For decades, Australia has been known as ‘the lucky country’. At the end of the world geographically, we are separated from the global troublespots by vast oceans. We have recorded 27 years of uninterrupted growth, partly because of a surge in exports of commodities to China. At the same time, our tough border protection policies boost public confidence in, as John Howard put it, ‘who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’.
The UK Independence Party might be about to make a comeback. Ever since Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit, which went down very badly indeed among grassroots Conservatives and Leavers, the opinion polls have been kind to the Purple Army.
The week after the Chequers deal went public, one pollster found support for the party had surged by five points to 8 per cent. It might not sound like much, but it is its best showing since March last year.
There was a time when middle-class liberals used to complain that the English were a nation of child haters. They packed them off to boarding school as soon as possible and banned them from the dinner table as soon as they got back. Why-oh-why, they asked, can’t the English just relax and enjoy the presence of children like the French did?
Well, they’ve got their wish. That old, much-mocked Victorian proverb — children should be seen and not heard — has been replaced by a new dictum in child-centric Britain: children must be seen, heard, celebrated, praised and obeyed all of the time.
I spent a bit of time last week on the set of the new Brexit film, which James Graham has written for Channel 4. My book on the referendum has been plundered by the new production, so it was fascinating seeing real events given life again, in several pitch-perfect performances.
The subject of conversation on set was the public slating of a leaked (early) copy of the script earlier that week.
Most agitated of the slaters was Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer reporter who has made her name by uncovering malfeasance around the use of data in politics and the financing of the referendum.
For millions of middle-aged children, finding good care for their parents is akin to a Grail quest — and just as unlikely to succeed. How can you tell if a care home is good? There are so many horror stories of neglect, abuse and even deaths. Most people rely on ratings from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). But when the care regulator says a home is ‘good’, does that mean it is actually good? In fact, as I discovered, it could mean anything.
‘Problème est masculin; solution est féminine,’ says Brigitte, the adored French teacher at the British embassy in Paris. Good way to remember your ‘les’ and ‘las’. If only it were true. Theresa May has not — yet — solved Brexit. Angela Merkel has not resolved the migrant crisis. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor, has not flushed out its rats. If she fails at re-election, it will be on pest control and tent cities.
Kevin Boorman loves Hastings, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He was born here, he’s lived here all his life and his family have lived here for generations. He shows me a photo of his great-grandfather, who manned the local lifeboat. His parents met on Hastings Pier. Kevin works for the local council, and today he’s taken some time out to show me round. I can’t remember the last time I met anyone with such a fierce affection for their hometown.