My mid-life polo pony crisis

Delingpole

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

Why losing Clarkson is the BBC’s biggest mistake since keeping Jimmy Savile

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This isn’t so much a piece about Jeremy Clarkson as about all the other celebrities the BBC employs who aren’t Jeremy Clarkson.

I call them the “Wankerati.”

Here are some examples:

Ian Hislop; Dara O’Briaiaiaan; Brian “PermaSmile Astro Boy” Cox; Bill Oddie; Russell Howard; Simon Singh; Noel Fielding; Marcus Brigstocke; Jeremy Hardy; everyone else on the News Quiz; the unfunny has-beens from the Now Show whose names I can’t be bothered to look up; Chris Packham; Rick Edwards; Graham Linehan; Lenny Henry; Emily Maitlis; Ian Katz; David Mitchell; Russell Howard; Bill Bailey; Jo Brand; Monty Don; Simon Schama; Russell Howard….

As you can see, the list is by no means complete because it needs to include more or less everyone at the BBC who isn’t Jeremy Clarkson. Some of you may be concerned at the fact that Russell Howard doesn’t appear nearly often enough for one so lame and annoying. Others may be perturbed by the presence of presenters they admire – such as, maybe, Ian Hislop who, I’d quite agree, is really, really good at fronting programmes on Victorian hymns, World War I or railway timetables.

But this isn’t about talent – or lack of – it’s about personal politics. Everyone on that list ranges in outlook from the nauseatingly bien-pensant to the rabidly left-wing, to the point where you could fairly confidently predict their position on any number of topics from Nigel Farage, Israel/Palestine and global warming all the way through to mildly racist jokes, foxhunting, bankers, positive discrimination and the European Union. Oh, and Jeremy Clarkson, of course. Few, if any of the people on that list would be able to find much good to say about Jeremy Clarkson. Which, of course, is one of the reasons why the BBC’s sacking of Clarkson is going to turn out to be such a massive mistake. He was the one major talent in the entire organisation who wasn’t like all the others…

And till Clarkson’s nemesis BBC Controller of TV Danny Cohen came along, the BBC appears instinctively to have understood his value. Not his commercial value (the BBC likes to think it’s above such vulgarities) but rather his propaganda value. Top Gear was the BBC’s equivalent of a Potemkin Village or – a bit of Clarksonesque bad taste here, why not? – those films the Nazis used to make of jolly, well-fed Jews playing in orchestras and sitting in cafes near their delightful new living quarters in the Warsaw Ghetto. Any time unhelpful people started banging on about the BBC’s entrenched left-wing bias and maddening political correctness, all the Beeb had to do was point at the self-evidently notleft-wing and not PC Top Gear as proof of the contrary.

Till the BBC sacked Clarkson, my view was that they were going to get away this game for many years hence. But now I am not so sure.

Over a million people signed that petition urging the BBC to reinstate Clarkson. A fair proportion of them, I suspect, will belong to precisely that demographic the BBC finds most embarrassing: white, obviously; probably Thatcherite in outlook, but quite fond of Nigel Farage; highly sceptical of “global warming”; petrolheads, again obviously; not averse to telling the odd racist joke when they’re with their mates, not so much because they have anything against “coloured” people (as they probably call them, not knowing the correct term) but more as a reaction against political correctness; might not have gone to “uni” because they could tell it was a complete waste of time. People who – at least in the BBC’s Weltanschauung – are pretty much beyond the pale.

Unfortunately for the BBC, however, these disgusting, frightful people, very few of whom live anywhere civilised like North London or have ever knowingly eaten cavolo nero, represent a much larger percentage of the population than any of the worthy groups it would prefer to cater to (the “Asian” community; gay people; disabled people; Roma; environmentalists; activists; etc). While Top Gear was on – the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses” – this mob were kept at bay. But with Top Gear gone, they may incline to feel that they have been cheated – like a serially abused child whose one and only toy has finally snatched away from him by his prissy, unloving, perma-stubbled, tofu-eating stepfather.

In short, for many years the BBC has been living a lie. It has pretended – as its Charter requires of it – that it’s for everyone when really it has continually and ruthlessly shut out any presenters, programmes or opinions which don’t fit into its narrow, metropolitan, left-liberal narrative. And what the Clarkson sacking has done is brought this issue to a head. Also – a bit like Gamergate did for gamers – it has woken large numbers of people who hadn’t hitherto thought of themselves as particularly political into an appreciation of how badly they’ve been conned and abused by a narrow, self-selecting and very political elite who despise them.

Read the brilliant pay-off at Breitbart London

Everything is getting worse; stranger in my own country; etc

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There was a letter to the Daily Telegraph last weekend which depressed me more than anything I’ve read in ages. It reported the visit by a social worker to an elderly woman who made her a cup of tea. The young social worker was shocked by what she saw. Not only did this bewildered old woman insist on using leaves rather than a bag but she first poured some hot water into the pot, swirled it round, then wasted it by putting it straight down the sink. Here, clearly, was evidence that grandma was incapable of looking after herself and should be put into care immediately.

This put me in mind of another experience I had recently. I was having dinner with a group of friends in an upmarket London pub and we all wanted our burgers cooked medium rare. ‘They won’t allow it,’ said a local friend in the know. ‘We’re under Westminster Council jurisdiction, here.’ Sure enough, when the time to order came we had to beg and plead with the manager for our burgers not be overcooked, as local health laws now require.

It also reminded me of my recent adventures with my dentist, a clearly bright, well-spoken girl in her twenties of, I’m guessing, Pakistani extraction. She obviously knows all her stuff but I can’t stand her. The problem is that she has the most appalling dental-chair-side manner. She’s officious, patronising, fully bought-into the NHS programme, whereby every patient is a statistic rather than a real person. It seems never to have occurred to her that the way you address an educated, middle-aged country gent might need to be slightly different from the way, say, you speak to a porcine 15-year-old chav.

Also, she gives off these truly horrible politically correct vibes. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable conversations of my life are the ones I have with people of different races and cultures about where they come from and how the world looks from their perspective.

For example, the other day, coming back from Naples in Florida to Miami airport I had the most amazing chat — so good that I recorded it on my iPhone — with a black Caribbean naturalised American. He told me how he and his fellow black Caribbean émigrés absolutely hated being called ‘black Americans’ because he considered black Americans to be no-good welfare scroungers, whereas his own lot, he insisted — he was originally from Dominican Republic — were incredibly hard workers who just wanted to get on, and simply couldn’t be doing with the identity politics game.

‘What, all Caribbeans? What about the Jamaicans?’ I asked. My friend explained the tragedy of the Jamaicans: that they used to be the hardest working of the already very hard-working Caribbean islanders, but then Bob Marley had come along and introduced them to a) ganja and b) the concept that by working hard they were playing the white man’s game.

But my friend didn’t care about such political issues. His all-time favourite president, he said, was Ronald Reagan because he was good for immigrants and the economy. He also liked Clinton because of his way with the ladies. He was agnostic about Obama — and certainly didn’t feel any bond with him because of his skin colour.

Then he told me about his childhood growing up on a farm in Dominican Republic, in the saddle for up to 15 hours a day, making his horse stronger for racing by training it in rivers and in the sea. And about his children whom he had deliberately brought up to be ignorant of Spanish because he thought (mistakenly, he realised, in the light of how the southern USA has gone) that they would assimilate better. They were now both officers in the US Navy, one a doctor, one an engineer, clearly destined to join the upper middle class.

And you know how the conversation all began? I told him how horribly burned I’d got on the beach the first day. ‘I don’t expect you’ve ever had sunburn,’ I said. Perhaps I’m maligning my scary young dentist woman, but I can just imagine her glaring her disapproval at such a patently demeaning and racist line of inquiry. She probably thinks I’m Colonel Blimp.

I haven’t quite turned 50 yet and I really still don’t feel that old but when I encounter young people like the dentist girl it makes me feel about 80. And it’s not a good feeling, let me tell you. It gives me an inkling of how my beloved late mother-in-law felt on her final visits to hospital, when the staff would impertinently insist on addressing her by her first name (which they got wrong, by the way). And of how people of a certain generation feel when they innocently use an old-fashioned word like ‘half-caste’ or ‘coloured’ only to have all their offspring squirm with embarrassment, on account of how such phrases simply aren’t used any more.

Not so long ago, I tweeted one of my most oft-retweeted tweets. It went something like: ‘You know how 20 years ago, we looked at the dumbed-down education system and said to ourselves: “When this lot grow up, we are fucked”? Well now they’ve grown up.’

It was popular, of course, because it’s true. I don’t want to slag off the young completely: a lot of them are still great. But I do very much fear that thanks to a combination of several generations’ deliberate dumbing down of education by the Gramsciite left, widespread cultural indoctrination in the politically correct values of the state, and the arrival of a wave of immigrants who (through no fault of their own) are unfamiliar with what Britain is and what it ought to be, people of my generation and older are increasingly doomed to feel like strangers in our country. I’ll save two bullets for my revolver: one for the social worker; one for me.

Read the rest at The Spectator

As Farage has just been reminded, there’s no fascist like a liberal fascist

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Suppose Labour leader Ed Miliband had been out yesterday for a quiet bacon sandwich with his wife and kids only to be harassed and terrorised by a bunch of protestors from the Daily Mail. Can you imagine the coverage it would get on the BBC and in the Guardian?

And what about if Green party leader Natalie Bennett had a few friends round for a vegan barbecue, only to be driven from their supplies of tofu and mung beans and cucumber dip by a crowd of Spectator journalists dressed in pin stripe suits and bowler hats?

There’s a reason you can’t imagine these scenarios, except in jest. It’s because the right-leaning media just doesn’t promote or engage in political activism in the way that the left-leaning media does, especially not the kind of direct action stunt we saw yesterday being carried out against Nigel Farage by a mob led by an activist (and occasional Guardian columnist) called Dan Glass. (h/t Bishop Hill)

The Guardian clearly loves Dan Glass. Here’s what it had to say a few years back about his work “fighting to stop the injustice of climate change.”

Dan Glass, 27, activist

“Whenever anybody sticks their head above the parapet they’re seen as a lunatic, but we need to show the inadequacies of the legal system for protecting the earth.”

Youth climate activists blog : Dan Glass

Dan was recently named one of Attitude Magazine’s 66 new role models for his work on bridging the gay rights and environmental justice movements. He revels in creating militant but cheeky ways to be a “thorn in the side of those destroying the planet”; he has stuck himself to a former prime minister, occupied Aberdeen airport, danced with old ladies blighted by flightpaths, and worked in deprived inner-city communities with So We Stand. Dan has spent much of 2010 in court, over action he took with protest group Plane Stupid at Aberdeen airport, and is now on trial for allegedly conspiring to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station (the verdict is expected today). You can read his article on the disproportionate effects of climate change on marginalised communities in December’s Attitude magazine – it’s the one with lots of naked men on the cover.

Besides having run three columns by Glass, the Guardian has also given space to the Trotskyite burblings of perma-revolutionary Eva Jasiewicz – another member of the fancy dress mob who harrassed the Farages at the weekend.  And also to this woman, Pennie Quinton who was also boasting on Twitter about her involvement in the anti-UKIP renta-mob. See also Guardian contributor Emily Churchill (no relation, one imagines), who crowed about having helped ruin the Farage family lunch with the phrase “We are family!”

Now you could argue that the Guardian can’t be held responsible for the actions of a few idiots who have written for it in the past. Maybe not. But what you can most definitely blame it for, I think, is the uncritical coverage it gives both to them individually (see flattering profile of Glass above) and collectively at protests everywhere from Kingsnorth to Balcombe.

Whether these protests are about breast-feeding or coal-fired power or fracking or neonicotinoids or bankers or air travel, what you find time and again is the same hardcore of activists at the heart of each protest. The cause seems to be almost an irrelevance. What counts far more is the intensity of their shrill self-righteousness and the corresponding passion of their hatred for whichever particular target they happen to be protesting against on that particular day.

You can see that self-righteousness in some of the comments below the Guardian’s report on the Farage affair. Here’s one from a charmer calling himself “Postcolonial”.

Well I suppose they could have tarred and feathered him. But we can still dream.

And here is the Guardian’s columnist Suzanne Moore telling us that the protestors who had Farage’s children fleeing in fear were just a lovely, harmless, playful bunch really and that the Farages over-reacted…

Those protesting against Farage were in fancy dress, which is why the pub owners thought it was some kind of birthday party. They called themselves “a cabaret of diversity” and were seeking to represent some of the groups Farage has offended: “Migrants, HIV activists, gay people, disabled people and breast-feeding mothers.” No doubt this boisterous group may have seemed a bit scary although, to be honest, it all looked harmlessly theatrical in the pictures.

The worst thing that Moore can find to say about the incident is that it may play to Farage’s advantage.

And actually, it may backfire for other reasons too, because increasingly Farage plays the victim. And this allows him to. He can present himself as the innocent victim of attacks by fruitcakes, when, in fact, he spends most of his time attacking the vulnerable.

(If Moore had wanted to make the point with the charm and wit of which unfortunately she is incapable, she might have nicked this, much funnier analysis from a Guardian commentator called Boynamedstu: “Because nothing will make people considering voting for UKIP change their mind than a coachload of inner city dwelling, unemployed drama graduates and soap dodgers intimidating him and scaring his kids while he is out for a Sunday lunch. These arsehats have probably done more to increase the UKIP vote than a front page picture of a Romanian eating a swan while shitting on a Princess Di commemorative tea towel.”)

Read the thrilling, insightful, moving pay off at Breitbart London

BBC Radio 2 audience in ‘too white’ shock

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The BBC Trust is worried about the relatively small number of BAME listeners who tune in to BBC’s over-35s station Radio 2.

(BAME, by the way, is the latest PC term for people who aren’t white. It stands for Black and Ethnic Minorities. So remember that, Cumberbatch, next time you’re on TV and you want to demonstrate how impeccably right on you are. Remember, also, to pronounce it correctly. The “a” is long, as in “car”. And the “me” is pronounced as in “me no likee all this PC bollocks”. Get it right Ben, my friend, and this could land you your next potentially Oscar-nominated starring role in the forthcoming biopic The Lenny Henry Story).

I’m worried too. However few BAME people actually listen to Radio 2 it is still far, far too many, as I was reminded only yesterday while listening to BBC Radio 2’s star morning fixture, the Ken Bruce show.

Ken was wittering away – as Ken does – about alarm clocks. The thing about alarm clocks, he pointed out, is that you grow attached to them and never think to replace them till they’re broken. Because why would you, when they’re not broken? Why indeed, Ken? Why indeed.

Though I’m not a racist myself, I suspect that if I were I would be very, very enthusiastic about the BBC Trust’s recommendation that BBC Radio 2 “should address the disparity in reach among BAME listeners.” What I’d want is for ethnic minority people is to be rounded up off the streets a bit like the Child Catcher does in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (perhaps they could be lured into his cage with ackee fruit or samosas or fried noodles, or whatever the BBC’s Chief Diversity Officer believes is best suited to the local community), herded into a large room full of comfortable arm chairs and forced to listen to BBC2 Radio 2 for a whole day, with perhaps a double dose of Ken Bruce, then Jamie Cullum’s jazz programme and Sunday Night With Michael Ball.

Then they too will appreciate, as Radio 2’s mainly middle-aged and elderly white audience does already, that to become a regular listener of Radio 2 is to enter death’s waiting room. You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

You might wonder, incidentally, what I was doing listening to Ken Bruce in the first place. The reason was, I had tried Radio 4 and it was the All Men Are Rapist Bastards Show (aka Woman’s Hour with Jenni “actually, I’m Dame Jenni Murray” Murray); then I’d tried Radio 3 – but instead of classical music it was an interview with some black opera singer talking about ethnic minorities and I just thought: “I simply don’t care. No one does. There’s no colour bar for opera singers – see, for example, the not exactly unstellar career of Jessye Norman. If I want to hear a black woman on Radio 3, I’d like to hear her doing Strauss’s Four Last Songs, not making some half-baked political point.” Things have come to a pretty pass, haven’t they, when you scan the BBC airwaves and you realise that Ken Bruce is the least worst alternative?

Reading further down the BBC Trust’s report, though, what puzzled me was its inconsistency. At no point in its discussion of the BBC radio Asian Network did it express concerns about the fact that fully 85 per cent of its listener base are of “Asian” (ie from the Indian subcontinent) origin. Oughtn’t the station to be doing more to broaden its audience, perhaps by ditching some of the programmes in “a range of South Asian languages” and maybe giving a slot to Jeremy Clarkson, who seems to be available at the moment? Just a thought.

Read the rest at Breitbart London