The civil war in Syria, and the resulting displacement of half the population, has been the tragedy of our times. We cannot turn our backs on the ten million people who have been forced to flee their homes. Every decent society knows this and knows that it’s our moral duty to come up with a workable way of helping the refugees. But while the scale of the displacement is substantial, it is not unmanageable.
I never met Martin McGuinness, but I was certainly affected by him from an early age. His decisions, and those of his colleagues on the IRA Army Council, indelibly coloured my childhood. Belfast in the 1970s and ’80s was a grey, fortified city, compelling in many ways, but permanently charged with the unpredictable electricity of violence.
Our local news steadily chronicled the shattering of families, in city streets and down winding border lanes that were full of birdsong before the bullets rang out.
It can be cruel, the way politics plays out. At the very moment George Osborne was telling the bemused staff of the London Evening Standard last week that his working life in politics had obscured a passionate desire to become a newspaper editor, a familiar figure could be seen in the fresh meat department of the Whole Foods supermarket almost directly underneath the paper’s Kensington newsroom.
That man was David Cameron, and inevitably someone with journalistic instincts spotted him, snapped him on her phone, and tweeted it.
I hate to admit it, but I think I’m falling in love with Sean Spicer. No doubt Donald Trump’s stocky, gum-chewing, sartorially challenged press secretary will strike many readers as an unlikely object of passion. But it’s hard not to get red-hot for a man capable of inspiring so much outrage among the most boring, self-important people in America.
As press secretary, Spicer’s only real job is to run the President’s daily press briefing, one of those bizarre, quasi-official American institutions — like the State of the Union address or the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn — whose utility no one ever seems to question.
Ever since a Twitter troll was elected 45th President of the United States, the Twitterati has agonised over who to blame. But since it was Twitter that gave American voters unfettered access to Donald Trump’s brain, they really ought to be blaming Twitter itself. It’s not possible to say anything balanced or nuanced in 140 characters — that’s a format for jokes, insults and outrage. If you want to seize the world’s attention today, you must troll or be trolled on Twitter.
In what I like to think of as The Spectator’s back garden — most people call it St James’s Park — the cherry trees are in blossom. There’s a group of six or seven of them, clouds of bright pink, in the corner nearest 22 Old Queen Street. They’re worth a look, even if you think blossom’s a bit of a girlie interest. There are more dotted around. A little grove of white cherries on the south side of the lake is ranked among the best in London, according to one website: ‘A simple point-and-shoot photo of these trees somehow transforms itself into an impressionist painting.