Like all right-thinking lefty men who came of age in the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, I always thought of myself as a feminist. But now, thanks to Meryl Streep, I’ve been liberated from the label. Last week I heard her on the radio promoting her new film Suffragette. Asked why the story of the suffragettes hadn’t been made into a film before now, she said that in Hollywood the men with the power to get films made didn’t see this subject as anything to do with them.
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[/audioplayer]It would be easy to believe from the papers these days that women have never been more oppressed. From the columnist Caitlin Moran to the comedian Bridget Christie, a new creed is preached: that we are the victims, not the victors, of the sex war.
‘I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University,’ said William F. Buckley Jr, the American conservative writer. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party must be hoping British voters agree.
Under Corbyn, the Labour party — once the clever party — has had a brain transplant. It’s out with the Oxbridge and Harvard graduates with first-class degrees; in with the red-brick university graduates.
How easy it would be to scorn the environmentalists who are up in arms about George Osborne’s new pet project, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. You can understand their anxiety: subsidies for green energy are being slashed, yet the Chancellor will do anything — and pay anything — to get this project up and running. He is happy to force households to pay artificially high prices for a form of energy which brings all kinds of risks — of which the world was reminded this week when Japan found the first cancer case liked to the Fukushima disaster of 2011.
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A woman’s voice carried through a lull in several conversations around the table at a smart East Coast dinner. ‘But he’s not even a fucking Democrat…’ She was one of the party’s stars and was talking about Senator Bernie Sanders.
When British troops were on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan, we faced many enemies, from jihadis to press-ganged civilians. But for me, the most terrifying ones lay buried. Bullets usually miss. Improvised explosive devices – IEDs — don’t. They are frighteningly simple. Old munitions wired together or plastic bottles packed with fertiliser and ball-bearings could destroy a vehicle and kill its passengers.
Oddly enough, the cabin service people on the plane are constantly eating during the night, helping themselves to the first-class snacks. They are bulging out of their uniforms. They cannot pass each other in the aisles without difficulty. This is the sort of thing you notice during a long flight; at least the sort of thing I notice. I arrive in the morning at Johannesburg after an 11-hour flight from Heathrow, to promote my new book, Up Against the Night.
We teased our friends by saying that our holiday would be on a far-away island. The Maldives, perhaps? No, Anglesey, off the northwestern tip of Wales. Mentally far-away, that is: but by train, it is only three and a half hours to Bangor, where we hired a car. Two mighty 19th-century bridges span the Menai Straits, with the fearsome currents known as the Swellies (regarded by Nelson as one of the greatest of all tests of seamanship).