put £20 on Rory Stewart yesterday morning to be in the final two of the Tory leadership contest. I got 8/1, but those odds have now shortened to 5/1, not far behind Michael Gove (9/4). Rory is now officially the dark horse candidate.
He doesn’t have a hope of winning, of course. He’s made no bones about the fact that he will do everything in his power to stop a no deal Brexit and 66 per cent of Conservative Party members are in favour of no deal. But he seems to be emerging as the favourite of the Tory Remainers. And according, to a poll for the Conservative Home website, he is now the second-most popular candidate after Boris.
Rory began the campaign as the comedy candidate, with his amateurish social media campaign and his confession about smoking opium. A rank outsider whom most people thought would fail to secure the backing of enough MPs to get on the ballot, he was dismissed as an attention seeker who was more interested in re-tweets than votes. (To read more, click here.)
Critics of Boris Johnson were quick to seize on the fact that when Beth Rigby, the political editor of Sky News, asked a question at his launch yesterday she was jeered by some of his supporters. Jessica Simor QC, an opponent of Brexit, tweeted: ‘The road to fascism – their boos at Beth Rigby made me shiver.’ Referring to the same incident, professor Colin Talbot asked: ‘How long before he goes full Trump and starts talking about Fake News?’
Had Rigby been non-partisan, these complaints might have some merit. But the words she used when she was jeered made it sound as if she was siding with Boris’s opponents. (To read more, click here.)
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 made with the government in the run-up to the renewal of the BBC charter in 2017.
But on Monday the BBC announced that it wouldn’t be funding this after all, even though the licence fee went up in line with inflation in 2017 for the first time since 2010, then again in 2018, and again this year. As of next year, the BBC will only provide free TV licences to those over-75s who receive the Pension Credit — about 1.5 million people, or just over a quarter of the total. Explaining this flip flop, the BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said: ‘Copying the current scheme was ultimately untenable. It would have cost £745 million a year by 2021/22 – and risen to more than one billion by the end of the next decade.’ The BBC press release announcing the decision said that if it was to pick up the cost of the current scheme in full it would mean the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and a number of local radio stations. (To read more, click here.)
In our weekly podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss the Tory leadership election. Has Michael Gove's leadership big been holed below the water line following revelations about his drug use? Listen here.
Maurice Bowra, the flamboyant warden of Wadham College from 1938 to 1970, once argued against the legalisation of homosexuality on the grounds that it would take all the fun out of it. Without the risk of being picked up by the police, cruising up and down the Cowley Road at one in the morning would become rather tedious. He referred to the secret club of powerful homosexuals in the British establishment as the ‘homintern’ and prided himself on being a high-ranking officer. He liked the fact that there was something exotic and clandestine about his sexuality and dreaded the risk of embourgeoisement if the law was changed.
Easy for Bowra to say, of course, protected as he was by wealth and privilege. And he may not have really meant it. But you can’t help wondering what he would have made of Pride, the month-long celebration of LGBT identities that now takes place every summer. Talk about gentrification! Every element of the festival is plastered with a corporate logo, so desperate are multinationals to convey how on board they are with the ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ agenda. Procter & Gamble is celebrating its 25th anniversary of ‘LGBT+ inclusion’, while Virgin Atlantic got the jump on its less-woke competitors by announcing earlier this year that it would be replacing the second world war pin-up girl that has adorned its planes for 35 years with a more diverse group of figures, including a gay man wearing a one-piece red bathing suit. (To read more, click here.)
In 2013, I started promoting a tactical voting alliance between Conservative and Ukip voters. It wasn’t just about avoiding the calamity of a Labour victory at the 2015 General Election – which looked likely then – it was also about trying to secure a parliamentary majority for an EU referendum. I called the campaign ‘Country Before Party’.
Given that a potential alliance between the Tories and the Brexit Party is something that almost half of Conservative Party members are in favour of, I thought it might be worth recounting my experience. Having once been a tub-thumper for this type of arrangement, I’m now less enthusiastic. (To read more, click here.)
For anyone who isn’t following the long march of racial self-flagellation through America’s institutions, last week’s revelations about the excesses of New York City’s education tsar will come as a shock. Schools chancellor Richard Carranza has introduced mandatory ‘anti-bias and equity training’ for the city’s 75,000 teachers at a cost of $23 million a year. During these ‘workshops’ the teachers are told that ‘worship of the written word’, ‘individualism’ and ‘objectivity’ are all hallmarks of ‘white supremacy culture’ and that it is better to focus on middle class black students than poor white ones.
To give you an idea of what these struggle sessions are like, take the experience of a Jewish superintendent of schools, as reported in the New York Post. At a training meeting last year, she was asked ‘What lived experience inspires you as a leader to fight for equity?’ and responded by telling the group about members of her family who’d lost their lives in the Holocaust. That had taught her about the dangers of racism, she said.
Unfortunately, this was judged to be politically incorrect and she was attacked by a black superintendent for being insufficiently woke. ‘This is not about being Jewish!’ she was told. ‘It’s about black and brown boys of colour only. You better check yourself.’ (To read more, click here.)
Listen to a new podcast London Calling with James Delingpole and me. In the first one, we discuss the future of the Conservatives in the wake of Theresa May's resignation and the Party's disastrous showing in the European elections.
The politics professor Matthew Goodwin made an interesting comment on Twitter earlier this week. He pointed out that many of the elements of the ‘paranoid style’ in politics – a phrase coined by Richard Hofstadter in a famous essay to describe right-wing populist movements – are now as common on the Left as they are on the Right. Goodwin mentioned ‘Remainia’ as being particularly susceptible to the paranoid style, which is characterized by ‘heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy’, according to Hofstadter. That struck me as an astute observation and I’ve tried to flesh out the idea in my Spectator column today. If you allow for the fact that some Remainers have become infected by this virus it helps explain why they’re so convinced that the 2016 referendum result was due to sinister foreign influences – data mining companies, Kremlin bot factories, the Koch brothers, Vladimir Putin, and so on – rather than widespread skepticism about the EU among the British electorate.
Hofstadter was a history professor at Columbia, as well as a public intellectual, and his essay, which was published in 1964, proved highly influential. (There is even a garage band named after it called The Paranoid Style.) The reason it has endured is because the right-wing movements he analyzed haven’t disappeared from American politics. In 2018, for instance, Paul Krugman wrote a column for the New York Times entitled ‘The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics’. However, until now no one has sought to apply Hofstadter’s analysis to the anti-Brexit campaign. (To read more, click here.)