As 31 January looms, I’ve been thinking about how to bring the country back together again after we’ve left the EU. How can those who’ve spent the past three-and-a-half years fighting Brexit tooth and nail be persuaded to accept Britain’s new status? Bear in mind that many of them occupy highly influential positions — as Supreme Court judges, for instance. The last thing we want is for them to sabotage our post-Brexit future in an attempt to prove they were right all along.
However, I had an encounter at a Christmas party with Lionel Barber, the outgoing editor of the Financial Times, that made me think a Truth and Reconciliation Commission may not be necessary. I was getting my coat as he was arriving and I suggested it would be a good idea for the leading figures on both sides to meet after 31 January to discuss how to put their differences behind them.
As a Bafta member, I was impressed by this year’s list of nominees. I had dutifully worked my way through most of the DVD ‘screeners’ of 2019’s most prestigious films and I thought my fellow members had got it right. The five movies nominated for Best Picture – The Irishman, Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite and 1917 – didn’t completely overlap with mine (I nominated Le Mans ’66 instead of The Irishman) but they were pretty close.
Confirmation that these were more or less the right choices came the following day when the list of nominees was greeted with a chorus of disapproval by the virtue-signalling commentariat. Not only had Bafta’s voters ignored the politically correct film critics who’d condemned Joker for supposedly ‘glamorizing’ violent incels, they’d also neglected to nominate Little Women for Best Picture in spite of a concerted campaign to shame them into doing so, with numerous articles beforehand claiming men aren’t giving director Greta Gerwig her due because she’s a woman.
It wasn’t long before we started hearing about Bafta’s ‘diversity problem’ – and exactly the same attack line was used against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when the Oscar nominees were announced on Monday. Admittedly, Little Women has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but not Best Director, which was a scandal according to the Washington Post. Parasite, a South Korean black comedy, had received nods in both categories, as well as Best International Film, but director Bong Joon-Ho is Asian and, therefore, doesn’t really count as a person of colour. “Moonlight’s Best Picture win in 2017 seems a lifetime ago,” complained Screen Daily. (To read more, click here.)
In our latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss Meghan’s role in the Royal break up, the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations and the late Sir Roger Scruton. Warning: Very Un-PC. Click here to listen.
He was a brilliant philosopher and one of the most eminent conservative intellectuals of his generation, who spent his life fighting for freedom, whether in academia or on behalf of those oppressed behind the Iron Curtain.
He loathed Communism and lived to see his criticism of it vindicated — first in Eastern Europe, then in Latin America.
He wrote more than 50 books on a vast range of subjects and was knighted in 2016 for ‘services to philosophy, teaching and public education’.
Yet Roger Scruton, who died yesterday aged 75, always remained something of an outcast, vilified by the liberal establishment for daring to challenge the fashionable nostrums of our age. Because he was an unapologetic conservative and defender of Western civilisation he was never given the respect he deserved. (To read more, click here.)
‘Crisis? What crisis?’ That’s often the response of complacent academics when people like me draw attention to the erosion of free speech on campus. For instance, Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, wrote an essay for the Atlantic last June entitled ‘Free Speech on Campus is Doing Just Fine, Thank You.’
But is everything rosy in the groves of academe? I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back on the year gone by and see if 2019 was a good or bad one for intellectual freedom in American higher education.
In the Atlantic, Bollinger points out that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a campaign group that stands up for free speech in universities, found only 11 instances of speakers being prevented from addressing college audiences in 2018. ‘This is a minuscule fraction of the universe of speakers who express their views annually on American campuses,’ he writes. Unfortunately, in 2019 FIRE found the number had grown to 17, an increase of 65 percent. Another thing to note is that ten of these disinvitations were at the behest of left-wing students and only two of right-wing activists. (To read more, click here.)
AN estimated 210,000 children in England are being educated in “stuck” schools, according to an Ofsted report.
The education regulator defines these as schools that have been ranked “Inadequate” or “Requires Improvement” for the past 13 years.
“In some pockets of the country, two whole cohorts of children have gone through all their primary or all their secondary school life without ever attending a good school,” the report says.
This is a national scandal — or should be.
The education reforms initiated by Michael Gove ten years ago have been so successful, it’s easy to overlook the rump of schools that are still failing our children.
Eighty-six per cent of England’s schools are now ranked “Good” or “Outstanding” by Ofsted, up from 68 per cent in 2010. But that still leaves 14 per cent that aren’t up to scratch.
If Boris Johnson is serious about keeping faith with those voters who “lent” the Conservatives their vote at the election, he needs to make improving these schools a priority. (To read more, click here.)
As a member of Bafta, I get sent about 75 ‘screeners’ during the awards season, which is always a treat at the end of the year. I was particularly excited about it this time because of the makeshift home cinema I’ve set up in our playroom. I had fantasies of sitting in there with Caroline and the four kids, munching popcorn as we worked our way through the Bafta hopefuls.
However, getting everyone to agree on a film to watch is always tricky in the Young household. On Christmas Eve, my recommendation was a French animated feature called I Lost My Body, which charts the adventures of a hand that’s become separated from its owner. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a critics’ score of 97 per cent and is described as follows: ‘Beautifully animated and utterly unique, I Lost My Body takes audiences on a singularly strange journey whose unexpected contours leads to a wholly satisfying destination.’
‘Boring,’ said Ludo, my 14-year-old, and suggested John Wick: Chapter 3. Not a bad shout, but too lowbrow to be included in this year’s bundle of screeners. The same goes for 11-year-old Charlie’s suggestions: Spider-Man: Far From Home, Midway and The Lego Movie 2. (That last one was a genuine oversight, by the way. As a one-time screenwriter, I think the writers of The Lego Movie 2 — Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Matthew Fogel — deserve a Bafta nomination for Best Original Screenplay.) In the end, we did what we’ve done on 24 December for the past eight years and watched Arthur Christmas. (To read more, click here.)
Listen to the new London Calling podcast in which James Delingpole and I discuss Ricky Gervais, the Weinstein trial, the BBC's Dracula, the Australian bushfires and why Gwyneth Paltrow should be the next leader of the Labour Patty (she’s can sell the shit out of snake oil, after all). Click here.
I had dinner with Douglas Murray a couple of days before the General Election and he said that if Labour lost – which looked likely, even with the Conservatives’ poll lead shrinking in the final week – we had a moral duty to crow about it.
“Because we’re nice people, we’ll want to be magnanimous in victory but we must resist that,” he said. “We must gloat. Spend weeks gloating – months, if possible. We need to make sure this defeat is so humiliating that Labour never again makes someone as unfit for public office as Jeremy Corbyn the leader.”
He was in deadly earnest. His main concern was Corbyn’s failure to deal with the anti-Semites that have infested Labour since he became leader in 2015, as well as his casual endorsement of numerous anti-Semitic tropes. But he was also appalled by Corbyn’s warm relationship with different terrorist organisations, his acceptance of money from Iranian state TV, his hostility to our security services, and his enthusiastic embrace of an ideology that has been responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people.
“Never again,” he said. (To read more, click here.)