Catherine Blyth says that conversation is an art: its essence is the acrobatic business of reading and changing minds — talking with people, not at themHow would you feel if you arrived at a dinner party to find your plate garnished with a menu? Impressed, irritated or inspired to discover a new level in social intimidation? Imagine that menu listed not dishes, but conversation topics to wash down each course, such as, ‘Which of my ambitions is likely to remain unfulfilled?’ or ‘Is sex overrated?’ According to Alain de Botton, writing in Standpoint, topic menus promise the salvation of the art of conversation.
Bees do democracy best. They vote, you know. Not that they bother with anything as trivial as electing a new president. Nor do they worry about the colour of their ruler’s stripes. In the natural world of a beehive there are no unnecessary arguments about popular succession, no expensive lobbying or financial fuss. When election season comes, the question they vote on is simply this: where on earth to site a new nest?Now what’s the most natural way of expressing an opinion? Let’s see… buzzing very loudly? But that might get a bit too noisy.
Bryan Forbes remembers listening to Churchill as a 14-year-old evacuee and now looks with envy at Obama’s capacity to galvanise hope. Where are his UK counterparts?All across America, galvanised by an inspirational candidate, people stood in line for up to four hours in order to vote, many for the first time in their lives, and oh how I longed for an iota of that fervour and commitment to infect our own political scene.
In the wake of Cameron’s decision to drop his pledge to match Labour spending, Fraser Nelson and Daniel Fin kelstein of the Times trade rhetorical blows over the issue that is gripping and troubling the Conservative party as it adjusts to the transformed economic contextDear Fraser, I feel we really need to have a word about tax. It was something you said that set me off. Something you used to underpin your argument that the Tories need to start announcing tax cuts.
I missed the first three minutes of Oliver Stone’s film about the outgoing US President, W., because the indolent woman serving behind the counter took ages to give me my ticket. That’s because she was serving someone else with ice cream, a beaming fat cow who was ordering herself a bucket of cherry and vanilla and butterscotch, a vat of frozen animal fats in which she would immerse herself for the next seven hours.
Martin Vander Weyer looks ahead to next week’s Pre-Budget Report and reflects on George Osborne’s contentious remarks about the devaluation of sterling. It looks like Gordon Brown is getting away with his borrowing binge — leaving the Tories isolatedOn Monday afternoon I rang a distinguished City economist and asked him a rather technical question about the relationship between issuance of gilt-edged stock and movements in the dollar-sterling exchange rate.