The hard Brexiteers are dead, murdered by reality. A toe twitches here, an unknown deputy chairman of the party resigns there, but that part of the psychodrama is over. Now begins the next act.
This week both the former foreign secretary William Hague and the Labour deputy leader Tom Watson invoked the once impossible possibility of a “second referendum”. Lord Hague of Richmond deployed it as a disciplinary spectre that could take on horrid substance if pro-Brexit Tories did not back Theresa May’s strategy.
Mr Watson said that his party had not ruled out the possibility of a second referendum should there be no Brexit deal that could garner a Commons majority.… Seguir leyendo »
They were digging the dead children out of the rubble of a school just south of the city of Idlib in Syria yesterday, as the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier and the Russian fleet entered the Med on their way to help to bomb some more Syrian towns. Could their ships, the Russians asked the Spanish government, a member of Nato, stop, as they have in the past, and refuel at the Spanish naval base at Ceuta?
Yesterday we also carried a report on the publishing by Russia of images of their brand new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat, which according to the Russian defence ministry could obliterate an area “the size of Texas or France”.… Seguir leyendo »
What item of beachwear do you think would be incompatible with British values? As a serious proposition the question seems absurd, so you’d probably reply that those half-thongs worn by male members of an Essex-based reality show a couple of years back came pretty close.
In France yesterday the prime minister, Manuel Valls, who is for 364 days of the year a sensible man, declared that the burkini was un-French. This costume covers the body, legs and hair of a female swimmer — and M Valls deemed it an encroachment of religion into the secular world of the public beach. “The burkini is not a new range of swimwear, a fashion,” said Mr Valls.… Seguir leyendo »
On a desk in my school, long ago, some past sixth-former had written four words: “God is dead – Nietzsche”, followed by four more: “ Nietzsche is dead – God.” Even as a juvenile atheist I could see that the idea of the mad German getting his comeuppance from the unbelieved Almighty was funny.
And some readers today might similarly be enjoying the contents of a new book, God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World, written by the Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, John Micklethwait, and his colleague Adrian Wooldridge. “You thought God had gone,” they seem to chant in the direction of the national grandstand where sits the secular elite, “you were wrong, you were wrong.”… Seguir leyendo »
Suppose for a moment that the seven members of the US Congressional Black Caucus who visited Havana some days ago had become hungry somewhere between their four hours with President Raúl Castro and their mercifully shorter rendezvous with his brother Fidel. They might have taken the guidebook and looked for a good paladar, or small private restaurant, where they could continue to gush about Fidel’s sense of humour and Raúl’s kindness over lobster or pork.
Say it was Frommers guidebook, and they were attracted to the description of El Hurón Azul, on the Calle Humboldt, not far from the Havana Libre Hotel – “a calm and elegant joint” featuring “beautiful paintings by prominent local artists”.… Seguir leyendo »
Don’t we know, for we are told it often enough, that however unjustified terrorism is, it springs from real social and political conditions? That this is the sequence: from the feeling of grievance, through a growing belief in the need for violence, finally to the subsequent act of terror? From this it follows, solve the grievance somehow – through concessions or talks or even military measures – and the terror will stop. There will be no reason for it.
Let us presume that it was indeed the Real IRA, as claimed to the Sunday Tribune, whose “volunteers” shot up a pizza delivery to the Massereene Barracks on Saturday night, badly wounded two pizza “collaborators” – a new category in the history of terror attacks – and then finished off at least one of the four wounded soldiers as he lay bleeding on the roadside.… Seguir leyendo »
George Bush is gone, Binyam Mohamed is home from Guantánamo, and the War on Terror is no more. Rejoice. It was all a bad dream.
Should even a fraction of Mr Mohamed’s story of physical and psychological abuse in various prisons from Morocco to Afghanistan turn out to be true, he has been appallingly treated. His activist lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, is quoted as saying that Mr Mohamed was “a victim who has suffered more than any human being should ever suffer”.
Of course, it would be easier to demand that security heads should roll if we knew that Mr Mohamed had been wrongfully detained in the first place and that he was not, and had never been, a jihadi.… Seguir leyendo »
For months – years even – the historical twinning that some campaigners have chosen for the situation in Gaza has been with the Warsaw ghetto. There’ll probably be a sign up soon, because in the past week Ken Livingstone, the activist-musician Brian Eno and George Galloway have all made the comparison.
“Gaza is a ghetto,” said Mr Livingstone, «in exactly the same way that the Warsaw Ghetto was, and people are trapped in it”; while Eno predicted: “They [the Israelis] will continue to create a Warsaw Ghetto in the Middle East.” The less-restrained Mr Galloway pronounced: “Those murdering them [the occupants of Gaza] are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1942.”… Seguir leyendo »
Let’s have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel’s bombing is “disproportionate”.
To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like.
Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City? There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not. Of course, if one of Gaza’s rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending upon how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion.… Seguir leyendo »
When Muntazar al-Zaidi’s first shoe arced through the Baghdad press conference, and as George W. Bush – rather nimbly for a man in late middle age – commenced his duck, there began the creation of a metaphor for where we have all got to in the great Iraqi debate. “I am in love with al-Zaidi,” wrote a British comedian, who was disappointed that the shoes missed the hated President. The fact that this was a gesture of contempt among Arabs (as the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt told viewers twice in one report) was taken and immediately projected on the entire Arab world by Western commentators.… Seguir leyendo »
The moment, in late July 2005, when it was revealed that the man shot dead by police at Stockwell Underground station was not a bomber, but a young Brazilian electrician, was hugely depressing. For weeks Londoners had been hoping that the authorities would be able to catch any more would-be mass killers, and prevent another set of explosions, and another sequence of sad stories and funerals. The 7/7 bombers had been quickly identified; in the wake of the unsuccessful attacks two weeks later, we had hoped for the same thing. What we got was what we could least deal with – fallibility.… Seguir leyendo »
At the end of part one of Stephen Soderbergh’s immense movie biography, Che, the audience at its London opening yesterday applauded, and some whooped.
I don’t think Soderbergh, the occasionally demanding auteur, was the whoopee, but rather the long-dead revolutionary himself. For Soderbergh’s Che Guevara is heroic, determined, paternalistic, idealistic, humorous, outspoken – a father-doctor-lover-warrior combination to excite all but the feeblest pulse. If he has a problem it is his obstinacy in smoking cigars despite being an asthmatic. True, in the movie he executes a couple of criminal wretches when he is in the Cuban forests, but it is wartime and their crime was rape, and in movies rape can only be punishable by death.… Seguir leyendo »
This, mostly, is the story of one morning spent on the internet, and what I found out. But let me first tell you why I was searching at all.
Yesterday Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the genius originators of the World Wide Web, announced the setting up of a new foundation, rather artlessly called the “World Wide Web Foundation”, which body intends to research what has been happening on the internet, and make suggestions on how to improve it. Which is a very good idea.
Anyway, in the lead-up to the foundation of the foundation Sir Tim mentioned his worries about one aspect of weblife, the fact that, using the net, “a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable – a sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging”.… Seguir leyendo »
Winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature are entitled to grand pronouncements, or else what is it for? So Doris Lessing, last winter, anathematised the entire internet, declaring that it had “seduced a whole generation into its inanities”. According to Lessing, the web helped to create “’a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned, and where it is common for young men and women who have had years of education to know nothing of the world”.
One might wonder how she knew this with such certainty. How many of these young men and women had she met, and held conversations with?… Seguir leyendo »
Maybe this time,” sang Lord Malloch-Brown on the Today programme yesterday. “Something’s bound to begin. It’s got to happen, happen sometime. Maybe this time I’ll win.”
Well, all right, I am – like postmodernist scholars – decoding the metatext. What the Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the UN actually said was that the mood around the world had so turned against Robert Mugabe and his various cronies that their combined diplomatic effort would bring him down.
Till now, Lord Malloch-Brown allowed, there had only been a “fairly limited set of measures” taken against the Zimbabwean President. This was changing.… Seguir leyendo »
It isn’t a surprise to me that the public – as measured by an opinion poll – should have supported the decision of David Davis to resign as an MP on a point of principle. In these cynical times the public would probably support any MP’s decision to resign on a point of principle – on principle. Or just to resign, on no particular principle at all. But I am not a cynic and I don’t want to join those accusing Mr Davis of low motives such as coveting his leader’s ass, so to speak, or of suffering a public midlife crisis.… Seguir leyendo »
We were four men of a certain age, sitting above the pews at the altar end of Great St Mary’s Church in Cambridge, late last Friday afternoon.
The doors were open to the sunshine outside and to King’s College opposite, and the occasional cultural speculator would look in and then, usually, wander off again. We speakers said what we liked. The audience asked what they liked. And, given that the Burmese disaster was relevant to our discussion, we might as well have been on the Moon.
The first speaker argued that we had to be very careful, we in the West, about assuming that we knew what other peoples wanted, or that we could give it to them – unless there was some kind of regional or local connection, we could rarely intervene to good effect.… Seguir leyendo »
I would define a moment of double respect as being when, say, the Pope addresses both Houses of Congress, or – as happened again last week – when that great institution the BBC quotes an expert from that even greater institution, the United Nations. The “official” in question was also the Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Richard Falk, and his chosen subject was Israel, so I bowed slightly, turned the tap off and put down my razor to hear what he had been saying.
The gist of it was this: whereas Professor Falk’s outgoing predecessor as investigator into Israeli conduct, on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, had only compared Israel to apartheid South Africa, the new man had gone one better, and compared it to Nazi Germany.… Seguir leyendo »