Magazine article The Spectator

Definitely Maybe

Magazine article The Spectator

Definitely Maybe

Article excerpt

You should never be ashamed to admit that you don't have an opinion.

'W here do you stand on Syria?' asked my stepson.

Tricky one.

Clearly, the Assad regime is loathsome and the West should exert more pressure to end the bloodbath, but on the other hand I'm not convinced we should be doing anything at all to help the divided rebels, not least because the faction that takes over will have lots of scary chemical weapons at its disposal.

My steppy's eyes glazed over. I didn't have a view at all. That's what he was thinking as he reverted to his iPhone for a far more stimulating exchange than anything I was offering.

How wrong he was. My position is as clear and undiluted as the vodka in my tumbler before the intrusion of tonic. I don't know.

What about global warming? Again, not easy. Instinctively I'm wary of the BBC doom-mongers and others who predict that the end of the world is nigh, but then whenever dear James Delingpole has a rant I find myself gingerly crawling into the George Monbiot camp.

The truth is that on a great number of pressing issues, I lack that crucial component that did so much to sustain Margaret Thatcher during all those years in office:

conviction. But whereas it used to bother me that I was so open to persuasion, now I am perfectly happy to put up with what others might regard as the discomfort of uncertainty.

And I'm not alone. Most sensible people are prepared to rough it in the Not Sure carriage before eventually reaching the end of the line and waiting for the answer to the greatest conundrum of them all.

Indeed, Matthew Parris came out just the other day as a Don't Know hero, specifically on the issue of Britain's membership of the EU. Writing in the Times , he recalled a speaking engagement when questions from the floor moved to the vexed issue of David Cameron's proposed referendum. A member of the audience wanted to know how Mr Parris would vote. In? Or out? Sadly, 'shake it all about', as he put it, was not an option.

'The honest answer is that I do not know, ' he wrote. 'I flap wretchedly in the breeze. . .

there are more people in Britain who share my frame of mind than the confident minorities on both sides begin to imagine.'

Of course, the truth that dare not speak its name is that the Prime Minister doesn't know either. He has to come across as resolute, but deep down he's as unsure as the rest of us. No one can say what will happen if we head for the Brussels exit, just like no one can predict the future with any certainty if we decide to stick around in Mrs Merkel's club. …

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