Something strange is going on in Westminster: nearly every minister and Tory MP has a spring in their step. It’s not (just) the vaccine breakthrough, or the magic money tree now bearing such fruit in the back garden of HM Treasury. The liberation-of-Paris feel in locked-down Westminster is inspired by the departure of Boris Johnson’s senior Vote Leave aides, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain. Tories of all stripes seem to think they will now get what they want.
Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister’s fiancée, ‘gets’ the media. That’s what her friends are quick to tell you. She’s a PR professional. If she doesn’t like the thrust of a story, she lets you know. She contacts journalists to tell them how ‘disappointed’ she is in their sloppy work. And she doesn’t seem all that scared of senior newspaper editors, perhaps because her father co-founded the Independent. It’s said she even thinks she can ‘edit what goes in the Mail on Sunday’.
The world’s first conflict triggered by Covid-19 exploded on 4 November in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. Before your eyes glaze over at news of fresh African horrors — hundreds dead in battles and air strikes, ethnic massacres, civilians fleeing, charities calling for food aid — consider this frightening new reality. For the first time in modern history, wars and insecurity now ravage a continuous line of African states from Mauretania’s Atlantic shores to the Red Sea — a 6,000km Sahelian suicide belt of jihadis, state failure and starvation.
Recently I was listening to Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, the army’s Commander Home Command, being interviewed by Martha Kearney on Today. I cannot remember what he was talking about, because I had become quite agitated by the officer’s insistence on using Ms Kearney’s name in every response: ‘Good morning, Martha… It absolutely is, Martha… The things the military is able to do, Martha… I’m no biochemist, Martha…’ On and on it went, this patronising and repeated use of the interviewer’s name.
Those of us who spent our formative China-watching years reading Chinese Communist party publications learnt early on that the word ‘basically’ was a synonym for ‘not’. ‘The party has basically succeeded in…’ meant that there was a problem. Hong Kong is basically an autonomous region.
Xi Jinping is satirised by liberal Chinese as the ‘Accelerator-in-Chief’, whose policies are hurtling the CCP’s regime towards collapse.
When the top players gathered in Torquay last year for the World Scrabble Tournament (this year’s contest should have been this week, but has been cancelled thanks to you-know-what), it was to use ‘words’ like these in their games: dzo, ch, foyned, ghi…
Yep, that’s right; a whole lot of words that, let’s be frank about this, are not words. That’s why my spell-checker underlines them in red. The top players, you see, don’t win tournaments by being cleverer than the rest of us.
Tony Blair’s biggest achievement was delivering a referendum that unified Scotland behind devolution and gave all parties a stake in its success. Boris Johnson is wrong to say it was ‘a disaster’, but in being wrong is helping precipitate the logical next step: independence. The opinion polls that show a growing majority for Scottish independence will mystify those who believe the lazy, metropolitan idea that independence is an emotional fantasy — all Braveheart, Bannockburn and bagpipes.
A parishioner in West Yorkshire has been allowed to put an inscription in Chinese on a relative’s gravestone. ‘There is no general prohibition on the inclusion in inscriptions on headstones of words or phrases in a language other than English,’ said Judge Stephen Eyre, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry, sitting in a consistory court.
If that is so, why was a family of Irish background forbidden by a consistory court in June from putting an Irish inscription on the gravestone in a Nuneaton churchyard of Margaret Keane, who had died aged 73? The inscription would have said: ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo.