Big trouble in little Qatar

 Washington DC At 8:06 on Tuesday morning the Tweeter-in-Chief reached for his Android phone and told the world: ‘During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!’ At 9:36 a.m. we heard from @realDonaldTrump again. ‘So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!’ The US President was showing his support for an

High life | 30 March 2017

 Gstaad It’s my last week in the Alps, and the snow is gone, replaced by brilliant sunshine. Silence reigns, broken only by the occasional clear, sharp wind. The town is now empty and clean, and the air bracing. I love the village out of season, when the shoppers have finally gone and the locals are preparing to release the cows into the mountains. Training at altitude will make it easy to go at it hard once I am back in the city — at least for a week or two. There is nothing like a three-month Alpine break for the old ticker. Dinner parties out of season are very gay

High life | 11 August 2016

Gstaad   ‘He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze.’ As everyone knows, life’s unfair, but this is ridiculous. An American daredevil falls out of an aeroplane at 25,000 feet without a parachute and manages to land on a postage-stamp-size net without a scratch. The poor little Greek boy falls off a balcony ten to 15 feet high, lands on gravel and breaks many bones in his body. Being encased in plaster is similar to living under a strict dictatorship, North Korea, for example. There’s no crime, no muggings, but as far as doing what comes naturally, fuggetaboutit. Self-doubt and

On Question Time, will someone please ask Mehdi Hasan about his views on infidels?

Various readers have been asking if I am doing Question Time, This Week or Any Questions this week. It’s not the BBC’s fault but I’m not able to be in the country at the moment. I am particularly sorry not to be able to do Question Time now that I learn that the line-up includes Mehdi Hasan and Anna Soubry. So could someone else on the panel or in the audience please point out that Mehdi Hasan has expressed similar contempt for us infidels as Isis have? Here is a reminder of a sermon he gave in 2009: ‘The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of

Of course there’s no morality in top-level sport

Why do transgendered people need separate toilets? I thought, according to the prevalent orthodoxy, that the new gender they had acquired was every bit as authentic as the one they had jubilantly renounced. So a separate toilet is surely otiose. And not just that, but the suggestion that they might need a separate toilet for micturition through their surgically emended private parts is surely offensive. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, may be in trouble, then, for announcing his intention to install these mysterious receptacles throughout the Palace of Westminster to service the hordes of transgendered workers wandering around with extravagant beehive hairdos and outsize stiletto heels.

Life in the chain gang

In 2004, French police officers searching the home of the professional cyclist David Millar found some syringes and empty phials hidden in a hollowed-out book. Millar confessed that he had been using the substance EPO to boost his red-blood-cell count. He was banned from the sport for two years, and returned to cycling a reformed man, becoming a prominent and vocal critic of doping in the professional peloton. The rise and fall and rise of David Millar’s cycling career formed the dramatic backdrop to his first memoir, Riding Through the Dark (2011). His second book, The Racer, is a more elegiac affair. It follows Millar through the twilight of his

Zaha Hadid’s aggressive performance on Today confirms why architecture would be better off without her

Zaha Hadid is the most famous woman architect in the world. Would women, or, indeed, architecture, be better off without her pushily hard-won, global celebrity? She established her studio in London in 1980. For nearly fifteen years Hadid, absurdly, became famous for not actually having built anything. Instead, her reputation was boosted by a clique of fawning admirers who saw in her uncompromising angles and, later, zoomorphic blobs a fearless repudiation of stuffy tradition. The competition entry for Cardiff Opera House was her celebrated cause. This, with genius, managed to alienate both the left and the right. The former thought it elitist, the latter outrageous. It was, after years of

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid is the most famous woman architect in the world. Would women or, indeed, architecture, be better off without her pushily hard-won, global celebrity? She established her studio in London in 1980. For nearly 14 years Hadid, absurdly, became famous for not having built anything. Her reputation was boosted by a clique of fawning admirers who saw in her uncompromising angles and, later, zoomorphic blobs a fearless repudiation of stuffy tradition. The competition entry for Cardiff Opera House was her celebrated cause. This, with genius, managed to alienate both the left and the right. The former thought it elitist, the latter outrageous. It was, after years of well-publicised struggle,

High life | 16 July 2015

I have signed an affidavit for a hearing in the High Court stating that Janan Harb was, to my knowledge, married to Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who later became king of that ghastly country until he ate himself to death. His son Abdul Aziz, a fat playboy who drifts around the world with an entourage of 150 bootlickers, is challenging Janan’s claims, which, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, ‘he would, wouldn’t he?’ Saudi camel-drivers-turned-self-proclaimed royals do not like to pay for the mess they leave behind their ample posteriors, and they definitely do not like to pay for their women. (I’ve often wondered if they really think women

Football’s elite deserve the foulness of Fifa

My favourite moment in the crisis engulfing football’s governing body, Fifa, came with the intervention of a man called Manuel Nascimento Lopes. Manuel is the Fifa delegate from Guinea-Bissau, an African country which occupies 130th place in the Fifa world rankings but which, far more importantly in this context, punches well above its weight when it comes to institutionalised corruption. Thirteenth in the world, according to the organisation Transparency International — not a bad showing for a smallish sub-Saharan rathole which has been almost permanently engulfed in civil war since the Portuguese got the hell out. Manuel suggested that to vote against Sepp Blatter remaining as boss of Fifa would

Barometer | 4 June 2015

First test The driving test celebrated its 80th anniversary. The first person to take the test, R.E.L. Beene of Kensington, passed. Here is some of the advice given to candidates on a Pathé newsreel: — ‘Don’t flick your cigarette ash outside. It’s very confusing.’ (The driver behind would have been looking for hand signals.) — ‘Never drive on the crown of the road.’ — ‘Don’t look down at the gear lever while you change gear.’ — ‘Don’t be nervous. The examination is not an inquisition but a series of very reasonable tests.’ Old story The chief medical officer and British Pregnancy Advisory Service argued over whether women should be advised

Don’t expect Sepp Blatter’s replacement to be sympathetic to England

So Sepp Blatter has substituted himself hardly 30 seconds into the second half, or rather the fifth half. But his rhinoceros skin still doesn’t seem to have been breached. His parting shot contained a bewildering statement: ‘We need a limitation on mandates and terms of office. I have fought for these changes but my efforts have been counteracted.’ If so, then why didn’t he take a lead by the simple expedient of not standing for a fifth term as Fifa president last week? It is a bit rich insisting on standing for an office and then claiming that you had spent your previous term fighting to abolish your right to

Reforming Fifa will be an even more messy job than exposing it

There he was, doing his lovable leader act: the little father of all the world, humble and slightly dishevelled. The great suit was back before the world: but this time the clothes have no emperor. It was time for farewell. Sepp Blatter has resigned as president of Fifa. He was able to keep on for 17 years on a mixture of dazzling effrontery and the fact that so many people in Fifa were actually in favour of a corrupt system. It’s so much easier to deal with people when you can price their degree of self-interest with complete precision. Many, many people had been happy with the corrupt system of

Qatar doesn’t deserve to host the 2022 World Cup but Turkey does

The campaign against Qatar’s plans to host the World Cup is racist and Islamophobic, according to the former prime minister of the oil-rich absolute monarchy where Indian workers are treated like serfs and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Maybe worker health and safety is just a Eurocentric construct and there are no objective truths about how many people die on building sites? Momentum is building against Qatar, with pressure on the corporate sponsors to pull out, and for UEFA to lead a European boycott. The case against Russia is also pretty strong, too, but at least Russia can physically hold the tournament in summer. One of the main political problems

Britain’s reaction to Fifa’s troubles makes us look like sore losers

How pleasing that the sleazebags at Fifa are finally getting their comeuppance. We have all known what has been going on for years: dodgy deals in hotels, backhanders to secure votes. Who could disagree with the judgement of Greg Dyke, chairman of the FA when he suggested: ‘There is no way of rebuilding trust in Fifa while Sepp Blatter is still there.’ If we won’t go, let’s boycott the World Cup until Fifa is governed like, er, our own upstanding football establishment. That’s the problem. Yes, of course Fifa is a fetid pit of corruption, but we can’t exactly claim the moral high ground, not with our own history of bungs, match-fixing scandals

Bet on a swift Grexit

‘Will Greece exit the eurozone in 2015?’ Paddy Power was pricing ‘yes’ at 3-to-1 on Tuesday, with 5-to-2 on another Greek general election within the year and 6-to-4 on the more cautious ‘Greece to adopt an official currency other than the euro by the end of 2017.’ I’m no betting man — as I reminded myself after backing a parade of point-to-point losers on Sunday — and I defer to our in-house speculator Freddy Gray, who will offer a wider guide to political bets worth having in the forthcoming Spectator Money (7 March). But on the Greek card I’m tempted by the longer odds on the shorter timeframe, because this

Those ancient Greeks were bores — but things are looking up

Thick snow is falling hard and heavy, muffling sounds and turning the picturesque village postcard beautiful. I am lying in bed listening to a Mozart version of ‘Ave Maria’, a heavenly soprano almost bringing tears to my eyes with the loveliness of it. This is the civilisation of our ancestors — one that gave us Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven and built cathedrals all over the most wondrous continent in the world. It is now being replaced by a higher one in which distinctions of ethnicity and religion will no longer be tolerated. The human race has a limitless capacity for self-improvement, and it shows where architecture, the arts and music

Are the Qataris ready for the curse of Canary Wharf?

I’ve written before of a ‘curse of Qatar’ that might explain misfortunes attending the Gulf state’s UK investments, of which the seven-years-delayed Chelsea Barracks redevelopment is an example. I also claim to have coined ‘curse of Canary Wharf’, a phenomenon afflicting not only financial tenants of the Docklands complex but visitors such as Gordon Brown, who never lived down his speech congratulating Lehman Brothers on ‘the contribution you make to the prosperity of Britain’ at the opening of the doomed bank’s office tower there. So the prospect of a renewed Qatari bid for Songbird, the corporate owner of Canary Wharf, fills me with foreboding. A first 295-pence-per-share offer by the

England should withdraw from the 2022 World Cup

Mark Steyn once wrote of the United Nations: ‘It’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ’em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That’s the problem with the U.N.’ It’s a maxim that works double for Fifa, world football’s governing body, which has just cleared future World Cup hosts Qatar and Russia of any wrongdoing but managed to criticise the FA. The BBC reports: ‘As for Russia, they have also been cleared, although the report noted its bid team made “only a limited amount of documents available for review”. ‘According to

The US won’t beat Isis alone; Qatar and other Gulf allies must help in Iraq

Revelations keep pouring in about the uneasy relationship between Western aid givers and ISIS operators: from bribes given by humanitarian convoys to secure access in war-torn Syria, to food and medical equipment appropriated by Islamists and used to provide basic services to the population under its control. Moreover, USAID personnel working in the area have to be vetted by ISIS: “There is always at least one ISIS person on the payroll; they force people on us” one aid worker told the Daily Beast earlier this month. This is just the start. As the Islamic State makes inroads into Iraqi and Syrian territory, it’s becoming increasingly clear that American promises to