I’ve found the country’s last Lib Dem voter

In Gerrards Cross, in the rain, dusk falling, attempting to gauge the political mood of the town through the pristine fatuity of ‘vox pops’. You scour the street in desperate search of anyone who is aware an election is taking place and try to avoid the drongos. I approach one chap — besuited, late-middle-aged — and strike lucky. He is aware that we are in the midst of a general election campaign. He explains to me: ‘I am absolutely pig sick of the lot of them. It’s an absolute disgrace! We voted to leave the EU three years ago and it still hasn’t been done. They’ve let us all down.

War of the Worlds is as bad as Doctor Who

Edwardian England deserved everything it got from those killer Martian invaders. Or so I learned from the BBC’s latest adaptation of The War of the Worlds (Sundays). Everything about that era, apparently, was hateful, backward and ripe for destruction: regressive attitudes to women and homosexuality; exultant white supremacy (cue, a speech from a government minister on the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race); a general prevailing bone-headedness and stuck-upness; stiff, stuffy, relentlessly brown clothing with superfluous belts; and as for those ridiculous bristling moustaches… Still, I don’t think H.G. Wells would have been totally appalled by this travesty of his 1898 potboiler. Wells was, after all, a man of the left

My charter of fundamental rights

I was chatting to a young medical student, a very bright chap from West Africa, who was nonetheless perplexed by a certain element of his course. The puzzle, for him, was the point of offering cervical smear tests to men who had transitioned to become women. The course module was very clear, he said, that these people must not be left out, despite not possessing a cervix. I hope a later part of the course teaches him how to behave while carrying out a cervical smear test on a non-existent cervix, so as not to cause offence. Poke around a bit with that spatula thing in whatever has recently been

Beware the wokeplace romance

I wonder if we are beginning to see the end of assortative mating. For a long while now we have tended to select our life partners from the place in which we work — rather than, as before, from our home towns or places of education. This process began with the long march of women into the workplace in the early 1970s, a development which, while overall being undoubtedly both benign and just, nonetheless slightly widened the gap between rich and poor. Men and women who worked together had a tendency to, if I can put it like this, cop off. This meant we had many more families where both

The delights of Spanish wine – and art

First, an apology. In my last column, I appeared to be saying that good champagne does not age. This must have been the impact of Brexit fatigue, for I had meant to write the exact opposite, along the lines of age cannot wither it (as it were) nor custom stale. Good — and especially great — champagne can taste youthful at 20 years old. If I alarmed anyone lucky enough to have such bottles in the cellar, they should relax. The UK is not the only country where political contentiousness causes stress. The other night, in a repast organised by the Hispania restaurant, I tasted some superb wines in the

If you do one thing this election, stop your kids voting

As I write this, MPs are arguing about whether a general election should be on 9 December or 12 December. One argued it must be the 9th because other-wise an election might get in the way of vital rehearsals for school nativity plays. I have long been of the opinion that our politicians are mentally ill and most stuff that happens these days seems to confirm it. The more salient reason for the opposition wanting the earlier date is that universities may have broken up by the 12th and the Lib Dems and Labour will therefore risk losing a tidal wave of support from voters who are pig ignorant, pay

It’s down to the wire – and Boris only has one chance to survive

Here is my ideal scenario. Having failed to push through his deal to leave the European Union in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson abides by the terms of the Benn Act and drafts a letter requesting an extension to the 31 October deadline. That extension would be eight minutes and 21 seconds, approximately the time it takes light to travel from the sun to earth — depending slightly, of course, on where we are in our orbit at the time. The Prime Minister could claim this would respect the letter of the Benn Act, if not, um, entirely the spirit. Having done this, Boris should then proceed to a

How the BBC can achieve real diversity

Exciting news from the BBC, where every employee has just received a flyer from the Director-General, Lord Hall, informing them about the creation of a new post — Director of Creative Diversity. Should they all apply? Certainly, when I found out about it, I thought I might throw my hat in the ring. I’d immediately employ some heterosexual weathermen and maybe a white presenter or reporter on the London regional news programmes — and then make Dominic Cummings the head of current affairs, if he has any spare time. That would introduce a little diversity into New Broadcasting House, I think. I might also impel Radio 4 to ration the number of

Sorry, sir, we only stock books we agree with

I was on my way to the pub the other evening, about seven o’clock, rain lashing down on my head, when I saw that there was a dim, yellowish light on in the bookshop. Peering closer through the downpour I could see five women sitting on a circle of chairs around either a table or a cauldron, talking animatedly to one another. Or perhaps chanting, I don’t know. I crossed the road and stood directly outside the shop window with my arms outstretched, mouthing at those inside: ‘Where’s my book? Where’s my book?’ Six weeks previously I had wandered into the shop to see if they were stocking The Great

There is only one law: there must be no Brexit

You’re surprised? Really? What are you surprised by? The specifics — that 11 non-elected, mostly public-school-educated judges, and doubtlessly Remainers I’d guess, should put the final nail into the lid of Brexit? Yeah, sure — that knocked me for six. Never saw that coming. Or was it the generality that surprised you — we’re not getting Brexit after all? If it’s the latter, I don’t think there’s much hope for you. What seemed to me fairly plain on 24 June 2016 — that they, meaning our liberal establishment, would never let it happen — became an absolute certainty by the turn of this year. By January it was either no

The Lib Dems have revealed the extreme side of modern liberalism

A friend’s seven-year-old daughter was asked by her school to write something about the NHS. Her only experience of it had been sitting for four hours in A&E while her father, in some pain, waited to be treated for a cricket injury. So she wrote about that. Her teacher deemed it ‘inappropriate’ and told her to write it again and make it ‘more positive’. I assume this authoritarian hag wanted something along the lines of: ‘The NHS is the only good thing about the UK and would be even better were it not for the Vicious Tory Cuts. It is staffed by thousands of brilliant people who have swum here

Theresa May’s honours list makes me sick

The BBC featured a gay wedding on Songs of Praise recently. Of course it did. The thinking was, I assume: ‘We hate this programme and wish we could get rid of it, but there would be the usual moaning from the near-dead reactionaries. So let’s rub their noses in it, instead.’ The broadcast attracted 1,200 complaints, including one from God himself, my sources tell me. God also complained, I’m told, about the programme’s failure to include the hymn ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’, of which He is rather fond. The BBC will not take any notice of the complaints — certainly not from God, whom the producers believe they easily outrank these

High life | 25 July 2019

Serifos He went away to fight and the war lasted ten years. He missed his wife but he didn’t worry one bit. She was in love with him and she was known for her virtue. (Those were the days.) Sailing west he stopped in Serifos, a beautiful but rugged island in the Cyclades. Soon he had a problem, a very serious one, and his name was Polyphemos. The Cyclops was a baddie and was about to slay the Greek crew and eat them when Odysseus speared him in the eye, the only eye the giant had, and that was that. The Cyclops’s throne is still here in the shape of

The Church of England needs mission

The time has come to disestablish the Church of England. As a deeply partisan Prayer Book Anglican – a churchmanship naturally inclined to support the cause of antidisestablishmentarianism – I say that rather grudgingly. But it pains me to admit the established church and mother church of Anglicanism is no longer fit for purpose. Atheists, militant secularists and those of non-Christian faiths have long supported my newly-held position, yet they often do so for other reasons, namely declining church attendance. They might claim that the Anglican expression of Christianity has little creditability as a state church if, practically speaking, nobody goes to services on a regular basis. And they might have

Kent’s new Rose

East Kent is bracing itself. Its Church of England clergy are enjoying their last quiet months before Rose Hudson-Wilkin arrives as the new Bishop of Dover in the autumn, replacing Trevor Willmott. History is being made — the C of E is to have its first black woman bishop. But some members are clutching their heads in despair at what they see as Justin Welby’s predictably flashy appointment. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of sighing going on. Rose Hudson-Wilkin is the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Known for her dangly earrings, she is widely loved in the Palace of Westminster and is in her element

Save us from the civil service and the BBC

I was asked on to the BBC Today programme — my old manor — last week to talk about the Women’s World Cup. The producers had noticed that I’d changed my mind about the event and now thought it all rather good fun, having hitherto been derisively misogynistic. ‘This is the thing,’ I said to them. ‘You only invite social conservatives on when they’ve come around to your way of thinking and stopped being social conservatives. Why don’t you ask me on to talk about banning abortion, deporting all foreigners and sectioning the trannies?’ I agreed to the football chat, a little reluctantly, but told the chap that the item

We’ve been Rotherhamed

I think we need a new source of ultimate evil for people taking part in political discussions, because Godwin’s Law has been outreached of late. Mike Godwin, a US attorney, correctly identified that every political debate online will, eventually, end up with someone being likened to Adolf Hitler. ‘Eventually’ was the key word — but that was in 1990. Nowadays the arguably controversial Austrian politician is invoked at the outset of discussions, and after that there’s nowhere left for people to go to display their contempt for whoever it is they’re speaking to, or about. Both Brexiteers and Remainers are like Hitler. Leftists and Tories. We’re all like Hitler, immediately,

Pope Francis is wrong to rewrite the Lord’s Prayer

Is the Pope a Catholic? You have to wonder. In the old days, a pope’s remit was modest: infallible, but only in the vanishingly rare cases when he pronounced on matters of faith and morals concerning the whole Church. But even at their most bombastic and badly behaved, earlier popes would have hesitated to do what nice Pope Francis has done, which is to approve changes in the liturgy which amount to rewriting the Lord’s Prayer. That bit that says ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ is, for Pope Francis, a bad translation. ‘It speaks of a God who induces temptation,’ he told Italian TV. ‘I

Has the BBC gone back on its word over free TV licences?

If I were a pensioner, I’d be a bit miffed by the BBC’s decision to end the policy of giving free TV licences to the over-75s. At present, the cost is met by the government, but it was due to be picked up by the BBC from 1 June 2020. At least, that’s what I thought — and I had good reason. According to a report on the BBC News website dated 6 July 2015, the Beeb would ‘cover the cost of providing free television licences for over-75s’ and ‘in return… the licence fee will rise with inflation’. The story referred to this as a ‘deal’ that the BBC had

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