Benefits Street: if anyone’s being exploited here it’s the taxpayers who fund these bludgers

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My favourite scene in the first episode of the new series of Benefits Street (Mondays, Channel 4) — now relocated to a housing estate in the north-east, but otherwise pretty much unchanged — was the one where the street’s resident stoner and low-level crim Maxwell has to attend a court summons.

Really, if the whole thing had been scripted and faked by the film-makers (as I’m sure it wasn’t: no need), it couldn’t have worked out better. With just 15 minutes to go before Maxwell’s court hearing seven miles away, his brother turns up to give him a lift on his motorbike.

But there’s one small problem. Maxwell’s brother is still under the influence of the vast quantities of diazepam he’s carrying with him in his bag. ‘I took ten last night. I don’t even know what day it is.’ The sensible solution, they decide, is to park the bike at Maxwell’s house, neck a handful more pills, and make their way to the court by bus. Unfortunately, en route, they are assailed by an urgent need to stop for a lollypop called an Ice Bucket. From inside the newsagent, the camera captures the bus they should have taken whizzing past. Maxwell and his brother appear mildly affronted by the stubborn failure of Reality to accord with the plan in their heads. Increasingly delirious, they stagger on…

I suppose if you were a Guardian reader — or indeed Maxwell’s local MP Alex Cunningham, who has been trying to get mileage out of this issue — you’d think this was exploitation. Here are ordinary non-working folk being wheeled out like performing monkeys for Channel 4’s latest ratings-grabbing exercise in ‘poverty porn’.

Actually, though, I think if anyone is being exploited here, it’s those of us who have to fork out for these epically useless scroungers’ welfare bills. Their housing benefit alone — in Stockton-on-Tees’s Kingston Road and its equivalents across the country — costs us nearly £24 billion a year. Add to that the disability benefit paid for dubious conditions like Maxwell’s — he suffers memory loss: not altogether surprisingly given the acres of weed he smokes each day — and the cost of his various court cases and you can’t help thinking that the bread and circuses of shows like Benefits Street are the very least we deserve in return for our compulsory generosity.

Anyway, the new gallery of characters in this latest Benefits Street don’t feel they’re being exploited, so what’s the problem? Not only — it’s quite clear — do they relish the opportunity of becoming the next White Dee, but actually the portrait the programme paints (when it’s not having a snigger) is of a community admirably cheerful and resilient in the face of hardship.

The street is bound together by its two matriarchs Sue and Ju — with 11 children between them, one severely disabled and very lovingly cared for. Yes, they’re all on benefits, but they’ve created a thriving micro-economy based essentially on barter and favours: free hair-dying for free roast dinners, and so on.

How accurate this slightly rose-tinted portrait is, with its tasteful soundtrack and its sometimes flattering photography — Sue and Ju, bathed in sunlight, spirited, indomitable and proud — you can never quite be sure. Well, actually you can: you know it’s a lie because all documentary series like this are, be they Benefits Street, Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea or The Islandwith Bear Grylls.

There’s been controversy recently over The Island (Wednesdays, Channel 4) because it turns out that the pristine and remote islands on which the two groups of survivors (one male, one female) have been cast away aren’t quite as authentically wild as Grylls’s rugged, sweating pieces-to-camera suggest. Well, not in the case of the girls’ one, anyway. Those ‘wild’ pigs we saw the girls accidentally stumble across: the reason they’re so tame and acquiescent is that they are domestic animals that were put there by the producers to give the girls something to hunt and kill.

As a massive fan of the show, I can’t say I’m too affronted by this cheat, not least because of the hilarious light it has enabled the series to cast on the quintessential differences between men and women. On the boys’ island, the men have quickly found their feet as Lord of the Flies savages, successfully trapping and killing a quite big crocodile (an endangered variety, apparently, but tough). But the starving girls, on encountering two cute piglets, decided to make them their friends. They named them Sage and Onion and cuddled them in bed at night like teddy bears. Only later did it finally occur to them that if they didn’t get some protein soon, they’d all die. Cue a heartbreaking moment of double petricide…

From The Spectator

James Delingpole: evil oil-guzzling bastard immortalised in art

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Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, James Delingpole: all winners of major art prizes. I was awarded mine last week by Anglia Ruskin University (formerly Anglia Polytechnic) which I think is a bit like Cambridge (it’s in the same town), though bizarrely its excellence has yet to filter through to the official UK uni rankings, where it’s rated 115th out of a list of 123.

Anyway, the point is, I won. Sort of. I ‘won’ this extremely important prize in the way that Michael Mann, the shifty climate scientist, has been known to claim he ‘won’ the Nobel prize when it was awarded to the IPCC. That is, the prize wasn’t handed to me personally but I did play my part.

What happened was this. Anglia Ruskin staged a ‘Sustainable Art’ competition and the winning entry was a 6ft high mock stone slab (made out of plywood) engraved with the names of six notorious ‘climate deniers’ including me, Christopher Booker and Lord Lawson, no less.

It’s a handsome piece of art, clever too because in ingenious installation-y style a continual stream of symbolic engine oil cascades down the face of the slab, which bears the legend ‘Lest we forget those who denied.’ But I think what probably clinched it wasn’t the design or the technical skill but the impeccable correctness of its politics.

The piece’s creator, a third-year fine art student called Ian Wolter, clearly knows how to please a sustainability prize judging panel. He declared: ‘With this work I envisage a time when the deliberate denial of climate change will be seen as a crime because it hinders progress towards a low-carbon future.’

So young, so certain. I wonder what deep background research led him to form this considered view. Actually, no I don’t, because it’s obvious. He’ll have got it from his science and geography teachers at school; from BBC nature documentaries and news reports; from comedians like Dara Ó Briain and Marcus Brigstocke; from celebrity mathematician Simon Singh, whispery-voiced gorilla-hugger David Attenborough and pouty-mouthed astronomer Brian Cox; from every other article in the Guardian; from the Science Museum in London; from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth; from his fellow students and university professors; from the ‘97 per cent’ of scientists who, so legend has it, say the science on global warming is settled… .

Never once, in all likelihood, will young Ian ever in his entire life have been put in a position where he has been given intellectual permission even to consider the possibility that the sceptics might have a point. Like a member of the Hitler Youth who knows that Jews are bad because, well everyone knows they are, Ian can scarcely be blamed for thinking as he does. He’s just another helpless stooge of the prevailing culture.

‘Ah but things will change,’ I expect many of you breezily imagine. ‘Sooner or later, we’ll come up with the killer piece of evidence that decides the issue either way. And then we’ll all know exactly where we are and what to do.’

But this isn’t going to happen. The reason I know it’s not going to happen is that that killer evidence is already in, lots of it in fact. We know for certain that despite almost all the computer models’ predictions there has been no global warming for more than 18 years; we know — this is currently the subject of a major investigation by the Global Warming Policy Foundation — that the raw data has been so heavily tampered with that all those ‘hottest year ever’ claims are utterly bogus; we know that ocean acidification is just another myth, that the ‘97 per cent’ figure is a fraud, that all the predictions about species extinction, resource depletion and other green fantasies have been wildly exaggerated.

Yet the green caravan trundles on regardless. I saw this in Rome last week, where I’d gone to cover a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who had come to the Vatican to persuade the Pope that he should join the war on ‘climate change’. A rival conference had been staged by a delegation from the free-market think-tank the Heartland Institute, which wanted to make the counter-argument: that catastrophic man-made global warming theory is unsupported by real-world evidence; that the measures being taken to deal with it, far from helping the world’s poor, are immiserating and impoverishing them still further.

The contrast between the two events could scarcely have been greater. At the Vatican, a hefty international press contingent religiously noted down every word, even though nothing of any interest was said — just the usual pieties about ‘sustainability’ and the urgency of the crisis and the needs of ‘future generations’.

At the Heartland event, on the other hand, a series of fascinating, erudite mini-lectures was delivered by a team including a meteorologist, a physicist, an ex-Nasa man who’d helped devise the landing gear for the Apollo project, and a theologian. But it was all utterly wasted on those few journalists who’d bothered to turn up. They weren’t going to allow a few inconvenient facts to get in the way of the real story: ‘Koch–funded cranks roll in to Rome to try to stop His Holiness saving the world.’

Postscript: since writing this piece I have discovered that Ian Wolter, far from being a pre-pubescent art student with no life experience or intellectual foundation is, in fact, even more depressingly, a mature student with a long, distinguished career in business behind him. Oh dear.

This article originally appeared in The Spectator

I totally take back everything I’ve ever said about Queen’s Brian May…

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Just a quick one: was anyone else as surprised and delighted as I was by Brian May’s performance on BBC Question Time last night?

I’ve been quite rude about him in the past. Yes, that distinctively shimmery, echoey, almost Venusian guitar of his did provide part of the soundtrack to my youth – I seem to remember getting to third base for the first time to the accompaniment of Night At The Opera – but what I’ve never quite forgiven are his politics.

As a countryman and nature lover, for example, I feel every bit as passionately about wildlife as he does. Which is one of the reasons I’m so much in very favour of the badger cull, as I argue in more detail here.

Apart from the Ford Mondeo the badger has no natural predator, so since in the early 1980s legislation made it illegal to kill badgers, their population has rocketed to unsustainable levels. The consequences have been disastrous: TB in both badgers and cattle has soared; hedgehog and ground-nesting bird populations have been devastated; farmers’ livelihoods have been destroyed; vast sums of taxpayers’ money — the figure last year was £100 million — have been squandered; and Britain is now at risk of having an EU ban on all its beef and dairy exports, at a cost to the economy of more than £2 billion a year.

May, on the other hand, has positioned himself at the forefront of the shrill and self-righteous anti-badger cull movement, which unfortunately has attracted the very worst elements of the animal rights movement, and appears to be motivated more by sentiment and cherry-picked data than it does by hard evidence.

But while I haven’t changed my views on badgers, I’ve definitely shifted my stance on May.

Last night, as the panel’s licensed jester – the token celebrity who can ride whatever hobby horses he wishes – he could all too easily have spouted the sub-Russell-Brand drivel we’ve come to expect on Question Time. Instead, he was a model of decency and sweet reasonableness.

This was especially noticeable in his behaviour towards fellow panelist Nigel Farage.

It really ought to have been a very tough evening for Farage. And it certainly began that way. Every question he had from the audience was hostile, starting of course with one about him being “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive”. Even if you’re not a fan – which I still am – I think it would be hard to deny how well Farage acquitted himself – never showing signs of umbrage taken, cheerfully getting his political points in a way that, ever so slowly, began to win the audience round and earn him some actual claps.

None of this would have been possible, though, without the unlikely support he got from his fellow panelists. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – most definitely not rhyming slang, on last night’s showing – led the way with some generous remarks. But what really clinched it was Brian May, who absolutely refused to pick on an easy target and instead took the opportunity to deplore the nastiness of politics in general and, by implication, the treatment of Farage in particular.

This, in turn, gave the audience the permission they needed to stop poking the chained up bear with their sticks.

If you haven’t watched it, you should. Question Time at its best. Almost restores your faith in human decency.

Almost.

Read the rest at Breitbart London

General Election: What your voting choice says about YOU

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Here is a quick reference guide to the political types voting in the general election

LABOUR

You are: a millionaire thespian/stand-up comic/generic luvvie; a social worker; an NHS administrator; a Quangocrat; a civil servant; an Islamist entryist; a school teacher; an activist; Owen Jones

You believe in: the NHS; social justice; hard-working families; Keynesian economics; the tooth fairy; the NHS; that the problem with socialism is that it’s never been tried properly yet; the NHS; equality; even if we taxed the rich at 100 per cent it still wouldn’t be enough; did I mention the NHS?

Favourite books: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists; JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

Favourite albums: oh, God, something by The Clash, I expect; or maybe D:Ream

You shop at: Tesco

PLAID CYMRU

You are: a Welsh social worker; a Welsh NHS administrator; a Welsh quangocrat;  a Welsh civil servant; a Welsh Islamist entryist; a Welsh school teacher (who teaches Welsh – so important for helping Welsh children get on in the world, knowing for example that gwasanaethau means motorway service station, which could come in amazingly handy if say they’re out of petrol on an Autobahn and they chance upon a Welsh speaking German); a Bard; a member of a male voice choir; something to do with Doctor bloody Who which every other employed person in Wales is these days.

You believe in:  “welshing” should be banned because it’s pejorative; the red dragon; the unalienable right of every Welshman, Welshwoman or Welshchild to enjoy – and take pride in – the worst healthcare anywhere in the British Isles or quite possibly the world; wind turbines; pylons.

Favourite books: The Mabinogion; Ivor the Engine; the collected works of Dylan Thomas; Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (Hannibal Lecter was Welsh, look you: played by our Anthony)

Favourite albums: the Best of Shirley Bassey; An Evening With Max Boyce; Treorchy Choir Vol. 3; Barafundle by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

You shop at: Co Op.

 

CONSERVATIVE

You are: a hedge funder; something in the City; the head of a multi-national corporation; a lawyer; a head-hunter; an offshore wind investor; your job is to find imaginative ways to spend Britain’s eye-wateringly insane foreign aid budget; a Daily Mail reader; just scared, no terrified, of what will happen if Ed Miliband forms a coalition with the SNP and Nick Clegg.

You believe in: better the devil you know; that believing in stuff is all very well but we’re past all that nonsense, don’t you think, these days?

Favourite books: oh, you know, whatever is currently on the bestseller lists

Favourite film: Titanic

Favourite albums: something by the Beatles or the Stones, probably, it has to be really doesn’t it?

You shop at: Waitrose; Sainsbury’s

SNP

You are: Scottish; angry; Scottish; a Scottish Islamist entryist

You believe/ believe in: the Saltire; caltrops; persistent spiders; woad; appalling beer; that the problem with fascism – sorry slip of the tongue there, meant communism – is that it has never properly been tried; that by destroying the landscape with wind farms you’ll drive last of the English settlers out; free further education and free healthcare all paid for by the English; using the phrase “Westminster government” and “privatised NHS” at every opportunity, as a substitute for coherent argument; keeping sterling after (inevitable) independence and using it much as the Greeks did the Euro; that an economy almost entirely dependent on London-funded welfare and wind farm subsidies will suddenly thrive after independence; the cheque’s in the post; deep fried pizza.

Favourite books: Mein Kampf; Trainspotting;

Favourite albums: Big Country; Texas; Arab Strap; Mogwai; Bay City Rollers; Rod Stewart

Favourite films: Trainspotting; Braveheart; Ring of Bright Water (especially when the honest, exploited Scottish labourer bludgeons the wee Sassenach otter)

You shop at: the nearest food bank

Liberal Democrats

You are: a teacher; a jellyfish; something in diversity/equality/[“dis”]-ability; professor of gender studies; a therapist; in therapy; in a mental institution; an Islamist entryist.

You believe: depends where you’re campaigning – if it’s a traditional Tory constituency, then obviously, roast beef, warm beer, lengthening shadows on the village green; if it’s a traditional Labour constituency, then the red flag, collective farms, bullets in the back of the neck for class traitors; and if it’s neither of the above, then sorting out that really nasty pothole on Fore Street, free milk and bananas for the primary school and more, subsidised equality and diversity and baking workshops at the village hall.

Favourite books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things.

Favourite albums: Whatever the latest in the NOW series is – got to move with the times.

Favourite films: Love Actually; The Girl In The Cafe; The Boat That Rocked

Green Party

You are: an activist; a yoga teacher; an aromatherapist; you run an organic cafe/wholefood store/bicycle repair shop; a poi instructor; a festival caterer; you work for Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth; something in the “sustainability” industry;  currently working at McDonalds waiting to find a more suitable use for your much in-demand Environmental Sciences degree from the University of East Anglia; Dale Vince

You believe: The Earth has a cancer and the cancer is man; Paul Ehrlich’s predictions weren’t wrong, just his timescales; at this rate, all species will be dead by yesterday at the latest; meat is murder; climate change is the worst thing ever and people who deny it should be strung up with piano wire; Wir mussen die Juden aussrotten; bicycles are so lovely, aren’t they? And yurts, and coracles…

Favourite books: anything by Monbiot, he’s just the business.

Favourite albums: Whale Song IV; Dolphin Moods; Chumbawumba; The Levellers; Goa Krusty Trance Classix XVII

Favourite films: An Inconvenient Truth (duh!)

You shop: nowhere if, you can possibly help it. Far better to grow your own or barter. Otherwise Whole Foods.

UKIP

You are: pretty frustrated, right now

You believe in: Morris dancing; cream teas; sunlit uplands with no wind turbines on them; Agincourt; social stigma; grammar schools; Winston Churchill; Shakespeare; Morris Minors; warm beer and a cheeky fag; mowing the lawn; manners; pubs with horse brasses and shove ha’penny; Albion

Favourite films: Zulu; The Italian Job; A Matter of Life And Death; A Canterbury Tale; Where Eagles Dare

Favourite albums: Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite played by Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Elgar’s Cello Concerto; Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood; Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die; Led Zep IV

Favourite books: Wind In The Willows (starring the Dear Leader as Mister Toad); The Rats by James Herbert.

You shop: at Aldi and Waitrose.

Read at Breitbart London

My mid-life polo pony crisis

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Because I’m reckless, stupid and irresponsible, I normally get landed with the biggest, most obstreperous hunters. But the other weekend the riding school boss, Jane, decided to allocate me a different horse to ride. It was a smallish grey called Potato.

‘What’s he like?’ I asked one of the regulars. ‘Oh he’s lovely!’ she said. But I didn’t necessarily believe her. One of the things I’m learning about riders is that they lie through their teeth about how nice particular horses are. Something to do with the convention that misbehaviour is always the fault of the rider, never the horse.

‘He’s not very big,’ I complained. ‘How does he jump?’ ‘He doesn’t,’ my friend explained. ‘He’s a polo pony.’ Now I was starting to get quite sulky. I’m not saying I’m obsessed with jumping or that it doesn’t make me afraid. But I do know I need to do a lot more of it if I’m to be ready for next season and get my book Mister Delingpole’s Sporting Tour underway.

So I got onto Potato. I hardly needed the mounting block. And I looked at the riders who’d bagged one of the hunters, towering above me, thinking how unfair it was that they could have a go at the post and rails and I couldn’t.

I steered Potato towards the water trough to give him a drink. Every time I do this, I find myself thinking of the old adage, because it’s so true: you really can’t make a horse drink if he doesn’t want to. Potato did, though. He drank with ponyish enthusiasm and I began to warm to him.

Not as much as I did once I’d ridden him into the first field. ‘Woah!’ I declared to anyone who’d listen. ‘This pony is totally awesome!’ And he was too. Riding a hunter — a big, sturdy horse bred to jump over huge hedges and keep going all day — is like driving a Range Rover: big engine, lots of power, but a bit crap if you’re trying to nip in and out of tiny parking spaces. A polo pony, on the other hand, is more like a hot hatchback, such as that ludicrously inappropriate Golf Four Motion I acquired for next to nothing the other week. Instead of taking ages to get going, as my regular mounts Ted or Freddy do, this little number was nimble and responsive: just a slight squeeze and — vroom! — off he’d shoot. And the cornering! Wow! ‘I’ll tell you how to turn a polo pony,’ barked Jane. ‘How? How?’ I asked excitedly. ‘Shorten your reins a bit, put them in one hand and just turn your body.’ So I did. Wow and double wow! ‘These things can turn on a pin!’ I said.

And so sensitive. One of the maddening things about learning to ride is the myriad hours of frustration you have to put in kicking and squeezing reluctant nags to no avail. But a polo pony is a flattering beast. He makes you feel like one of those riders you see on TV, in control and in command, so that when you launch your lightning escape from Lord Baelish’s henchmen you just know they’re never going to catch up with you. ‘I expect Bucephalus was just like Potato,’ I mused.

Afterwards, Girl reported back to her mother. Apparently, I had behaved quite appallingly. ‘Dad was the most embarrassing thing ever!’ Girl said. ‘He was going round and round in circles saying: “Look at me, every-one! I’m practising my polo turns!”’ I’m afraid she wasn’t exaggerating. And the next day was even worse.

So determined was I to extract full value from my hour’s ride on Potato (£20! What a bargain! Is there any other pursuit where you can have that much fun for 20 quid?) that I began breaking all the school’s unspoken rules. Rule number one is that you only do stuff like cantering or jumping when Jane says you can. But I’m afraid I was naughty. At the end — desperate for a last canter, which is so different from a hunter’s canter, less like settling woozily into a comfy chair in a gentleman’s club after a magnum of claret, more like trying to outrun the Zulus at Fugitive’s Drift — I pretended I’d sort of lost control and let Potato hurtle at breakneck speed towards the gate, reining him in just in time to stop him crashing into the flank of one of the little ones on a pony.

There was much tut-tutting from the grown-ups. ‘Well that does at least explain why we had a rider fly over his head last week,’ Jane observed drily. ‘He does come to quite a sudden halt.’

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s partly to keep you up to speed with my on-going midlife crisis, partly to urge those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of riding a polo pony urgently to consider doing so before you pop your clogs. And partly so I can dwell in melancholy fashion on what a bloody tragedy life is for those of us whose natural mental age is round about 14.

Yes, I know we all feel younger than we are. But some people are very comfortably middle-aged even in their early twenties and unfortunately for me, I’m not one of them. As I (very) fast approach 50 I’ve acquired many of the attributes, it’s true: receding hair, an increased fondness for tweed and Viyella shirts, a burning hatred for almost anything that happened after about 2007. That’s all just surface, though. Proffer me a bag of MDMA, give me the keys to a rorty Golf, put me on a pony that makes me feel like Alexander the Great and that’s it, I’m gone, mate. Forever young; forever doomed.

From The Spectator

God, I hate Katie Hopkins…

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God, I hate Katie Hopkins. But not for the reasons everyone else does. I hate her in the sense that I can’t help worshipping her and the ground she treads on because she does what I’d like to do but does it so much better: she annoys all the people who most deserve to be annoyed, she remains articulate and collected in the face of all the brickbats that are thrown at her, and above all, she seems to make a damn good living out of it.

The last bit isn’t as obvious as you’d think. I was talking to an agent the other day about the best way to make the most of a career as an outspoken media commenter and his argument was that you shouldn’t stray too far from the middle ground for that way you alienate half your potential audience.

This is especially true if you’re on the right. Outrageous pinkos – look at Owen Jones, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Polly Toynbee, et al – tend to get a much freer pass from our left-leaning media culture. But their equivalents at the conservative end of the spectrum are much harder to find. In fact I’d say that there’s only one and that’s Hopkins.

Over the weekend, you may have noticed, Katie Hopkins was trending on Twitter yet again – this time because of a piece she’d written in The Sun in which she’d upset the Offenderati by using the word “cockroaches” in the context of the boatloads of hapless, parched, pitiable migrants now fleeing Libya. At this point you’re obliged tactically to distance yourself from Hopkins by noting how distasteful you too find her appalling choice of words. But I’m not going to, for several reasons, the first being that that it was so devastatingly effective.

One reason why so many torpedoed mariners were eaten by sharks in the Second World War is that sharks are drawn to explosions. This is what Hopkins achieved with her “cockroaches.” It was her very own USS Indianapolis: in came a veritable Guardianista Who’s Who of finny horrors: Diane Abbott; Owen Jones (natch); Piers Morgan; Russell Brand – all turning the waters of Twitter red in a roiling frenzy of noisome, bleeding-heart self-righteousness.

And in the wake of all the celebrity offendotrons – the Wankerati, as I call them – came shoal after shoal of opportunistic bottom feeders: the ones trying to get her sacked from The Sun; the ones demanding that Hopkins be prosecuted (no really: a whopping 2200 of them have already signed the inevitable Change.org petition) for “incitement to genocide”; the ones tweeting photos of her children and declaring how unlucky they were to have such a frightful mother.

Now the textbook lefty response to this kind of monstering is to play the victim card, as so-called “anti-poverty campaigner” and professional lesbian single mother “Ms Jack Monroe” has just done. She could, of course, have just quietly stopped using Twitter. Except, being a Social Justice Warrior, she couldn’t. No, she had to weaponise her exit with a heart-rending blog about how she felt Twitter was no longer felt a “safe space” : “Today I left my house at 4pm. Head down. Eyes flicking at every stranger walking towards me on the street. Sunglasses on the Tube. The man arrested roams free after 15 hours in Policy custody, updating his blog with sneering comments…”

The not-so-subtle implication of this – and we’ve seen similar tactics from Stella Creasy MP and a feminist campaigner called Caroline Criado Perez – is that free speech has gone too far and it’s time we had a clampdown. This is the guerilla version of the conventional war which has been waged on free speech by the left-liberal establishment (from Keir Starmer, CPS and an emasculated police force to Hacked Off and their amen corner at the BBC and the Guardian) via the Leveson Inquiry and the vexatious arrests of all those Sun journalists. It’s cynical, it’s dirty, it’s illiberal and it’s much, much more dangerous and ugly than anything Katie Hopkins has ever written.

But the reason so few people appreciate this is – ooh look! Katie Hopkins wrote a nasty word, so we needn’t talk about it. That, I’m afraid, is the level to which so many vitally important debates have been reduced these days by the liberal-left’s Alinskyite tactics.

In the case of Hopkins’s Sun piece, no left-wing commentator, so far as I’m aware, felt under any obligation to respond with any manner of reasoned counterargument. They might have pointed out that because the West created the Libyan crisis it has a moral obligation to fix its consequences; or they could have gone the whole hog and argued that we have a duty to house all refugees, come what may.

They didn’t though because – a bit like with all those rapists out there who just can’t help raping women because they’re provocatively dressed and therefore have it coming to them – their intellectual processes were short-circuited by Hopkins’s outrageously unforgivable deployment of a single term: “cockroaches.”

A piece in the Independent claimed that this was the kind of dehumanising words the Nazis used, so apparently rendering Hopkins’s entire commentary beyond the pale. Lots of people in the comments section and on social media agreed with this analysis. I hope this tendency frightens you as much as it frightens me.

Why? Because it’s a dirty rhetorical cheat, not an argument. No, worse than that it’s a vicious lie. By focusing on just one intemperate word (designed, as so much of the best polemical writing does, to provoke a response) and freighting it with far more significance than any remotely objective interpretation could possibly bear, it calculatingly misrepresents the opinions of a heroically brave, often admirably sensible woman who dares, as so few do, to voice what the silent majority are really thinking.

If Ricky Gervais really cared about giraffes he’d hunt them

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Comedian Ricky Gervais has decided that because we liked The Office, quite enjoyed a couple of sketches in Extras (the David Bowie one and the Lenny Henry one) and weren’t all driven to suicide by Night At The Museum, we should therefore care what he thinks about giraffe rights.

Gervais takes them so seriously that when he found a photograph of “extreme huntress” Rebecca Francis posing next to the body of a giraffe she had shot, he just couldn’t resist exposing her to the righteous wrath of his 7.5 million Twitter follows, earning the poor woman a string of death threats.

What Gervais clearly doesn’t appreciate – why should he?: his job is making people laugh and hanging out with smug Hollywood liberals, not reading or thinking – is that any intelligent person who really cares about Africa’s wildlife ought to be backing people like Rebecca Francis to the hilt.

If it weren’t for Africa’s game industry there’d be virtually no game left in Africa to photograph, let alone hunt.

That’s because it’s the hunters who significantly bankroll the conservation, breeding and protection programmes that keep the animals from being poached to extinction.

In the game reserves of Africa they well understand this.

Here, for example, is Alexander N Songworna, director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, pleading with the New York Times’s readership not to meddle with his country’s game industry.

In Tanzania, lions are hunted under a 21-day safari package. Hunters pay $9,800 in government fees for the opportunity. An average of about 200 lions are shot a year, generating about $1,960,000 in revenue. Money is also spent on camp fees, wages, local goods and transportation. And hunters almost always come to hunt more than one species, though the lion is often the most coveted trophy sought. All told, trophy hunting generated roughly $75 million for Tanzania’s economy from 2008 to 2011.

The same is true in Namibia, where permits to shoot black rhino raise $350,000 each – money which goes towards ensuring that there will still be black rhinos for future generations of Gervaises to gawp at and weep tears over.

If Gervais really cared about Africa’s wildlife, he’d put his money where his mouth is – as this fine upstanding hunter from Texas did recently, man up and go and bag himself a rhino. (Or, if he’s too chicken, a giraffe).

I know it’s not necessarily obvious, this paradox that in order to preserve animals it sometimes make sense to kill them. It’s a head thing, not a heart thing, unfortunately, which is why so many people of a liberal persuasion are so doomed never to get it.

Read the rest at Breitbart London

How my spivvy, unsuitable new motor brought out my inner Clarkson

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A bit late, I know, to put in a bid for Jeremy Clarkson’s old job. But I think I might just accidentally have rediscovered my inner petrolhead.

What happened was this. We’d just replaced our old sensible family car (a Ford Mondeo) with another sensible family car (a Skoda Yeti), only to realise that it just wasn’t enough. If you live in the country you really need at least two cars. The question was: what type should it be?

Well, there are all sorts of cars I would like to own — the one I covet most of all being one of those evil-bastard Range Rovers, preferably the sport model with Kenneth Noye-style tinted windows, because I borrowed one once and it was totally amazing. Not only can they go unfeasibly fast for a car so big but if you hit anything it doesn’t matter because you’re the King Tiger and everything else on the road is a Sherman at best. Problem is, I don’t run a hedge fund.

My budget, I reckoned, should be about £4,000 max. Spend anything less than that on a second-hand motor and you’re courting disaster. Or so I ignorantly imagined until I consulted my mate Gary who, besides being a QC (probably the only one called Gary), also happens to fancy himself as a used-car expert.

‘Don’t bother with garages. Just see what there is on eBay,’ he said.

‘But how will I know if it’s any good?’ I said, appalled at the sheer recklessness of it all.

‘You won’t. It’s a punt. But I’ve bought six cars that way and only one has been a lemon. What kind of thing are you after?’

I’d been dreading that question because cars aren’t something I’ve thought about for the past 25 years. Sure, they mattered in my youth: I had a bright red Opel Manta, which I used to race against my spivvy friend Tom Purton’s Golf GTi. But as you get older, I find, boy-racer toys inevitably tend to join the lengthening list of things you must learn to do without, alongside Class As, clubbing, rock-solid erections, energetic games of squash, styleable hair and so on.

Obviously, though, it would have to be something safe, roomy and practical, capable of fitting the kids comfortably in the back and with good fuel economy. And cheap to maintain. Something German, probably. ‘Golf?’ suggested Gary, which sounded a bit on the small side. But then I remembered how Purton’s GTi used to cream my Manta. ‘A Golf, yeah, why not?’

A few clicks later, Gary had found a Golf not at all far from where I live. Jolly reasonably priced too at just £2,200. It wasn’t a model I recognised: not a GTI but something called a V6 Four Motion. Quite old — 2001 — but with just 85,000 miles on the clock. So I did a quick Google to see what the reviewers said. None of them went into much detail about its practicality or fuel economy, it must be said. But they did mention that it has a top speed of 134 miles an hour, grips corners like glue, and can take out anything from a standing start short of a Ferrari. I gave an edited version of this to Fawn, focusing on the fact that it was nearby, excellent value and a fraction of what we’d been expecting to pay.

When we went to pick up the car it was like going back to an older, better age: an age when the wife stayed in the house making small talk with the vendor’s girlfriend while the men got down to business with that all-important test drive. We settled into the cream leather seats. The car smelt of vanilla. ‘Check out the noise of the V6 engine,’ said the man. He turned the ignition. It was a rich, throaty burble you just don’t hear on a Ford Mondeo. And how fast does it go, I asked. He smiled. ‘Like a stabbed rat!’ he said. And proceeded to demonstrate.

So now I have, sitting outside my house, exactly the opposite of the car we needed. It burns up fuel. There’s not nearly enough boot space. It’s quite cramped in the back. It hates going straight on motorways because it’s much more designed for hairpin bends on the Nürburgring. The kids loathe it because the music system is so old that it hasn’t got an adaptor for their iPods. The Fawn is deeply suspicious that I may have sold her a pup and that I’m probably going to end up killing myself.

And me? I totally agree with all the above but am helpless to do much about it. It’s like this. You’re away on some business trip and you get chatting to a supermodel. She’s 23. She makes £5 million a year. She says, ‘I’m really sorry but I’ve got this thing about middle-aged Spectator journos with big teeth, glasses and receding hairlines and I know you say you love your wife, but can we just agree to have this totally no-strings-attached affair with loads of meaningless sex in lots of exotic locations?’ Well, that, I’m afraid, is how I feel about this car.

Really, I’d say, it’s absolutely useless for anything but fun. But the fun is so much fun I’m not sure I care. There’s something ineffably satisfying when some little tosser in his pimped-up spivmobile thinks he can out-accelerate you from the lights and you leave him sniffing your exhaust fumes. And I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the thrill of being able comfortably to take, at 70 mph, country bends which in the Skoda would be lethal at 40 mph. Just so long as I remember not to get my cars mixed up when I’m doing it, that’s the important thing.

On those lovable, colourful traveller folk…

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This week we heard the tragic story of a retired businessman who killed himself and his wife having told friends he was deeply worried about the fact that his rural neighbourhood had been surrounded, at the local council’s behest, by officially designated ‘traveller’ camp sites.

Which do you think is the most likely explanation for poor John Knott’s radical and desperate measure?

Was it

a) he had a pathological aversion to lovely, colourful people in their brightly painted, horse-drawn caravans with their rich cultural heritage, deep understanding of rural lore and their fine traditions of coloured-headscarf-and-hoop-earring-wearing, crystal-ball-gazing, heather-sprig-selling, fiddle-playing, horse-bartering jollity

b) he was a racist, that’s what he was, a racist who’d been taken in by all those appalling myths about the well-loved Roma people and Irish Traveller folk and is probably the kind of person who votes UKIP

c) he’d retired to what he thought was a rural idyll only to realise that by government fiat about £125,000 was going to be knocked off the value of his property, he’d never be able to leave his doors unlocked, his neighbouring fields would be filled with stagnant rubbish, there’d never be any peace by day or night, and he’d constantly have to worry about semi-literate urchins pilfering his toolshed and defecating in his hedgerows, while their feckless parents badgered him every other day explaining they’d got a bit of gravel left over from another job and did he want his drive tarmacked?

Well, obviously it couldn’t have been c) because under Tony Blair’s hate crime laws that would have constituted an offence which might have landed Knott in prison. So it must have been one of the others, clearly.

But it is slightly odd, don’t you think, that whenever – literally 100 per cent of the time on all occasions, ever – a gipsy/traveller/Roma encampment descends on a particular area, the response of all those living there tends to be less than enthusiastic; and that the longer that encampment manages to stay in place the more frantically desperate the local community grows to get rid of them?

Pure racism, I suppose.

Except here’s a thing. If you go to Ireland, whence many of these ‘traveller’ communities emanate, I think you’ll find that they are not – do correct me if I’m wrong – granted special ethnic status or peculiar legal privileges.

That’s why so many of them have left Ireland (where they own houses: the kind of things they’re theoretically supposed to hate living in because it’s their ‘tradition’) to take advantage of Britain’s more enlightened approach to the “traveller community” – as framed in official documents like this called Planning Policy For Traveller Sites.

Under these planning regulations, local councils are legally obliged to provide sites for traveller encampments.

It explains at the beginning:

“The Government’s overarching aim is to ensure fair and equal treatment for travellers.”

But clearly – you can tell this document was drafted by a Liberal Democrat – “fair and equal treatment” is precisely what these travellers are NOT being given.

On the contrary, they are being granted privileges over and above those accorded so-called “settled” communities. Some of these privileges are official (eg this allocation of “free” land for them to park their vehicles on, regardless of how their new neighbours might feel about this incursion). Some of them are unofficial. (Apparently, for example, you’ll never get the RSPCA intervening where it turns out that stray horses grazing willy-nilly belong to travellers).

This injustice was the subject in 2013 of a private members bill by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, who in his speech to the House refused to mince his words:

Members may not realise that local residents have told me, on the basis of police evidence, that many distraction burglaries are undertaken by members of the Gypsy and Traveller community. It is a speciality of theirs. Likewise, farmers and rural dwellers are, frankly, terrorised at the theft of, and damage to, farm equipment and rural properties. The idea that these sites could be set up near to long-established communities both within towns and villages is bringing a huge amount of distress to my local residents.

Hollobone can say stuff like that under parliamentary privilege. The rest of us, unfortunately, have to be more careful – not least because there’s a particularly tenacious gipsy grievance lobby ready to pounce on any perceived injustice against their wholly delightful, thoroughly law-abiding and not remotely antisocial, whiny, vulgar, rapacious community of exquisitely dressed and superbly well-educated model citizens.

But it is a bizarre situation we’ve got, isn’t it?

One of the most basic obligations of any government is the protection of its citizens’ property rights. And one of the most basic principles of English common law is that everyone is equal before it.

Yet as regards travellers we have planning laws which flagrantly breach both of the above.

An alien landing from space would marvel at such an arrangement. “These traveller people must be very special to have been granted such privileges,” he might well wonder. “They must bring especial richness and joy and abundance to the communities they visit! They must pay vast sums in taxes to compensate for all the money councils seem to spend on policing and rehousing operations! They must be particularly law-abiding and morally upstanding! Their travelling traditions must be especially reverend and noteworthy for them to be protected in this way!”

“No, no,” you’d have to explain to the alien. “None of your assumptions are quite accurate. It’s more that, well, someone somewhere decided that they ought to be a protected minority whose special way of life needs preserving, even at the expense of everyone else, and no one in authority, not even Conservatives who are supposed to care about the country, has quite had the gumption to change it.”

“But aren’t burglars are also minority with a special way of life lived at the expense of everyone else? Aren’t locusts?” the alien might reply.

“Now you’re getting there…” you could say.

Read the rest at Breitbart London

Why I’d rather eat worms than renew my National Trust membership

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One of my favourite National Trust properties is Overbeck’s in Salcombe – the former seaside home of an eccentric inventor with a wondrous subtropical garden. The last time I visited, the nice lady at the entrance asked – as they always do – whether I might consider taking out a family membership.

“Sorry,” I said. “But I’d rather eat worms.”

She probably didn’t want to hear but I told her anyway. For years, like so many parents with younger children in need of distraction, I’d used the National Trust’s myriad glorious properties as the perfect weekend refuge: delicious teas, well-stocked bijou gift shops, historic houses with magnificent grounds to explore and play in. Joining the National Trust clearly made sense – with the added bonus that I’d be doing my bit to preserve the crumbling fabric of England and Wales’s heritage.

Unfortunately, I went on to explain, the National Trust had now been hijacked by left-liberal entryists completely out of touch with this once-splendid organisation’s charitable purpose. No longer, it seems, is the National Trust about preserving the glories of the English country house, connecting us with our past and conserving the 775 miles of coastline it owns.

Rather, it has been turned into yet another progressive activist organisation advancing political causes which are irrelevant to – and often inimical to – its charitable remit.

You could argue that the rot set in when it banned fox hunting on its land. But the moment it really started going downhill was in 2012 with the appointment of its new director-general Dame Helen Ghosh.

Ghosh is a classic beneficiary of the revolving door system whereby time-serving quangocrats with the appropriate politically correct views are shuffled from plum post to plum post regardless of their aptitude for the job.

A career civil servant with no particular expertise in or natural sympathy with heritage issues or the countryside Ghosh is, as Quentin Letts notes in this delightfully catty profile, “more at home in court shoes than gum boots”. She also has a reputation – Letts delicately hints with more generosity than I’m prepared to allow the dreadful woman – for being pretty low-grade and thick.

In other words, she would have been ideal for somewhere grisly and right-on and pointless like the Equality and Human Rights Commission, but could scarcely be more wrong for a charity whose meat and drink is toffs, antique furniture, well-spoken old ladies in tweed twin sets, and oak studded parkland, and whose membership largely comprises small ‘c’ conservatives.

Just how utterly unsuitable for the job she is, Ghosh has revealed in her organisation’s announcement that from now on one of its main priorities will be combating climate change which, it claims, ‘poses the biggest single threat’ to its properties so far.

No, it doesn’t. It simply doesn’t. This is purely an expression of Ghosh’s ignorance and of the misinformation foisted on her by the bien-pensant types in whose company she prefers to spend her time.

And if this were merely a case of a silly woman venturing a foolish opinion, perhaps that would be excusable. Unfortunately, Ghosh’s ignorance and idiocy is being transformed into policy in its vomitously named new strategy document Playing Our Part.

Besides relaxing its objections to wind farms – and if we’re talking about “the biggest single threat” to the British landscape, there’s your badger – the National Trust has announced a “20 per cent reduction by 2020″ of its energy use “with 50 per cent coming from renewable sources on the land we look after.”

Ghosh says:

“We will be meeting our commitment predominately from hydro schemes, and with biomass boilers at a number of our big houses. And we do have the occasional turbine. We do not object in principle to wind turbines in the right place. In sensitive historic environments, wind turbines are not the thing to do, but I think we object to two per cent of all wind turbine applications nationally.”

And almost inevitably, Ghosh agonises that the organisation is too middle-class and wants to make it “more relevant” to its membership.

She wants to move away from country houses and more towards the places like the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon (because of course, if it weren’t for the National Trust it would have occurred to no private enterprise to turn them into museums, would it?).

“It’s things like the Beatles’ houses in Liverpool or back to back houses in Birmingham. And our visitors are absolutely loving them.”

Absolutely loving them. There’s a phrase that tells you all you need to know. But just in case it didn’t, here’s an even better one.

The challenge, she says, is to persuade people that they did not need to feel awkward “if they didn’t know who George II was.”

Yeah, that’ll be it, Dame Helen. Until you came along, the National Trust was going to hell in a handcart: four million members, almost of all them inexcusably middle class with an unforgivable predilection towards stately homes, denying social justice to all those disenfranchised ordinary folk who feel so alienated by the mention of any historical figure who isn’t Mary Seacole that the thought of visiting a National Trust property makes them come over like Damien in the Omen when his parents try to take him to church.

And if it’s signs of the End Times we’re looking for, I reckon that for our system to have allowed a creature like Helen Ghosh to get her claws on something as cherishably middle class, civilised and quintessentially English as the National Trust must be pretty near the penultimate one. All it requires now is for the ravens to leave the Tower and then that’ll be it: game over.

Read more at Breitbart London