reading books is not quite right. You need a relationship with the workplace.' He also said that he didn't care too much whether anyone studied the classics any more, and even added it might not be such 'a bad thing' if there were to be a decline in highbrow subjects at university altogether.
A couple of vaporetto stops in the direction of the Lido, from near Piazza San Marco – fortified, perhaps, by a cold glass of wine and some lively light music from the immaculately dressed band outside Florians – and you are in the merciful shade of the public gardens, where some of the national pavilions of the Venice Biennale have stood, designed like temples, for a hundred years or so. Here, every two years, you can be sure that, in the form of chaos, all hell will break loose.
In any discussion about the justifications for the war in Iraq, there comes the Zimbabwe point. Yeah, says the sceptic, but what about Zimbabwe, eh? If we go to war to liberate the Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam, why won't we lift a finger to free the victims of Robert Mugabe? Is it a kind of racism? To which the answer is, of course not. It is just that no vital Western geostrategic interests appear engaged by the disaster of Zimbabwe.
That Lord Woolf, he has a bit of a cheek, doesn't he? I don't know if you caught his intervention in the Criminal Justice Bill debate the other night, but it was the usual stuff. He excoriated the politicians (David Blunkett) for trying to fetter the discretion of the judges. He was appalled, said the Lord Chief Justice, by the attempts of these vote-grubbing politicos to erode a vital judicial freedom.
There is something a little reckless about having a go at the disabled lobby. I can happily question the zealousness and rectitude of the Commission for Racial Equality, Stonewall and any of a multitude of women's groups, safe in the knowledge that I am not about to be rendered black, gay or female in the foreseeable future. But disabled? Hell, who knows? This is one lobby group not to be messed with.
More Jews are moving to Germany than to any other country in the world, including Israel. This statement seldom fails to provoke gasps of astonishment among people whose knowledge of Germany is limited to the Holocaust. To them it seems a very strange and wonderful thing that the Jewish life which the Nazis tried with such grotesque thoroughness to extirpate should now be flowering anew on German soil.
These are tough times to be a Middle Eastern despot, so perhaps it is understandable if a few of them feel a little paranoid right now. Iraq is under foreign occupation, Iran is in open revolt, and Saudi Arabia is apparently under attack from British bootleggers who look surprisingly like friends of Osama bin Laden. Under the circumstances, even the most pampered autocrat might be forgiven for feeling a little anxious.
I have found it – the land that Nineteen Eighty-Four forgot. When the book's hero, Winston Smith, flees Big Brother and the party operatives, it is to 'the vague, brown-coloured slums to the north and east of what had once been St Pancras Station' that he runs. On the eve of the centenary of Orwell's birth, which falls next Wednesday, I have identified those slums; they have been right under my nose for years.