In Notting Hill Gate, in west London, the division was obvious. On the east side of the street was a row of privately owned Victorian terraced houses painted in pastel colours like different flavoured ice creams. These houses, worth £4 million to £6 million each, were dotted with Remain posters. On the west side was a sad-looking inter-war council block, Nottingwood House, which had dirty bricks and outside staircases and corridors.
In June 1975, I was given the heavy responsibility of writing the Telegraph’s ‘light’ op-ed on the conduct of the first Euro-referendum campaign, which duly appeared on the day of the vote. My theme was that it had been the nicest possible stitch-up.
‘From the establishment and the respectable anti-establishment, from the Economist and the New Statesman, from the Lord Feather [of the TUC] and Mr Campbell Adamson [of the CBI], from Mr Wilson and Mr Heath, from the Royal Commission Volunteers to “Actors and Actresses for Europe”, the same advice, the same dire predictions of life outside the Market…’
It rings loud bells today.
On a recent sodden weekend walk, I tried to cheer myself up by thinking: it’s not so bad. Not the slugs or the sky or the rain making its way down a gap between neck and waterproof. But I couldn’t do it. Losing heart, I turned back. Glump, glump, glump through the puddles.
It rained through breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Same the next day. And the day after. I wore grey and sighed at the window.
Oh those Russians. When they’re not beating up English football fans, they’re cheating at the Olympics. They occupy other countries and shoot down civilian airliners, then pretend it wasn’t them. They’re helping Assad win the Syrian civil war. They’re even driving up London house prices. There’s no infamy, apparently, of which Russians are not guilty.
‘OK — we did do all those things,’ admits a Moscow broadcaster friend, a little sheepishly.
It’s easy to forget that laws are supposed to do something useful. Legislation is increasingly press-release law, which makes everyone feel good but causes havoc when applied to the real world.
Take the mad, bad idea about to go out for consultation: ‘mandatory reporting’ will make it a crime for child and health professionals to fail to report signs of child abuse to the local authority. This would allow David Cameron to be seen to make a stand against child abuse, and which politician doesn’t want that? But what a mess it will make.
Men don’t look good in black tie. They might think that they look like Sean Connery in Dr No, but they end up looking like David Brent at the Wernham-Hogg annual Christmas do.
Black tie doesn’t lend parties glamour; it just makes them depressing. The one good thing about black tie is that it is an invariably reliable pointer to a terrible evening.
Agonising teenage balls, with adolescents clashing braces in dark corners? Black tie.