Magazine article The Spectator

Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

On a day when much fuss was being made about 'false news' on the net, it was amusing to study the Times splash of Tuesday, greedily repeated by the BBC. It concerned a 'leaked' memo, 'prepared for the Cabinet Office' and 'seen and aided by senior civil servants'. The memo, from a Deloitte employee, was in fact unsolicited. It was not a bad summary of why the government's Brexit plans are confused, but its status was merely that of journalism without an outlet. By the use of the single word 'leaked', a piece of analysis was turned into 'news' -- false news.

At least two former Spectator figures understood things about the recent American contest which eluded most commentators. The first is our former proprietor, Conrad Black. Disagreeing with the anti-Trump conservative National Review , for which he writes, Conrad filed a powerful piece at the time of Trump's nomination: 'What the world has witnessed, but has not recognised it yet, has been a campaign of genius.' He enumerated virtually every issue where Trump was nearer to the voters than Democrats, the media, and other Republicans. The second is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, nowadays the Telegraph 's international business editor. In the 1980s, Ambrose wrote wonderful pieces from central America for The Spectator , the only British journalist to predict the electoral defeat of the Sandinista regime. As editor of the Sunday Telegraph in 1993, I sent him as our correspondent to Washington. In that almost pre-internet time when the American media were still in thrall to Washington power, Ambrose was the first in the entire world to carry through investigations into the Clinton scandals in Arkansas and after -- Sally Perdue, Whitewater, the death of Vince Foster, etc. Bill and Hillary were never quite able to extricate themselves from what he found out.

Amid all the recent electoral upsets caused by the global revolt against the elites, more attention should have been paid to the Colombian referendum last month. The people of Colombia were invited to vote on the 'peace deal' made between the Colombian government and the Farc rebels. On the ballot paper was what Latin grammarians call a 'nonne' question: 'Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a lasting peace?' Yet despite this carefully crafted expectation of a Yes -- and opinion polls all predicting one -- the answer, very narrowly, was No. The BBC was amazed by the result because the Yes campaign was backed 'by a wide array of politicians both in Colombia and abroad, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon'. It would be helpful in global media organisations if top executives could point out to their staff that, nowadays, the backing of conventional politicians, especially foreign politicians -- and of Mr Ban -- for any vote in any country on anything now virtually guarantees its defeat (see Obama's pro-Remain intervention). The governing establishments of the whole western world got ready to hail the deal with Farc as a model for peace (hence, presumably, President Santos's recent state visit to Britain), but the Colombian majority decided that it let the terrorists literally get away with murder. …

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