Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Immigration is an issue like new housing in the Green Belt governments have to permit it and they have to try to restrict it. This is because the interest of those already present - the indigenous population, the nimby houseowner - is damaged by the arrival of many more people and yet, at the same time, it is also helped. People may say that they want a ban on immigration, but if that happened, they would quickly discover that they could not find enough building workers, waiters, cleaners, plumbers to satisfy their wants. The government is probably right to say that the immigration it has recently permitted from Eastern Europe has not caused great outrage, because people can see that the workers who come do things that need doing and do not appear, for the most part, to be importing religious or cultural problems with them. But Michael Howard is right that the loss of control of immigration is very alarming, particularly through the asylum system, which has become an organised and expensive dishonesty. It is the human equivalent of putting up prefabs right across the Green Belt and sending taxpayers the bill.

Some say that Donald Trump, always described as a 'billionaire', has been cheapskate in the arrangements made for his wedding to his latest wife, Melania. Friends of mine who had dealings with his former one, Ivana, know that Trumps and cash do not always go together. Ivana commissioned from them some expensive furniture for a hotel in New York. They delivered and she was delighted, but somehow the cheque did not come through. Desperate, they came up with a scheme. They wrote to Mrs Trump inviting her to a dinner in her honour, given in London, to meet the grandest and greatest in English society (guest list supplied). She accepted happily. A few days before the dinner, they faxed her to say that it was off unless the cheque was through and cleared in time. The ploy worked: Ivana paid. My friends then had a difficulty about the dinner. No one had actually been invited. But now Mrs Trump had kept her side of the bargain, so they must keep theirs. They rushed round ringing up all the dukes and beauties and stars on the list they had invented, inviting them to the real thing. Despite the short notice, almost everyone wanted to meet the famous Mrs Trump, and accepted. The dinner was a triumph.

It has been pointed out that almost nothing is known of what happened to Burma in the tsunami. Hundreds of people are thought to have died, but the Burmese government won't say. A Burmese friend of mine has information that there was a surprising number of Iranians working on the Burmese islands affected. It would be interesting to know more about what they were working at.

This week No. 11 Downing Street lent itself to a party to celebrate the fact that ShareGift, of which I am a trustee, has now distributed £5 million since its foundation by the brilliant Claire Mackintosh in 1996. In fact, the figure turned out to be wildly wrong because, thanks to the fact that Centrica has recently urged all its shareholders to use our service, it is now £6 million. ShareGift takes all the small bundles of shares which it is not worth your while to sell, realises their value, and gives it to more than 700 charities. …

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