The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s Notes: Trying to reach a global agreement on anything is a waste of time

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

Speaking on the Today programme on Monday, Sir David Attenborough, who wants a global agreement to control carbon emissions, pointed out that ‘Never in the history of humanity have all the people of the world got together to deal with a particular problem and agreed what the solution could be. Never, ever, ever.’ He is right. But he seemed to defy the logic of his own observation. They never have. Probably, since the truth is best arrived at through disagreement, they never should. The key point is that they never will. So it is a waste of time to try.

When someone commits suicide, those close to that person naturally reproach themselves. In politics, and similarly contested areas of life, people reproach others too. So it is not surprising that when a 21-year-old Conservative party worker, Elliott Johnson, killed himself in September, accusations about Tory bullying arose. Judging from what is reported about Mark Clarke, the leader of the party’s campaign RoadTrip group, he should never have been in charge of any youth wing. But there are couple of other things to bear in mind. For some reason, it has not been reported, though it is widely said, that Mr Johnson had been in a relationship with a party colleague and that he had felt betrayed when the relationship was broken off. It seems reasonable to guess that this break-up would have added to his despair, and therefore have made him more likely to commit suicide. It does not seem reasonable to think that the party chairman, Lord Feldman, can be arraigned for Mr Johnson’s death, although he should certainly be criticised for his joint role in appointing Clarke. Why is this worth saying? Only because this case is yet another example of the false exaltation of victims. It is true that the living people who, by miles, deserve the greatest sympathy in this case are Mr Johnson’s parents, but it does not follow that the only result of any inquiry must be one that would satisfy them. This is the same illusion which says that the families of servicemen killed in action have to be satisfied before any case can close. Grief takes different people in different ways. There are some people who find it cannot be assuaged, and lose all sense of fairness. Even if they remain fair-minded people, they are not qualified — why should they be? — to judge the wider questions that arise, such as how an army, or, in this case, a political party’s youth wing, should be organised. Suppose that Mr Johnson’s parents decided they would not accept anything less than the resignation of David Cameron himself as the price for their son’s death. Would we have to defer to them? The correct, serious charge against the Tory leadership is that they have neglected the once-healthy roots of a national party youth movement, leaving it vulnerable to takeover by shysters. They cannot be blamed for the sad decision of one young man to take his life.


Who is Baroness Pidding? When I googled her, my computer kept directing me to Baroness Pudding, which is a recipe in Mrs Beeton. But I found her at last. She was, as Emma Pidding, a Chiltern district councillor. On 8 October this year, she became Baroness Pidding, and took the Conservative whip in the House of Lords. Within six weeks, she shot from obscurity to being embroiled in the Mark Clarke scandal. When it dies down, we may never hear of her again, but since she is only 38 years old, she could easily still be in the House of Lords in 50 years’ time. Fame has never been a stranger phenomenon than it is today.

Shooting recently, I was introduced to the loader that my host had kindly provided. The man shook my hand with a slightly mysterious smile. ‘Look,’ he said as we walked to the first drive, ‘I think you ought to know that, until last year, I was a colleague of yours on the Daily Telegraph — assistant news editor.’ I didn’t recognise him, because I work for the paper from home and do not know most of the people in the office. For a brief moment, I was embarrassed by the fear that this nice man had been forced by unemployment to take ill-paid jobs like loading; but further inquiry revealed that, far from being down on his luck, he has joined the world of PR, and, I guess, is better paid than in newspapers. He was an example of a phenomenon I have noticed quite often recently — middle-class people doing what would once have been considered menial work because it is fun. In the last couple of years, I have had loaders who were estate managers, school teachers, or renewable energy consultants, and met beaters in shoots and whippers-in to hunts who are clergymen, doctors or undergraduates at posh universities. They love outdoor jobs as an antidote to the office. I was glad, however, that my loader was not still my colleague, and therefore had no temptation to return to the Telegraph and delight everyone with stories of the birds I missed.

In his column last week, Rod Liddle suggested that an alleged fatwa by a Saudi Arabian cleric had said it was permissible to eat one’s wife when suffering from ‘severe hunger’ gave him (Rod) the go-ahead to eat his own wife. Not so, surely. In the Christian religion and, indeed, the secular law of the United Kingdom, one can have only one wife at a time. If one has only one wife, it would be quite wrong to eat her. Under Islam, one can have up to four. Obviously this generous provision creates ‘spares’. Until recently, British marriage law was hidebound by tradition, but, before the last election, Parliament voted to abolish the previously general understanding that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Why keep the fuddy-duddy idea that it must be between only two people? Polygamy is the way ahead, freeing up enough wives to produce children, clean the house etc and serve as emergency ration packs.

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Show comments
  • davidshort10

    I am sure that bigamy and polygamy will surely be OK for all British men. Will women want multiple husbands? I can think of one group who would. Columnists. They can whinge about more than one ‘useless’ husband and therefore have more Polly Filler column fodder to keep them going.

    • Bonkim

      What is the difference between having different partners and marring multiple men or women? More the merrier for some tastes. Pity the Muslim man that can only marry four wives and the Muslim woman only one – life is so unfair for some. Perhaps Muslim women need to assert their human rights.

      • Mary Ann

        Allowing polygamy causes a shortage of men, it’s time for the men who have no wives to stand up for themselves, mind you, what man in his right mind wants 4 wives, I wonder how many actually take more than one wife.

  • fundamentallyflawed

    Just been reading how an anti-climate change video has been pulled from youtube because it shows thriving polar bear communities on the ice in disagreement with the “consensus”.
    The only lies they want you to feast on are the ones they control while they globe trot on their private jets to private dinners to discuss how to keep the gravy train going

    • Mr_Twister-Morpheus

      Link please.

    • King Kibbutz

      And these private jets do not burn one drop of fossil fuel. Gobshites, all.

  • Freddythreepwood

    More than one wife?!! Not likely! I’m with Kipling – A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Lose all sense of “fairness”. How vague can that be? “Fair minded” !!! define what a ‘fair minded person is and I can assure one that there will be many responses that definition does not constitute being “fair minded”.

    • King Kibbutz

      I don’t know what you were thinking of saying, but it didn’t happen.

      • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

        If you do not know what I am saying how would you possibly know if it “did not happen”?
        Secondly I was addressing the nebulous use of the term “Fair minded:”. Could you give me your version of being “fair minded” and let us see if it matches mine.

      • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

        If you do not know what I am saying how would you possibly know if it “did not happen”?
        Secondly I was addressing the nebulous use of the term “Fair minded:”. Could you give me your version of being “fair minded” and let us see if it matches mine.

        • King Kibbutz

          At your end, you write things; at this end we read what you have written. The fact that I do not know what you are trying to say, means that the link was not made successfully. It didn’t happen because your syntax is mangled beyond recovery.
          The concept of being fair minded should need no explanation. Why you should be in some state of confusion as to its meaning, comes as no surprise given your loathsome and recently exposed comment history.

          • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

            Slavery was considered “fair minded” by the US Supreme Court who ruled in the Dredd Scott decision that slaves can be transported across state lines

            Apartheid was considered a “fair minded” decision by those who ruled South Africa. the same can be said of the

            Segregation laws of the US southern states or the concept of “separate but equal”

            These are 3 examples of what people in a leadership position consider “fair”. They did not think what they were doing was “unfair”. you and I may think that but they did not.

            I thought that would clear to you regardless of how I worded it. apparently you remain confused on this issue Then it is your problem to solve. and not mine to correct.

          • King Kibbutz

            Thank you.

          • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

            I saw your comment and wondered what you were thanking me for. After I read my comment that was very decent of you. You are welcome.

        • King Kibbutz

          At your end, you write things; at this end we read what you have written. The fact that I do not know what you are trying to say, means that the link was not made successfully. It didn’t happen because your syntax is mangled beyond recovery.
          The concept of being fair minded should need no explanation. Why you should be in some state of confusion as to its meaning, comes as no surprise given your loathsome and recently exposed comment history.

  • Knight of Tipton

    May be the case, but looks a good excuse for a Champagne brunch!

  • John P Hughes

    The quality of the ‘Telegraph’s’ news coverage has declined, and the lack of competent sub-editing is sometimes obvious. The former Assistant News Editor whom CM met on his shoot may have been one of the people who has left under the current management and not been replaced – helping to explain the decline in quality. ‘Private Eye’ has reported the decline of the paper well for some years. Happily there is now a possibility that the ‘Telegraph’ being sold by the Barclay Brothers. Depending on who buys it, it may be saved – or it may not be.

  • John Batten

    Apropos wives I understood the rule was that you couldn’t have your wife and eat her…

  • Terry Field

    Moore is so full of self regard. It is one thing to sneer at Paris. I agree it is a pile of self-regarding wind, but this miserable man cannot bring himself to rend his hand-made shirt in public and wail at the dreadful consequences of our – now – pretty much guaranteed failure to avoid the greatest catastrophe since dawn of human life.

    His disinterest is nauseating.

    ”So it is a waste of time to try.”

    What an unmitigated swine. Being polite about him at this point is sheer bad taste.

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