In 1644 John Milton appealed to parliament in the Areopagitica to rescind its order to bring publishing under government control by creating official censors. I wonder what he would make of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, due to be published next week, which is expected to re-introduce statutory control of the press into English law after a lapse of centuries.
The wonder is that it has happened. Thirteen months ago, as the Leveson inquiry was gearing up, the Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, made a moving and passionate speech defending the independence of the press.
The dictators have fallen one by one. Several more look likely to fall soon, and few will miss them. But as popular revolutions approach their demise, something else has come along. In one country after another, the Muslim Brotherhood — the fundamentalist revolutionary Islamic party founded in 1920s Egypt — and other Islamist parties have used the ballot box for their own ends. After decades of repression and opposition, they have finally come to power.
The burdens of office can wear a man down. When Nick Herbert was the minister for policing and criminal justice, he looked exhausted; as if he was carrying the troubles of two departments on his shoulders. But having quit the government in the September reshuffle, he is relishing his newfound freedom.
He says he can fit in an interview on Monday morning, between the bishop and his bank manager. Happy to come between God and Mammon, I stroll along to his office, which is still on the House of -Commons’s ministerial corridor.
A few days before I met Ahmed Jama in Mogadishu, three Islamist gunmen from Al Shabaab — al-Qa’eda’s Somali branch — burst into his new restaurant wearing suicide bomb jackets. They sprayed the place with bullets and then detonated themselves.
One bomber set himself off in the dining room itself, killing 20 of Ahmed’s customers. Standing in that room, watching Ahmed’s workmen clean up, I realised what the term ‘pink mist’ really means.
Almost everybody agrees that wind turbines are ugly and inefficient. But you’d think that the government, if it must persist in subsidising renewable energy, would do everything it could to incentivise wind power producers to create as much energy as possible while keeping the aesthetic damage to a minimum. Astonishingly, it is doing the opposite.
Inquiries by The Spectator have revealed a scam known as ‘de-rating’.
The Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards were held at the Savoy Hotel on Wednesday. Here are the winners:
Newcomer of the year
Andrea Leadsom (Con). For her work grilling bankers on the Treasury select committee and setting up the Fresh Start Group.
Backbencher of the year
Alistair Darling (Lab). His campaign for the Union has made Westminster more relevant in Scotland than at any time since -devolution.
What is it about islands that appeals to little men with big ideas? It’s Corfu I’m thinking about, primarily. Napoleon was obsessed with the place. Kaiser Wilhelm owned a summer palace here, the neoclassical Achilleion, where he installed a huge and hideous statue of Achilles. Can I add George Osborne to the list? Perhaps I’d better not. There’s a far better figure to complete the triumvirate, if that’s the phrase: the sly, off-kilter and phenomenally litigious founder of Scientology, L.