This week, James and I discuss the ongoing saga of the Tory Leadership race and whether or not Boris Johnson has been doomed because of a minor row with his girlfriend. We also touch on the third anniversary of the Brexit referendum, the new paranoid style in British politics led by the looney conspiracy-mongering Left and the unusual interjection of abortion into a British leadership election. To listen click here.
I have spent the weekend arguing with people on social media about Boris Johnson’s ear-wigging neighbours and the reaction of his opponents – including Nicola Sturgeon – has been staggering.
I have made it crystal clear, over and over again, that I don’t think the neighbours did anything wrong right up until the point they contacted a Left-wing newspaper. If they sincerely believed that Carrie Symonds was in danger – and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, even though Carrie herself is not – then calling the police was the responsible thing to do.
According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated two million adults in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.3 million women and 685,000 men). No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to that.
I even think it was acceptable for the neighbours to have recorded the episode on a mobile phone if they sincerely believed a crime was being committed – although a sound expert I’ve spoken to thinks it highly unlikely they could have made a phone recording of a high enough quality for a newspaper to make out everything Boris and Carrie were saying.
But the neighbours crossed the line when they contacted the Guardian, told a reporter what they’d heard and then sent him the recording. What possible justification is there for such a flagrant invasion of privacy? Had the police arrested Boris or Carrie, that would have been one thing. (To read more, click here.)
Something rather wonderful happened last week for those of us who have been the victims of a public shaming — as I was at the beginning of 2018 when some people dug up some sophomoric tweets I’d sent ten years earlier. The jury delivered its verdict in a lawsuit that a bakery in Oberlin, Ohio had brought against the neighbouring liberal arts college for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference. In brief, students and staff at Oberlin College engaged in a long campaign to brand the local business as ‘racist’, inflicting a terrible toll on its reputation, and the jury sided with the plaintiffs.
The story begins on 9 November 2016 when three students entered Gibson’s Bakery, a shop that’s been serving the town since 1885, and tried to purchase two bottles of wine using a fake ID. When the clerk refused to sell to them, they tried to leave with the wine but he ran after them and ended up being assaulted until the police arrived and arrested them. Nothing particularly unusual about that, unfortunately. Between 2011 and 2016, 40 people were arrested for shoplifting from Gibson’s Bakery. But the three perpetrators on this occasion were black and the following day hundreds of students protested outside. The Dean of Students and other college officials brought the protesters pizza and helped them hand out leaflets saying, ‘Don’t Buy. This is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination’.
That wasn’t true. Of the 40 shoplifters arrested in the previous five years, 32 were white. A black employee of Gibson’s told a local newspaper that racial profiling had nothing to do with it. ‘If you’re caught shoplifting, you’re going to end up getting arrested,’ he said. ‘When you steal from the store, it doesn’t matter what colour you are. You can be purple, blue, green; if you steal, you get caught, you get arrested.’ Even the three students agreed. When they eventually pleaded guilty a year later, they each signed a statement saying they believed the actions ‘were not racially motivated’. (To read more, click here.)
I switched on the radio last week and caught the tail end of a discussion about the Conservative leadership election. The presenter, who seemed to be in a highly agitated state, was talking about one of the contenders: ‘A man who’s lied to both of his wives, all of his mistresses, every constituent, every employer, every party leader, every colleague, every interviewer, every journalist he’s ever encountered, he’s not just lied to them, he’s actively agitated to deceive them…’ On it went. Even by left-wing shock jock standards, it was unhinged. He could only have been talking about Boris Johnson.
In the US, Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, is a well-established phenomenon. The journalist Fareed Zakaria defined it as ‘hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment’ and it has led to well-respected columnists describing him as a ‘fascist’, a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘Nazi’. ‘Just how similar is Trump to Hitler?’ asked an opinion piece in Time magazine after his election. Some people were so badly affected by Trump’s victory it made them psychologically ill. Students at Kansas University were offered ‘therapy dogs’ on election night, while at Vanderbilt they were encouraged ‘to take advantage of the outstanding mental health support the university offers’.
So far, Boris Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, hasn’t reached those heights, but we’re not far off. In a New York Times article last July entitled ‘Boris Johnson has ruined Britain’, a prominent, left-of-centre British journalist took issue with his decision to resign as foreign secretary. ‘It is a desperate move by a man who has lost almost all the credibility he had three years ago,’ she wrote. ‘As one of his allies told me last month: “He knows that the verdict of history is about to come down on him — and bury him.”’
Could the eagerness with which other journalists write Boris off, convinced he is destined to fail in politics, be prompted by a jealous contempt for anyone who ceases to be a spectator and steps into the arena? (To read more, click here.)
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.