Matthew parris

Petronella Wyatt: The time I saw Boris cry

Boris Johnson is nothing like Churchill, a view with which my friend Andrew Roberts concurs. But in the 20-odd years I have known Boris, I have often been struck by his similarity to John Wilkes, 18th-century politician, journalist and catnip to women. A wit and a showman, Wilkes, who denounced European entanglements and championed the rights of the electorate over parliament, was the first politician to achieve celebrity status. One of Boris’s endearing traits is that he has never regarded himself as an enticing proposition in the looks department. Wilkes had a squint, but he said: ‘Give me half an hour to talk away my face and I can seduce

General de Gaulle’s advice to the young Queen Elizabeth

There were so many ear-catching moments in Peter Hennessy’s series for Radio 4, Winds of Change, adapted from his new book by Libby Spurrier and produced by Simon Elmes. Harold Wilson answering a journalist’s question after a sleepless night while awaiting the results of the 1964 election, quizzical, cheeky and so quick off the mark. When asked if he felt like a prime minister, he replied: ‘Quite honestly, I feel like a drink.’ Later he was waylaid at Euston station having just got off the morning train from Liverpool and was still unsure of the result. (Labour won by just four seats after 13 years of Conservative rule.) At 3.50

In defence of Matthew Parris

A perfectly sensible observation from Matthew Parris has incurred the wrath of his colleagues on the Times. Speaking of Trump’s “racist” comments, Parris writes: “I don’t like his attacks but I think they will strike a chord among millions who should not be called racists. It’s just futile to suppose that arrivals from another country, and their children, immediately and automatically assume an identity as citizens that is indistinguishable from that of the population already there. They have all the same rights but will be seen, for a generation or two, as neither better nor worse but different.” That seems to me precisely the case. And I suspect the majority

How to console a Remainiac

Matthew Parris feels that he has become a genuine Remainiac, and kindly readers, fearing for his mental health, have been springing to his aid. The Roman elite, who felt the same sense of disempowerment after the republic collapsed and Augustus became the first Roman emperor in 27bc, might have a solution. The point about Augustus was that he did not call himself ‘emperor’ but princeps (‘first citizen’) or Caesar (as the later emperors did); and he maintained the trappings of the republican system (senators, consuls, etc). But he was now the final source of all authority. Any popular control over laws and appointment of officials was gone. So Romans began

Labour, lizards and anti-Semitism

There’s a very funny moment in Jon Ronson’s book Them: Adventures with Extremists, part of which follows the New Age mental case David Icke on a tour of Canada. All the way across the great plains, Icke has been promulgating his thesis that we are the unwitting subjects of shape-shifting reptilian alien overlords. Aside from Ronson, a protestor has been following Icke, too — demonstrating outside each venue —convinced that when Icke says ‘shape-shifting reptilian overlords’ he really means ‘Jews’. Eventually, having heard Icke speak on perhaps a dozen occasions, Ronson asks the protestor, ‘Do you still think that when Icke says lizards, he means Jews?’ And the protester replies,

Letters | 8 March 2018

Pipeline politics Sir: In his article ‘Putin’s gamble’ (3 March), Paul Wood quite rightly mentions that one of the key reasons why Russia played hardball in Syria was Assad’s willingness to block the efforts of Qatar to build a natural gas pipeline through the country to supply Europe. This would have undermined Russia’s market power in Europe, and weakened Russian leverage over Europe when defending its actions in Ukraine. Some of the strategic issues at play in Syria exist in Libya, but to a lesser degree. Libya supplies Europe with gas from large offshore deposits through the GreenStream pipeline to Italy. Qatar tried for years to get Muammar Gaddafi to agree

Diary – 7 December 2017

Lunch with the great Sir Michael Howard, 95 last week. During a conversation about BBC1’s Howards End, he said: ‘I met Forster once, at a lunch party in London in 1943, given by Arthur Koestler, just before I went to Italy. We spoke much about Richard Hillary, then just beginning to be canonised. Forster suddenly turned to me and asked: “What do you think about sardines?” I was confounded, and have often since wished that I had produced some appropriately witty riposte.’ Michael expresses ironic gratitude for the state of the world, saying that without its horrors, at his age he might be frightfully bored: ‘The distinction between war —

At last! The subversion of Brexit has begun

The Brexit crowd are right to smell a rat. In any great national debate a columnist may feel tempted to go beyond openly rooting for one side. Rooting for one side is acceptable, of course. Though some Brexiteer readers do struggle with the idea it could be legitimate for a columnist to dis-agree with the verdict of a referendum, I will merrily insist that the word ‘Comment’ at the top of a page allows for the expression of an opinion. But what if the columnist detects a possible conspiracy to help his own side win? And, further, suspects that for the plan to work, it would be better not to

Letters | 17 August 2017

The education gap Sir: It is disappointing that Toby Young (‘Parents, not schools, are key to the knowledge gap’, 5 August) conforms to the ‘Close the gap’ mentality that obsesses Ofsted and leftish thinking in state schools. Young deplores ‘the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged 16-year-olds in England’. I prefer to get away from the tendentious terms ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘non-disadvantaged’ pupils and stick to the idea of high- and low-attaining pupils. Left-inclined schools have various ways of closing this gap in attainment. One is to impose limits on how abler pupils can be challenged. Some secondary schools have gone soft on homework, even banning it altogether except for ‘optional’

If Brexit is dying, what about democracy?

Never meet your enemies — you might like them, and that ruins stuff. I had dinner with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, about a year ago. During his time in office, Rowan came out with what I considered to be some of the most cringing, effete, left-liberal, self-abnegating rot I have ever heard. But then, at this dinner, I met the most kindly, charming, humble and witty human being. If a man could be said to actually radiate goodness, that was Rowan. I left the dinner utterly dismayed. Never meet your enemies. So it is with Matthew Parris. I bump into Matthew every so often and am always

Letters | 18 May 2017

Libyan solution Sir: Boris Johnson correctly reports glimmers of hope in Libya, but to say its problems can be solved by political will risks falling into the same trap of wishful thinking that has hobbled the international community’s intervention there (‘Libya’s best hope’, 13 May). To fix Libya, its political process must be restructured to incentivise cooperation between its various factions. One thing nearly all Libyans can agree on is that the country’s oil should flow freely, since oil revenues pay for everybody’s fuel, medicine and salaries. In recent years, oil production has been repeatedly blockaded by criminal militias and politicians alike; sometimes by the same people engaged in people-trafficking.

Ukip is finished? I don’t think so

So, Ukip is finished. So says Matthew Parris in the Times this morning, as well as Marina Hyde in the Guardian – who takes Paul Nuttall’s declaration that he is ‘going nowhere’ in a slightly different way that he intended. The emerging narrative of Thursday’s by-elections is that Labour had an appalling night from which it will take years to recover, but that Ukip is finished for good. Even Farage has given up on his baby. As Matthew puts it: ‘Ukip’s driving spirits are concluding that the time approaches for the party to die’. I have no capital invested in Ukip. I don’t care a great deal whether it dies

Letters | 23 February 2017

Seeing off the Speaker Sir: If senior Tories in Buckingham had had their way, John Bercow’s career as Speaker could have been over long before he had a chance to make any ‘spectacularly ill-judged’ remarks (Politics, 18 February). At the 2010 election, an impressive local Tory was keen to prevent the new Labour-supported Speaker retaining the seat where the party had had an 18,000 majority in 2005. Conservative headquarters insisted that Buckingham must abide by the long-standing convention that the Speaker is returned unopposed. The local Tories should have gone ahead; there is no such convention. All ten Speakers since the war have faced opposition. Six, including Bercow, have faced

The Spectator’s Notes | 9 February 2017

As we have been reminded this week, the most famous words (apart from ‘Order, order’) ever uttered by a Speaker of the House of Commons were those of William Lenthall. When King Charles I entered Parliament in search of the ‘five birds’ in 1642, Lenthall knelt to the King but told him, ‘I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me.’ It is only on that basis that the Speaker speaks. As soon as John Bercow said — of the speculative possibility that Donald Trump should address both Houses of Parliament — ‘I feel very strongly that our opposition

Letters | 12 January 2017

Freudian slap Sir: In his Notes (7 January), Charles Moore explores the uncharacteristic reaction of Matthew Parris to the referendum result. What is most puzzling about Parris and so many others like him is that their present outrage has so little in common with their rather tepid support for the EU in the run-up to the vote. Such a mismatch of cause and effect suggests a Freudian explanation may be appropriate. When an impulse is felt to be so dire that it cannot be expressed, a new object is substituted and the feelings are thus ventilated. Yet what original threat could be so catastrophic as to provoke such end-of-our-world hysteria

The Spectator’s Notes | 5 January 2017

‘My deep concern is that because of changed ways that news is now gathered, collated, packaged, delivered and displayed, the country can often find itself in… the tyrannical grip of the massed media… which could seriously threaten the political health of the United Kingdom as a Parliamentary democracy.’ This is from a letter I have received from Field Marshal Lord Bramall. Lord Bramall has reason to complain, since he was recently, in his nineties, the victim of preposterous child abuse allegations, invented by the fantasist ‘Nick’, fanned by the media, and wild-goose-chased by the Metropolitan Police. His complaint, however, goes much wider, including how the British media misread the Arab

The Spectator podcast: The age of May

The Conservative party conference starts this Sunday in Birmingham. It will be the first time that Theresa May has addressed the membership at large as leader, but in the background there are rumblings of division. Are the Cameroons preparing a rebellion on grammar schools? Are any cabinet positions currently vulnerable? And how long can the honeymoon last for Theresa May? Isabel Hardman is joined in Liverpool by Fraser Nelson and Matthew Parris, and from London by James Forsyth, who says on the podcast: “I think the intriguing thing about Theresa May is this is a politician who’s been on the Tory front bench for 17 years, but everyone – from cabinet ministers to civil servants

Letters | 25 August 2016

Golden age problems Sir: Johan Norberg’s ‘Our golden age’ (20 August) is absolutely right — we do live in a golden age; antibiotics still work, we have less starvation, the world is open for trade, with all its benefits. But there is a fly in the ointment: human overpopulation. Global warming (if you believe in it), degradation of the environment, extinction of species, all are consequences of it. It is a result, in fact, of our success. The only country to have grasped the nettle — China — is now having second thoughts. Perhaps wind and solar power can provide for our needs when we are 70 million in these islands; but what when

Letters | 11 August 2016

The hate is real Sir: It is clearly an exaggeration to call Britain a bigoted country (‘We are not a hateful nation’, 6 August), but downplaying the recent wave of xenophobic and racist incidents across the UK as ‘somebody shouting something nasty on a bus’ is equally wrong. Verbal abuse in itself is worthy of condemnation, yet the character of recorded harassment is actually much more serious. In the past few weeks, Poles in this country were shocked by vulgar graffiti (West London; Hertfordshire; Portsmouth) and hurtful leaflets (Cambridgeshire) urging them to ‘go home’ in most offensive ways possible, while a family in Plymouth fell victim to an arson attack.

Letters | 14 July 2016

Lurid about Leavers Sir: Matthew Parris has spent much of the past few months denigrating those of us who want to leave the EU, but his latest article (‘For the first time, I feel ashamed to be British’, 9 July) really does go too far. It is simply untrue to claim that the leaders of the Leave campaign relied on hatred of immigration, and that this won it for Leave. As Brendan O’Neill pointed out (‘Not thick or racist: just poor’, 2 July), a majority of Leave voters (including me, for what it is worth) rejected the EU primarily for sovereignty reasons. But whatever Mr Parris may feel, there is nothing immoral