When there is so much data suggesting the world’s climate is heating up, some may find it presumptuous of Nigel Lawson, who is not a scientist and has undertaken no original research, to hope to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy. Would we take seriously an appraisal of his time as Chancellor of Exchequer written by someone whose only expertise was in oceanography?
It is a brave man who attempts to uncover the truth about George Galloway. One slip, one factual infelicity, one unguarded opinion and the biographer can expect to get his head bitten off. For, when it comes to receiving rather than dishing out abuse, the Respect MP and onetime Celebrity Big Brother contestant is no pussy cat.
One of the Great War’s consequences may have been the dethronement of the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns but — as a new generation of scholars are attempting to show — court politics proved far more enduring. Although the costumes may have been cut from coarser cloth and the manners far cruder, the centres of power in totalitarian regimes continued to provide all the old opportunities for positional jostling that had been commonplace in the audience chambers and ante-rooms of the old dynasties.
When Ed Smith became a full-time professional cricketer for Kent in 1999 the county side was preparing for the new millennium by shedding anything that smacked of old-fashioned amateurism. Professionalism was to be a state of mind. Players were henceforth required to sign up to a new code of conduct.
Many of us are beginning to weary of the pushier sort of ‘expert’. Gone is the sense of proportion, the admission of scientific doubt, the ability to weigh risks against benefits. Taking seriously a year’s worth of their health warnings would give anyone an eating disorder.
With an estimated one surveillance camera in Britain for every 14 Britons, reality television has never been more invasive. The reason Big Brother has been allowed to watch its citizens so comprehensively in this way rests with the claim that CCTV is a protection rather than an intrusion. Only the guilty should fear the all-seeing eye. Those with nothing to hide have nothing to worry about. It is tempting to imagine this is what Calvin’s Geneva might have been like if only the technology had been the equal of the theology.
‘Why is no one talking about what is happening in our country?’ demands the splash across the front cover of the latest book by George Walden. It is therefore something of a surprise in the pages that follow to find the former Conservative minister discoursing at length on the problems of immigration, terrorism, crime and house prices — all familiar mainstays of the modern conversational canon.
The etymologists of the Oxford English Dictionary should be alerted that Steven Poole has coined a new word. First used as the title for his book, published in 2006, ‘unspeak’ is a noun for a ‘mode of speech that persuades by stealth’. How, it might be asked, does this differ from ‘spin’?