The Spectator's Notes

The Spectator’s Notes

4 June 2015

1:00 PM

4 June 2015

1:00 PM

We in the West all hate Sepp Blatter, so we pay too little attention to the manner in which the Fifa executives were arrested. For what reason, other than maximum drama, were they all ensnared in a dawn raid on their hotel in Zurich? Are we really satisfied that the US authorities should behave in this way outside their jurisdiction? What is left of Swiss independence if they act thus under US pressure? Can we be confident that this very fat man called Chuck Blazer really exists, or has he been invented by Hollywood? In America, lawyers are more like political players or business entrepreneurs than the sub-fusc professionals of the English tradition. Should we welcome their global reach? Since the Fifa story is an example of the West versus the rest, however, we in the Anglosphere must stick together. We have heard from Vladimir Putin and various Third World sporting potentates that attacks on Fifa’s bosses are examples of arrogance and racism. If we look at such organisations, we can see how the whole world will go when we in the West finally (in 20/30 years?) lose control of it. Absolutely everything will be run by the global, lawless rich doing deals with one another to profit monstrously from the global poor. You may say that this happens already under western hegemony, and you could be right. My only point is that it will get far, far worse. In the meantime, we should keep a close eye on Qatar, who so cleverly managed to win the World Cup so that it can be played in their oven in 2022. Some may welcome the news that Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family now makes a substantial contribution to maintaining the Queen Mother’s former house, the Castle of Mey, but I see it as a sinister development.

After the general election, Edward Llewellyn, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, was made a Privy Councillor. Any member of the Privy Council is addressed as ‘Right Honourable’, and these words well describe Llewellyn’s character, so there is no problem there. But why should an adviser be given this role? If you study the list (which, be warned, takes a long time), you will see that Privy Councillors are almost all MPs (or ex-MPs), peers or judges. This is because they are supposed to be, in some small way, powers in the land, people in their own right, rather than servants of the powerful. There are a few exceptions — Sir John Chilcot, for instance, so that he could see and hear things for his inquiry on ‘Privy Council terms’; and the Queen’s private secretary (presumably for a similar reason, since the Privy Council is the Queen’s). But it has not, until now, been a reward for members of a political entourage. The rumour is that Llewellyn was to be made ambassador to Rome after the election. Perhaps because of the Tories’ unexpected majority, this has not happened, and so he stays in post, but Right Honourably. Not a good idea — yet another example of the chumocracy.

As Britain found, one of the worst things about having an empire is how much time its troublesome parts take up. Today this problem afflicts the EU. Literally every day it has to have meetings about Greece, gatherings which often include the leaders of the main eurozone member states. Greece’s GDP is less than $250 billion a year and that of the EU is more than $18 trillion. There are just over 11 million Greeks in Greece, 335 million people in the eurozone, and 503 million EU citizens. Meanwhile, the borders of the empire are menaced by the infinitely more serious entity of Russia, but the EU cannot pay it proper attention. The Ottomans finally gave up on Greece in 1832. How long before Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin do the same?

Listening this week to someone from the Electoral Reform Society droning on about how we have just had the least representative election ever, I suddenly had an aperçu. Until now, I had argued that it was true that ‘first past the post’ was unfair, but this was a small price to pay for the way it usually produced a decisive national result. I now realise that this is to concede too much to the proportional representation case. The present system is unfair only to parties. It is not unfair to voters, unless one can prove that voters expect the system to represent their party preferences mathematically or wish that it would. This cannot be proved. Indeed, it was disproved in the referendum of 2011. The PR people ignore the fact that MPs represent all their constituents. I have lived in both Labour and Conservative constituencies and it has never occurred to me to think that I will not be served by my MP because, in some cases, I did not vote for him. I have never come across a MP who acted in a partisan manner when dealing with his constituents. Voters well understand that party preference is not the only point of voting.

The sad death of Charles Kennedy reminds one that Scottish political life is a health risk. He joins the ranks of John Smith, Donald Dewar and Robin Cook, a man cut off before his time. In this regard, one worries about Alex Salmond. Although he does not have Mr Kennedy’s drink problem, he is famous for eating the unspeakable food so popular north of the border, as his shape confirms. He is the leader of the arc of obesity which stretches to the Arctic circle. Perhaps it is to reduce these dangers that the next generation of Scottish leaders is almost entirely female.

Aged 100, the charming Jeremy Hutchinson now tells his story (Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories, by Thomas Grant, John Murray). One of his triumphs was to help defend Lady Chatterley’s Lover when it was prosecuted for obscenity in 1960. I am sorry he gives no countenance to my theory about the heroic prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones. Griffith-Jones famously asked the jury: ‘Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?’ For this he was much mocked. But the novel is about the behaviour of a wife (Lady Chatterley) with a servant (Mellors, the gamekeeper). Nine of the jury were men: surely Griffith-Jones was making the sort of joke he thought would appeal to them. It is, of course, fatal in English public life to make a joke.

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