From the Observer 4 April 2015
NOTHING is more dishonest than David Cameron’s slogan that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for “competence over chaos”. Nothing is more disreputable than the failure of our allegedly ferocious 24/7 media to examine it.
Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on Europe in 2017, should the Tories win, will bring political, constitutional and economic chaos, which will continue into the 2020s. I suspect he is bailing out because he knows it all too well.
His announcement that he won’t serve a third term is little more than a confession that Britain might soon be ruled by a prime minister chosen by Tory party members rather than the voters. Cameron has given everyone who wants to succeed him permission to begin campaigning as soon as his hollow victory is assured. Boris Johnson, Theresa May, George Osborne and ambitious Tories whose faces you will struggle to recognise, grasp that the only way to win over a greying, nationalist party membership is to demand ever more concessions from the European Union or complete withdrawal.
From the Observer 29 March 2015
Being a racist is like being a snob. You are always on patrol; always noticing differences others ignore. Nigel Farage’s enemies accuse him of being obsessed with race. I assumed Farage would use this campaign autobiography to refute them. Instead he obsesses for England.
He tells the standard inspirational story of triumph over adversity, physical as well as political. Farage recalls how cancer left him with a Hitlerian deficiency, when it took away one of his testicles. The NHS misdiagnosed his condition and allowed one testicle – the left, he tells us – to become “as large as a lemon and rock hard”. I am not sure I needed to know that. But three decades after the event Farage still wants the reader to know that the blundering physician was “an Indian doctor”. When he calls on a neurosurgeon, Farage again feels the need to dwell on his physician’s immigration status. This time he tells us he was treated by “an Indian migrant who grew up in Slough”, although Farage does not mind over-much because the doctor turned Continue reading
Newspapers that tell you how to vote are asking for trouble. I still meet readers with harsh words to say about the recommendation of the editorials of the Guardian and Observer that they should vote Liberal Democrat at the last election. (Those who followed it are the most scathing.)
So it is with a stammer in my voice and fear in my eyes that I say that, in theory, some of you should vote Tory in May. Hold on! Put that pitchfork down. I just said “in theory”. My point is that liberal or leftwing readers in Kent and Essex could, in theory, consider tactically voting Conservative to stop Ukip winning.
The Observer 14 February 2014
From the moment he took office, commentators said that David Cameron “looked like a prime minister”. However deferential their assumption that old Etonians were born to rule, they were right to concentrate on appearances. Cameron speaks his lines and plays his part. He is a lead rather than a leader. Britain’s acting prime minister.
Like a body double, his administration fills the roles history assigned it. We remain one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. We still have the second strongest military force in Nato and the third largest economy in the European Union.
Yet as far as a convulsed Europe is concerned, Britain might as well not exist.
The Observer 25 January 2015
Journalists must protect their sources. From whistleblowers revealing great secrets to exposés of everyday corruption and incompetence, few will talk if they fear they will lose their jobs or maybe more than their jobs. The police might arrest and jail them. In extreme cases, dictatorships or terrorists might kill them. Livelihood, liberty, life – all can be endangered when sources speak out.
Observer 17 January 2105
He may once have been a bouncer, but the pope no longer looks like the kind of guy who can handle himself in a fight. Most opponents would fancy their chances of downing him with a knee to the pontifical plexus. Be in no doubt that, whatever his physical condition, the pope is still up for it. He will bellow the Latin equivalent of “come on then, if you think you’re hard enough” – “agite tentateque si fortiores vos putatis”, our classical correspondent tells me – and it will all kick off.
After saying that he believed in freedom of speech, as everyone does, Pope Francis added the inevitable “but,” as so many do. If a friend “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” he told reporters. Insults to religion invite the same violent response as insults to his manly pride and family honour. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Or to put it another way, the Parisian satirists had it coming.
The Observer 11 January 2015
We have a blasphemy law. No electorate has approved it. No parliament has passed it. No judge supervises its application and no jury determines guilt beyond reasonable doubt. There’s no right of appeal. And the penalty is death. It is enforced not by a police bound by codes of conduct, but by a fear that dare not speak its name; a cowardice so total it lacks the courage to admit it is afraid.
The British are the world’s worst cowards.