What is the one consolation for an MP who has beaten all their colleagues to the top job? It can hardly be the luxury of having your life, circle and income open to alternate snorts of envy and derision. Nor can it be the quagmire into which nearly all attempts to solve the nation’s domestic problems now fall. Only one thing allows prime ministers of a country such as Britain to feel they have power.
David Cameron will almost certainly get his Syrian war. Who will fight it, let alone who will win it, remains unclear. But who will lose it is already known — the Christians.
The relentless persecution of Christ’s followers is foretold in the Gospels. Suffering is portrayed as the pathway to triumph. The global position today conforms quite closely to that picture. Three quarters of the world’s 2.
Is any public service more reviled than social work? Policemen, when not drinking with journalists, chase down baddies; firefighters save babies, and doctors cure diseases. Social workers, on the other hand, take away people’s children. They miss catastrophic abuse. In no news story are they ever -heroic. The perception of social work is unremittingly grim. It’s badly paid, box-ticking, mired in bureaucracy.
Leave Florence and Sienna to the aesthetes. Let the in-crowd do Naples and Palermo. For the amateur Italophile, Rome is the destination. The eternal city is endlessly glorious, chaotic, stylish and funny: where else do you see nuns listening to iPods? Or medieval churches with condom machines by the doors?
You can barely walk ten feet without coming across something that might change your life: obelisks, piazzas, churches, gardens and statues.
Which businessman is the most influential in the making of government policy? The answer came to me when I received a letter fining me £80 for forgetting to renew my car insurance by the correct date. But it could also have come to me had I forgotten to fill out of council tax enquiry form (fine £70), missed getting in my tax return by one day (£100), or got caught in a box junction in the King’s Road which has two sets of traffic lights in quick succession (£130).
Unimaginatively, I usually take the same route for a morning walk when on holiday in Cornwall, over the dunes to Brea Hill, inspiration for Betjeman’s poem ‘Back From Australia’. I know the scenery so well I no longer see it.
But for a change the other day I walked along the other side of the estuary and it was like seeing an entirely new landscape: the gently scalloped sandbanks, the clarity and blueness of the water, the breadth of the sky where it met Pentire Point.
Ayan Mahamoud, one of the organisers of Hargeysa’s International Book Fair, has all the girly vulnerability of a factory-tested steel girder. So it was disconcerting when, having called to the stage the western writers attending in the teeth of strict travel warnings, she burst into tears. ‘I’m sorry. It’s just so hard when the whole world is against you,’ she sobbed.
The word ‘beleaguered’ constantly comes to mind when visiting Somaliland, a country that doesn’t officially exist.