Sir Max Hastings, whom I engaged as editor of the Daily Telegraph in 1986 and who stayed in that role for about nine years, seems to have installed himself at the head of the rabid mob of journalistic haters of Boris Johnson.
In recent pieces in The Spectator and the Guardian he has described Boris as ‘a tasteless joke’ interested only in ‘fame and gratification… a scoundrel or a mere rogue’ (a subtle distinction), and in any case a man afflicted by ‘moral bankruptcy’.
It will be all smiles when Donald Trump meets President Xi Jinping this week in Osaka at the annual meeting of the G20: a show of comity for the cameras and financial markets. The two are midway through one of the biggest trade wars that the world has seen in recent years, with the US imposing tariffs on $250 billion of imports from China and Beijing retaliating in kind. It’s possible that some sort of truce will be reached, as it was when the two men met late last year.
Last October, Phil Coleman, a journalist on the Carlisle-based News & Star, went to cover the trial of Zholia Alemi, a 56-year-old consultant psychiatrist who was accused of forging the will of an 84-year-old dementia patient in an attempt to inherit her £1.3 million estate. During the trial, Phil realised this complex scam could not have been the work of an amateur fraudster, and suspected previous mischief.
He has been married several times, has a way with the ladies and always seems to land on his feet no matter how colourful his romantic life. Not even the 20-year age gap between him and his current squeeze has tripped him up in the court of public opinion.
His looks aren’t conventional and yet women seem to find our potential new prime minister unfeasibly attractive. I don’t get it, personally. But maybe I’m in the minority.
There’s a lot of anger about — and it’s not pleasant. But at least it means people are engaged as well as enraged. What’s more worrying and increasingly irritating is the negativity, the drip-drip of despondency that’s been allowed to seep into so much of daily life.
Everything is broken! All is lost! The end is nigh! Which is fine if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness or believe that the eschatological prophecies of the Bible have pretty much all come to pass.
In the rush to declare Isis dead now that its caliphate has been routed from Iraq and Syria, it’s easy to forget that its Nigerian fellow traveller, Boko Haram, is still going strong. April’s five-year anniversary of the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping, for example, passed with barely a celebrity tweet to mark it, despite the fact that 112 of the girls are still missing. Nor is much fuss likely to be made next month, when an insurgency that has killed nearly 30,000 will enter its second decade as violent as ever.
Someone should write a guide to the best literary festivals. Sydney and Auckland would certainly be there, along with Sri Lanka, Jaipur and Dubai. Later this year I’m off to Mumbai and I’ve been invited to Mandalay. I swear there are writers who never actually have time to write any more, they spend so much of the year shuffling around all these exotic places. I’ve just come back from the festival of writing at Borris, which I loved.
People say cricket is the quintessential English game. Those people are wrong. Cricket may have a longer pedigree, but it’s too boring, too democratic and too honourable to qualify: croquet is the game that truly captures what it is to be English. As any pub quizzer will tell you, Wimbledon started its life in 1868 as the All England Croquet Club, only developing its vulgar sideline in lawn tennis late in the following decade.