Like many people, I watched Prince Andrew’s Newsnight meltdown with mounting disbelief. Why had he agreed to do it? It wasn’t as if the general public was clamouring for an answer about what he was doing on the night he’d been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old victim of Jeffrey Epstein. And if he was going to give a television interview, why choose Emily Maitlis? That’s like booking yourself into Sweeney Todd’s for a short back and sides. Emily asked me to do an interview last year when I was forced to resign from the Office for Students over some embarrassing old tweets and, after humming and hawing for a bit, I declined. Clearly, one of my more sensible decisions.
But my feeling of smugness at having sidestepped that landmine was short-lived. The day after Prince Andrew’s interview was broadcast I got a call from Good Morning Britain. Did I fancy coming on to defend Prince Andrew in a debate? Instead of saying no, I started to discuss what I might say. If he believes himself to be innocent and has a good alibi, as he appears to have, it’s kind of understandable that he would want to clear his name. Yes, it was unrehearsed and he admitted to things he probably shouldn’t have, such as the fact that he stayed in Epstein’s house in New York because it was ‘convenient’. But didn’t that just make his denial more credible? He’d been criticised for not speaking out about the allegation, and now he was being criticised for doing exactly that.
At this point, I’d pretty much talked myself into it, but before saying yes I glanced up at my wife who was sitting opposite me. Caroline was shaking her head furiously and running her finger back and forth across her throat. ‘Can I call you back in a minute?’ I said.
When I hung up, I got the force nine gale. (To read more, click here.)
Click here to listen to James Delingpole and me discuss the dismal Prime Ministerial debate, Ford v Ferrari, Netflix’s new WW2 in colour documentary and the era when men were men. Don’t forget to subscribe!
What will Labour’s free broadband service look like? My take for The Sun on Sunday: dial-up modems instead of wifi routers, it only works four days a week and if you Google “capitalism” you get the spinning wheel of death. Click here to read more.
Only 39 per cent of British university students who support Brexit say they would be comfortable expressing their views in class compared to 89 per cent of Remain-supporting students. That is one of many depressing findings made by two academics who’ve just published a report for Policy Exchange on the state of academic freedom in the UK. They carried out a poll of 505 students to find out how much enthusiasm there is for free speech at Britain’s universities and the results make for grim reading. For instance, 26 per cent of students think Jacob Rees-Mogg should be prevented from setting foot on campus on account of his views on Brexit, compared to 52 per cent who oppose such a ban.
Some people will regard this as unimportant. So what if a minority of activists object to Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at the students’ union and stage violent protests when he does, as they did last year at the University of the West of England? Does it really matter if three-fifths of Brexit-supporting students feel inhibited about expressing their views? According to the authors of the Policy Exchange report – Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson – the reason we should care about this is partly because universities cannot thrive in the absence of free speech. “Universities in which academic freedom is robust produce, in the long run, powerful research,” they write. “Those in which it is fragile or compromised, in the long run, stagnate.”
But there’s another, equally important reason, which is that our democracy cannot flourish if there’s a clear bias towards one particular political point of view in our schools and universities. The 1996 Education Act requires state schools to present opposing political views in a ‘balanced’ way – a law more honoured in the breach than the observance, I’m afraid – but universities are under no such statutory duty. Which might explain why 83 per cent of lecturers vote for either the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the SNP or the Greens, and only 11 per cent for the Conservatives, according to the latest data. (To read more, click here.)
When a new vacuum cleaner was delivered to my house last week I assumed it was a belated birthday present from my mother-in-law. A veiled reference to the fact that I’m a surrendered husband, perhaps? Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I removed the packaging, stuck it in the cupboard under the stairs and didn’t think any more about it.
Then, a couple of days later, another ‘gift’ arrived: an industrial-strength mattress protector. Surely, that couldn’t be from my mother-in-law, too? I looked at the label and it was addressed to ‘Tobias Young’, rather than ‘Toby Young’, which was odd. It had been bought from a large furniture retailer called Wayfair.
My first thought was that I must be the victim of some sort of scam, but I couldn’t work out what. If someone was using my Visa Debit card to buy furniture, why were they sending it to me rather than themselves? I checked my bank account anyway, but no payments had gone out to Wayfair. Clearly, the company’s fulfilment ‘team’ — a 22-year-old computer science grad in Bangalore — had mixed me up with another customer called ‘Tobias Young’ and I was getting the stuff he’d paid for. When he didn’t receive his vacuum cleaner and his mattress protector he’d call the customer service department, figure out the mistake, and in due course a white Transit van would pull up outside my house and collect the items. So I put them back in their packaging, got busy with the Sellotape, and propped them up against the wall in my hallway. (To read more, click here.)
In the latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss Hillary Clinton’s book tour, the Greta Thunberg mural in San Francisco and how the British Police became captured by the woke cult. Click here to listen. Not for the faint-hearted.
Nigel Farage did a noble thing yesterday in agreeing to stand down Brexit Party candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017. Unfortunately, it isn’t sufficient to safeguard Brexit. If he fields candidates in Labour seats, which is his current plan, he could still do enough damage to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority and put Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.
How so? Take the 317 seats the Conservatives won in 2017. Don’t forget, the Tories are now down to 298 MPs, so they’ll need to win 25 more to secure a working majority of 323. But in reality the party will have to make more gains than that because it won’t hold all of those 298.
How many seats is it likely to lose? I think it’s a safe bet it won’t lose any where the Labour Party were in second place in 2017. But the same cannot be said of those seats where the Lib Dems and the SNP came second. According to my calculations, if there’s a 7.5 per cent swing away from the Tory incumbent in seats where the Lib Dems came second last time, and a 7.5 per cent swing to the SNP in those seats where the SNP came second, the Conservatives will lose 20 seats – ten to the Lib Dems and ten to the SNP.
Factoring in those losses, the Conservatives will therefore have to win 45 seats to gain a working majority. Let’s assume the party wins back all 19 of the seats it has lost since 2017, including Brecon and Radnorshire which is currently held by the Lib Dems. That leaves the party still needing to win 26 seats.
Where are those gains going to come from? (To read more, click here.)
t will come as a surprise to few that 54 per cent of 18-24 year-olds plan to vote Labour in this election, compared to just 13 per cent for the Conservatives, according to YouGov. More intriguing is the striking parallel with data for university lecturers; 56 per cent of the latter support Labour and 11 per cent the Tories. This chilling synergy may have something to do with the fact that over half of young people now go to university.
That our higher education institutions are churning out record numbers of ill-educated, Left-leaning graduates is no secret. But a poll which a few years ago found that 70 per cent of young people have no idea who Mao Tse Tung was spells out how appalling the situation has become.
This particular example chimes troublingly with our metropolitan elite’s disgraceful ignorance of Communism’s worst horrors. Last year, Corbyn praised China’s Great Leap Forward in an interview with Andrew Marr – Mao’s policy of forced collectivisation of agriculture caused the deaths of 45 million people.
That the majority of young people would vote for a party led by someone who arguably endorses the policies of the greatest mass murderer in history isn’t the only reason why the massive expansion of the higher education sector was a mistake. According to the Office for National Statistics, 31 per cent of graduates are over-qualified for the jobs they do, which amounts to about a sixth of the entire workforce. The number of vacancies in skilled occupations such as advanced manufacturing is projected to rise to 3.6 million by 2022. (To read more, click here.)
I interviewed Steve Richards at the Battle of Ideas for the Quillette podcast. We talked about the General Election, his newfound passion for performing on stage and his recent book on British Prime Ministers. Click here to listen.
On the face of it, today’s announcement by the Remain Alliance that the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru won’t be standing against each other in 60 seats looks like great news for all three parties. But take a closer look and it’s clear that the only winners from this arrangement are the Lib Dems.
Under the arrangement – dubbed “Unite to Remain” – the Lib Dems will be given a clear run in 42 seats, the Greens in nine seats and Plaid in seven. In addition, none of the parties will oppose Dominic Greive, who’s running as an independent in Beaconsfield, or Anna Soubry in Boxtowe and Gavin Shuker in Luton South, both running as Independent Group for Change candidates. Yes, I know that adds up to 61, not 60, but that may be because not all the participants in this scheme can count.
Take the Greens. They’ve agreed to stand down in 52 seats in return for being unopposed in nine: Brighton Pavilion, Isle of Wight, Bristol West, Bury St Edmunds, Stroud, Dulwich West Norwood, Forest of Dean, Cannock Chase, Exeter and Vale of Glammorgan.
But the Green Party’s chances of winning in any of those constituencies – apart from Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas’s seat – are vanishing-to-zero. In Bristol West, for instance, one of the Greens’ “target” seats, the party is currently on 17%, while the Labour incumbent (Thangam Debbonaire) is on 38%. And Bristol West is one of only two seats in which the Greens are on double figures. In the remaining seven they are down to single digits – such as Dulwich and West Norwood, where they’re on 6% (compared to Labour on 42%). The reason that has been included, presumably, is because the Greens’ co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, is running in that constituency. (To read more, click here.)