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[/audioplayer]I am not a moderate Muslim, I am a reformist. Rooting out corrupt practices can never be an act of mere moderation. Restoring integrity, or wholeness, is always a radical act. It transcends notions of left and right, emphasising the need to think independently.
I wish people would stop trying to raise my awareness. I can’t so much as surf the web or stroll a high street these days without being accosted by one of the aware, who is always hellbent on making me as aware as he is, usually about some disease or, if you’re really lucky, the rifeness of child abuse. The army of the aware are everywhere, covered from head to toe in awareness ribbons, their arms weighted down by awareness bracelets, their aware brains bulging with scary stats about Aids, rape, breast cancer or boozing that they are desperate to impart to us, the blissfully unaware.
In a valedictory interview, Sir David Nicholson was quite frank about the state of the health service that he has run for the last eight years. ‘In its current form,’ he declared, ‘the NHS is unsustainable.’
It is hard to imagine Simon Stevens, who takes over as NHS England chief executive this week, having to say that when he leaves. His friends know him as an experienced reformer, a policy expert and a radical.
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[/audioplayer]My children won’t learn French. If their school tries to force the issue, I’ll fight tooth and nail. There’ll be the mother of all Agincourts before I let it happen.
It’s not that I have any problem with the language, even though it has too many vowels and you have to say 99 as ‘four-twenty-ten-nine’, making it impossible (I imagine) to sing that song about red balloons.
I have just decided that my work is of equal value to that of the feminist supermodel Cameron Russell. Neither of us, admittedly, is quite as useful as a plumber, and I can’t claim to be of much use promoting swimwear. But otherwise I reckon we are a pretty close match. We both tart ourselves around and while my work doesn’t involve a lot of physical input, I would like to think that it requires a slightly higher contribution from the brain department.
David Cameron says that Russia’s annexation of Crimea ‘will not be recognised’. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk promises that ‘we will take our territory back’. They are both misguided. Let Crimea go: it will be the making of Ukraine and the end of Vladimir Putin. Without Crimea, there will never again be a pro-Moscow government in Kiev. Ukraine will have a chance to become a governable country — a strongly pro-European one with a Russian minority of around 15 per cent.
I got Madrid utterly wrong for quite a long time. It’s a lovely city to walk in, and I thought it was idealistic and innocent, like Don Quixote. But its strength is the easy-going tricksiness of a Sancho Panza. It is a little like Toledo or Seville in the picaresque 17th century.
I’ve only been robbed once, not violently, but it should have been more, so foolishly trusting was I, leaving my bag unattended or my jacket on the back of a chair.