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

The complaints are piling up at the BBC after my Newsnight appearance

For those of you who were not watching, if you have the time, take a look at the interview I did on Newsnight with Emily Maitlis about my book. And tell me if you think that it was an even-handed, unbiased, rational discussion. The complaints are piling up at the BBC: here’s one from a remainer: Dear sir or madam, I am writing in relation to Emily Maitlis’s interview with Rod Liddle on Newsnight yesterday. I have the highest regard for the BBC: over many years, I have relied on the organisation to provide impartial reporting and comment on a wide range of issues. Moreover, I am well aware of

The upsides of dementia

My 91-year-old father-in-law has always had a terror of hospitals. This dates from his time as a Royal Marine when, just after the second world war, he was infected with polio by a contaminated needle. The first he knew of it was when a visiting dignitary came on board ship and he was unable to lift his arm in salute. Ever since, he made it very clear that he doesn’t want to go to a hospital under any circumstances, ever. But last week he was admitted to A&E with a high temperature and I didn’t fret for one moment that he’d be alarmed. Why? He’s got late-stage dementia. He’s forgotten

Bloody liar

It is more than 15 years since the Bloody Sunday soldiers last appeared in public. For months I sat in the room with them to watch their evidence at Lord Saville’s inquiry. And while Lionel Shriver is right that the sight of terrorists benefiting from an immunity denied to our soldiers is grotesque, there are competing qualms. Not only because British soldiers should be held to a higher standard than terrorists. But because, having watched all of the Bloody Sunday shooters testify, I can say with certainty that they include not only unapologetic killers, but unrelenting liars. As one soldier after another appeared before Lord Saville, it became clear that

Roma is being celebrated for all the wrong reasons, writes Slavoj Žižek

My first viewing of Roma left me with a bitter taste: yes, the majority of critics are right in celebrating it as an instant classic, but I couldn’t get rid of the idea that this predominant perception is sustained by a terrifying, almost obscene, misreading, and that the movie is celebrated for all the wrong reasons. Roma is read as a tribute to Cleo, a maid from the Colonia Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City working in the middle-class household of Sofia, her husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia’s mother Teresa, and another maid, Adela. It take place in 1970, the time of large student protests and social unrest. As already

The lies and liars of Brexit

I started my first job at Westminster in 1994, more than half a lifetime ago. Almost all of my career has been spent watching politicians, talking to politicians, writing about politicians. I covered the case for war in Iraq and the war’s dismal descent into failure. I was part of the Telegraph team writing about MPs expenses. I’ve written about more ministerial resignations, scandals, failures of public policy and abdications of leadership than I can remember. None of those failures has ever left me quite as bewildered and despairing as I am today, pondering the latest act in the national farce that is Brexit. Bewildered, despairing and surprisingly angry.  Surprisingly because

Top ten horrors from the Brexit ‘legal advice’

Despite numerous attempts by the government to keep it hidden, the Attorney General’s legal advice has finally been published. The move came after opposition MPs – to whom Mr S is very grateful – found ministers in contempt of Parliament for with-holding the information. Remember our 40 horrors of the deal? Well, Geoffrey Cox’s hotly-anticipated legal advice has some nasty surprises of its own. As ever, Steerpike has compiled the top horrors from the latest document: 1. This is not the full legal advice on the May’s deal. It is a very selective piece of advice solely on the Protocol, art. 184 and 5. So no other issues are considered.

Mervyn King: May’s deal is a shameful betrayal of Brexit

It’s safe to say that Mervyn King,  former Bank of England governor, does not quite agree with Mark Carney on Brexit. In an incendiary article for Bloomberg, he says that the sight of Boris and Blair uniting against the deal shows  that “something has gone badly wrong”. How wrong? Here’s his argument. “The withdrawal agreement is less a carefully crafted diplomatic compromise and more the result of incompetence of a high order. I have friends who are passionate Remainers and others who are passionate Leavers. None of them believe this deal makes any sense. It is time to think again, and the first step is to reject a deal that

Ten myths from the ‘no-deal’ Project Fear

Myth 1. The UK economy could shrink by eight per cent in a single year under no deal (Project Fear, Bank of England version) You will have read about this. The Bank of England now sheepishly claims that this was never meant to be a forecast, only a worst-case scenario. Mark Carney surely knew the headlines it would generate. Doubtless he was shocked – shocked! – to see the newspapers treat scenario as a forecast. Whatever. But in case there is any doubt, the idea that a no-deal Brexit would cause a crash of such proportions is nonsense, pure and simple. An eight per cent reduction in GDP in one

It is time we civilised the Sentinelese people

John Allen Chau behaved immorally and recklessly when he approached North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal last week. A Christian from Washington in the US, Chau apparently wanted to convert the Sentinelese people to Christianity. The Sentinelese are a neolithic tribe that has had virtually no engagement with modernity. They’re notoriously hostile to outsiders. So when they saw Chau approaching in a kayak, they took fright and fired arrows at him. Chau died in a ‘hail of arrows’. He must have known the risks. India, which oversees North Sentinel and surrounding islands, has outlawed contact with the Sentenilese people. As a result of having been secluded for thousands

May’s deal: a legal verdict

The most important point about the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement is that, once it is ratified, the United Kingdom will have no legal route out of it unless the EU agrees to let us out and replace it with another agreement. This makes it unique among trade treaties (including the EU’s), which always contain clauses allowing each party to withdraw on notice. Politicians who claim that this is just a bad treaty — one we can get out of later — are being ignorant or disingenuous. Halfway through the 585-page document, we find Art. 185, which states a Northern Ireland Protocol ‘shall apply as from the end of the transition period’.

The Brexit deal: 40 rebuttals to Mr Steerpike’s 40 horrors

Is a deal better than no deal? In a bid to answer that question, Mr Steerpike published a list of the 40 horrors buried in the small print of Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Downing Street have since been in touch to put forward their own 40 rebuttals to those 40 horrors (we’ll respond on Monday). No.10’s points are in italics. After reading this list, why not try Mr Steerpike’s 40 rebuttals to No.10’s 40 rebuttals here. —————————————————————————————– The supposed ‘transition period’ could last indefinitely or, more specifically, to an undefined date sometime this century (“up to 31 December 20XX”, Art. 132). So while this Agreement covers what the government is calling


The top 40 horrors lurking in the small print of Theresa May’s Brexit deal | 17 November 2018

This week, Theresa May’s government teetered on the point of collapse over her proposed Brexit deal. The withdrawal agreement between the UK and Brussels led to Dominic Raab and Esther McVey resigning in protest. However, May’s remaining ministers have since attempted to rally around her at least in the short term. Speaking on Friday, Liam Fox – the International Trade Secretary – gave a speech in which he declared ‘a deal is better than no deal’. This is rather different to May’s old claim that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. So, is Fox right? Mr S thought it best to let readers decide for themselves. In theory, Britain is

In defence of Roger Scruton

Once identified as right-wing you are beyond the pale of argument,’ wrote Sir Roger Scruton. ‘Your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake. You are not an opponent to be argued with, but a disease to be shunned. This has been my experience.’ Unfortunately, that experience is due to intensify for the 74-year-old conservative philosopher. Last weekend, the government announced it had set up a commission to try and make new housing developments ‘beautiful’ and appointed Sir Roger as its chair. It’s one of the few sensible things the present government has done; so, of course, it’s caused a scandal. Within minutes of Sir

Mutti’s last days

Whatever anyone’s views on the enterprise, there was one question always begging to be asked of the European Union: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ At an early stage it wasn’t clear to everyone. Then the purpose and direction of travel seemed agreed — under the stewardship of Angela Merkel. She was there to settle disputes, authorise bailouts, offer German help to struggling nations and protect the project as it led to ever-closer union. Whatever else can be said of it, with Merkel at the helm at least the EU appeared to have direction. Not anymore. This week — after another political drubbing for the CDU

J.K. Rowling and the darkness on the left

You rarely come across a character in modern literature like Jimmy Knight. He’s a racist, but that’s not what makes him a novelty act. racists, after all, are deplored everywhere in the culture industry, from Hollywood to Pinewood Studios. Of this racist, however, his ex-wife says: ‘I wouldn’t trust him if it was anything to do with Jews. He doesn’t like them. Israel is the root of all evil, according to Jimmy. Zionism: I got sick of the bloody sound of the word.’ Knight is also a misogynist, a type which is once again a familiar figure in contemporary fiction. But when his girlfriend cries out after he hits her,

J.K. Rowling and the darkness on the left | 24 September 2018

You rarely come across a character in modern literature like Jimmy Knight. He’s a racist, but that’s not what makes him a novelty act. racists, after all, are deplored everywhere in the culture industry, from Hollywood to Pinewood Studios. Of this racist, however, his ex-wife says: ‘I wouldn’t trust him if it was anything to do with Jews. He doesn’t like them. Israel is the root of all evil, according to Jimmy. Zionism: I got sick of the bloody sound of the word.’ Knight is also a misogynist, a type which is once again a familiar figure in contemporary fiction. But when his girlfriend cries out after he hits her,

What happens when Steve Bannon is given a platform? | 18 September 2018

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the interesting question of whether or not the former chief strategist to the President of the United States is too fringe a figure to be allowed to speak in public. A lot of very prominent people seem to think that Steve Bannon shouldn’t be given a platform. And among two venues to have recently invited him, the New Yorker promptly disinvited him from their festival under fire from political heavyweights including former ‘funny man’ Jim Carrey. By contrast, the Economist managed to hold firm, surviving the withdrawal of a British blogger and going ahead as planned with their live interview. The video

The Swedish Prime Minister has gambled with his country’s future

The Swedes are going to the polls in one of the most significant bellwether-elections in Europe this year. The international press has been taking an unusual interest in these elections because the Sweden Democrats look set to do fairly well, perhaps coming second if not first. Readers of The Strange Death of Europe will know that I spent some time with members and leaders of that party during research for the book. Nothing that has happened since then (summer 2016) has changed the way I view the party or the political establishment’s attitudes towards it. However, one thing that has happened on the eve of this election could easily have

How Caroline Lucas fell foul of the transgender thought police | 4 September 2018

Last week, it emerged that Linda Bellos, veteran feminist of the Old Left, faces legal action for having said the wrong thing about transgender people who hit women. This week’s transgender thought-criminal is Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party. Someone who might well be considered impeccably on-message on gender issues is accused of being that most terrible thing, a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, and is being punished accordingly. Lucas leads a party that is deeply devoted to the orthodoxy of transgenderism and the unquestionable mantra that “transwomen are women”. So keen are Greens to embrace the right of people born male to be considered women if they say they are women