Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Jack Straw says that military action against Iran is 'inconceivable'. The President of Iran says he wants to wipe Israel 'off the map'. Why doesn't an interviewer ask the Foreign Secretary whether, if Iran tried to do this, military action would still be inconceivable? If he says yes (and if that is the policy of the West), then Iran will know that it can go ahead.

There has been no more touching story in recent days than the complaint of Alexander Chancellor, the great former editor of The Spectator, that he has been dropped from Today's Birthdays in the Guardian. Alexander, who is 66 this month, protested, and was told that he was dropped 'because of space', which somehow only makes it more wounding. And it seemed particularly hurtful that the paper which jettisoned him -- he still appears in the Daily Telegraph and the Times-- is the one for which he writes a column. 'You know how touchy we OAPS can be, ' Alexander wrote, brooding on this subject (in the Guardian).

His case is a small illustration of the wellknown modern problem that not enough respect is shown to the old -- 'old' here being defined as anyone of pension age, though it seems a particularly unsuitable word to apply to Alexander Chancellor. You would have thought, since there are far more old people than ever before and they are, on average, richer than ever before, that they would wield ever greater power. The opposite seems to be the case. There is a worship of youth. The oldest person in David Cameron's shadow Cabinet (David Davis) is 57. I suspect that the answer lies in the laws of supply and demand.

There is a glut of oldies and an undersupply of the young. People always value more highly what is scarce, so the young are sought out and cherished like rare orchids. Since modern medicine makes life ever longer, there would seem to be no end to this problem except, perhaps, a concerted drive to increase the birth rate. Note to the relevant employee of the Guardian: I shall be 50 on 31 October.

Itseems likely that the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, will win the election next week in Canada. The Liberals there, in government at present, are making a lastminute attempt to stop him by making him out to be a stooge of George Bush. If he does win, however, it will be further evidence (following the re-election of Blair, Bush and John Howard in Australia) that support for the war in Iraq is no bar to, possibly a precondition for, electoral victory in the Anglosphere.

No one could be keener than I that David Cameron does not trash the achievements of Margaret Thatcher, but some of the most fervent Thatcherites tend to forget that she herself, like all successful political leaders, understood the doctrine of ripe and unripe time. She recognised that the first thing you have to do when you become leader in opposition, particularly after a period of your party's weakness, is to get yourself a hearing from people who do not automatically support you. In roughly the same period of leadership as David Cameron has so far experienced, Mrs Thatcher made a speech suggesting a greater move to the centre for the Tories, another praising Scottish devolution and several on the glories of closer European integration. . . .

Everyone drones on about the 'North/South divide' in Britain, but in terms of character, if not always in wealth, the East/West divide is surely more significant. …

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