Click here to listen to James Delingpole and me discussing Jolyon Maugham's unfortunate fox incident in a special bonus episode of our London Calling podcast. Also, Greta Thunberg on Radio 4, Little Women, Star Wars, Cats and the BBC’s imminent demise. Happy New Year.
In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I argue about who is better prepared for political imprisonment if Jeremy Corbyn wins the election. We also lament the fact that a BBC disc jockey has banned ‘Fairytale of New York’ and salute our friend Greta Thunberg for being named Time’s Person of the Year. Listen here.
With less than 24 hours to go before polling day, my bum is beginning to squeak. The final YouGov MRP poll predicts the Conservatives will win a majority of 28, but a hung Parliament is well within the margin of error. That means we could be waking up on Friday to find Jeremy Corbyn heading to Downing Street as the leader of a minority government propped up by the SNP and the Lib Dems. What then?
Well, the exodus will begin, obviously. I don’t just mean Britain’s Jews – a recent survey by the Jewish Leadership Council finding that 47% would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. Nor do I just mean the super-rich, although they would be off too. According to the founder of Phones4U, “every wealthy person” he knows is planning to leave the country if Corbyn gets in. Given that the 31,000 UK residents who comprise the top 0.1% of income earners are responsible for 12% of the total income tax take, that would be disastrous for Britain’s finances.
But what about Labour’s political enemies? Corbyn’s shock troops in Momentum have already demonstrated their willingness to physically assault their opponents – and that was before their glorious leader had seized power. Hard left protestors, styling themselves “anti-fascists”, have exhibited no qualms about trying to assault Conservative MPs like Jacob Rees-Mogg when they speak at universities. How would these same thugs behave, knowing that Diane Abbott is in charge of Britain’s police and Richard Burgon is the Secretary of State for Justice? (To read more, click here.)
In my weekly podcast with James Delingpole we discuss the forthcoming election, as well as my unpleasant experience debating at Durham University and Hugh Grant’s intervention in the contest. Finally we turn our attention to 'culture' –– specifically The Irishman, which we both hated. Listen here.
If education rather than Brexit or the NHS was the biggest issue in this election campaign, the Tories would be coasting to victory. On Tuesday, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) published its latest rankings, based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in 79 countries, and they show the UK climbing the international league tables. In reading, we’re now 14th (up eight places from 2015); in science, 14th (up a place); and in maths, 18th (up nine places). In other words, British schoolchildren are making huge strides compared to those in other countries. And over a period where money has been pretty tight. Why, then, would you want to overhaul our education system, as the Labour party is proposing to do?
Of course, the picture is more complicated than it seems because education is a devolved area. But if you look at the UK’s four different education systems, the one doing the best is England’s and it’s no coincidence that the Conservatives have been in charge of England’s education policy since 2010 (with some interference by the Lib Dems). Across all three subject areas — reading, science and maths — English schoolchildren are now outperforming their Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts. And the further you go back, i.e. the closer you get to the period when Labour was in charge, the worse English children did. In 2009, for instance, England was ranked third among the four nations in maths and reading. Yet, incredibly, Jeremy Corbyn wants to reverse all the education reforms that have been made since 2010.
To get a sense of what England’s education system would be like under Labour, look at Wales, where the party has been in charge since 1999. Wales has been the worst performer in the UK since Pisa started testing schoolchildren in 2000 and is now the only British nation to be below the international average in all three subject areas. Andreas Schleicher, head of education and skills at the OECD, singled out Wales for criticism this year. ‘It’s not just that Wales has underperformed, it’s seen performance decline,’ he told the BBC. (To read more, click here.)
As Christmas approaches, fighting has broken out in the Young household. No, I’m not talking about my three boys, aged 11, 12 and 14, who have taken to playing a no-holds-barred version of American football in the kitchen. Rather, it’s Caroline and me who have been going at it. My sin has been to assume responsibility for the decor of one of the rooms in our house.
This has been Caroline’s domain until now. She chooses which colour to paint the walls, what furniture to buy at Ikea and how that furniture should be arranged. My role is confined to assembling desks and bookshelves and occasionally moving beds around. But I’ve always wanted a cinema room, and when my 16-year-old daughter was given a projector by her boyfriend for her birthday, I seized my chance and decided to convert the playroom.
Now, it’s important to note that Caroline never sets foot in the playroom. It has long ceased to be the part of the house where the children do puzzles and mess about with Lego. For the past couple of years it has been the exclusive preserve of Ludo, my 14-year-old, who spends the entire weekend in there playing Madden NFL 20. So I decided to take down the framed Led Zeppelin poster, move some furniture around, set the projector up at one end of the room and connect a couple of tiny speakers. Hey presto: cinema room. (To read more, click here.)
I’m in the process of setting up a new organization to defend, promote and secure free speech so I’m interested in what the two main political parties have to say about it. No prizes for guessing which one comes out best.
Let’s start with the Conservative manifesto. In the section entitled ‘World-leading universities’ it says, “We will strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities…” That’s extremely welcome, given the parlous state of intellectual freedom in Britain’s higher education sector. I’m not just thinking of the incidents we’ve all heard about, such as the decision by Cambridge to rescind its invitation to Jordan Peterson to become a visiting fellow after he was photographed next to a man wearing a ‘proud to be an Islamophobe’ t-shirt. There’s also hard data on this. According to a report commissioned by the University and College Union in 2017, 23.1% of British academics said they’d been bullied on account of their views, compared to an EU average of 14.1%, and 35.5% admitted to self-censorship for fear of negative repercussions (EU = 19.1%). (To read more, click here.)
The concept of “white privilege” is some-times credited to the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois, but the phrase didn’t enter the lexicon until it was used in a 1989 paper by the feminist academic Peggy McIntosh. “As a white person, I realised I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage,” she wrote in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Not only is McIntosh white, she is, by any measure, astonishingly privileged. She grew up in an affluent suburb of New Jersey where the median income was four times the national average, and her father, who was a high-ranking scientist at Bell Laboratories, owned patents in several valuable electronic inventions. (To read more, click here.)
If you were hoping to escape the bilge that’s been pumped out by supposedly neutral organs of the state during this general election campaign — the BBC, schools, the NHS — I don’t recommend going to see a pantomime. Gramsci’s long march through the institutions has finally reached the last redoubt of political incorrectness. Say goodbye to bum-pinching, boob-squeezing and irreverent, smutty gags about holier-than-thou political figures; say hello to anti-austerity scripts, racially sensitive casting and three-hour lectures on climate change.
You think I’m making it up? Oh no I’m not! A new version of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lighthouse Theatre in Poole written by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan is being billed as a ‘planet-saving panto’. The heroine is called ‘Greta Thunberg’ — Duncan hasn’t even bothered to change her name — and the villain is a giant made out of plastic who works for a gas-guzzling corporation. The Dame (played by Duncan) lives in a carbon-neutral cottage and the beanstalk is composed of recycled materials — presumably so when the plucky little climate change activist chops it down in the final scene she can’t be accused of ‘deforestation’. (To read more, click here.)
In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I dissect the Conservative manifesto and don’t find much red meat — just comfort food. We also discuss Sacha Baron Cohen’s call for censorship, the woke bomb that is Charlie’s Angels and that time my wife saved my life. Click here to listen.