The Spectator's Notes

The Spectator’s Notes

18 March 2017

9:00 AM

18 March 2017

9:00 AM

The great achievement of the Scottish Nationalists is to persuade people outside the borders of their own nation — including the London-based media — to equate them with the Scottish people. Obviously, they are their chief elected representatives just now, but the result of the referendum on Scottish independence quite clearly showed that the equation is false. So when Nicola Sturgeon says there has to be another referendum because of Brexit, the equation should be much more firmly challenged. There is no moral reason why the result of a declaredly UK-wide referendum should require another vote in part of the kingdom (next, UDI for London?). Nor is there a constitutional right. There might, of course, be a political reason — that English Tories feel illegitimate on this issue, and so fear a Scottish reaction against high-handedness. It makes more sense, however, to see Ms Sturgeon not as the authentic voice of a whole people, but as an epiphenomenon of Westminster weakness. Her raison d’être and her modus operandi are to embarrass any English-dominated government (i.e. every British government). Yet there is little to be embarrassed about over Brexit, and time and the polls are not on Nicola Sturgeon’s side.

So unionists need to get close to the Scottish people rather than deferring to Ms Sturgeon. When the Vote Leave campaign disbanded after the EU referendum, this column complained and called for a 17.4 Million Committee to be formed to advance the cause. This has, at least in part, happened. The same applies to the Better Together campaign in 2014. It folded after winning, but a version of it — the 2 Million Plus Club? — is needed now.

Charlotte Hogg forgot to tell the Bank of England, of which she had been appointed deputy governor, that her brother Quintin is director of strategy at Barclays bank. She has had to resign. There is something strange about this story. After all, if the Bank of England did not know already that her brother held this position, its knowledge of the banking world it is supposed to supervise must be thin indeed. You can see why Miss Hogg might have assumed that those appointing her knew already, and so have given it no thought, rather as Tony Blair and David Cameron probably never thought to put in the Register of Interests as lawmakers that their brothers are QCs. Quintin Hogg’s job was not a secret, and when two people called Hogg hold senior financial positions, you could guess they might be related and establish the facts in about ten minutes. Perhaps, indeed, the name is the problem. There has long been an atavistic sense that there are too many Hoggs in our public life. There was Quintin (philanthropist), then Douglas (Lord Chancellor), then Quintin (Lord Chancellor), then Douglas (Minister of Agriculture, moat owner), and now Quintin (of Barclays), not to mention Sarah (economist and Hogg by marriage). Poor Charlotte seems to have been the straw that broke the Hogg’s back. It is unlucky that they are called Hogg, with its suggestion of snouts in the trough. If their name had been, say, Murgatroyd, Charlotte would still be in post. Another explanation for Miss Hogg’s punitive treatment may be ‘diversity’. People do not say so, but whenever they think others have got a post because of diversity requirements rather than merit alone, they have it in for them.

Thanks to the persistent FOI inquiries of Hardeep Singh of the Network of Sikh Organisations, I have the breakdown of Islamophobic hate crime across the Metropolitan Police area last year. If you were to ask the Met, they would tell you that 1,227 incidents were recorded in that year, but the breakdown shows that in 57 of these incidents the victim was not contacted, in 86 the religion of the victim was unknown, and 85 of the reported cases were ‘blank’. Odder still, 19 Hindus, 11 atheists, 39 Christians and four Sikhs were victims, as were two Greek Orthodox and two Roman Catholics (note to Met: both those groups are Christian). Even more remarkable, two of the victims of ‘Islamophobic’ hate crimes were Jews. Of the 1,227, only 912 victims of a crime which is exclusively classified as anti-Muslim were Muslim. What to make of this? That morons wanting to upset Muslims cannot even identify their victims accurately? I bet that is quite often the case, though anecdote suggests that anti-Christian attacks — which are not recorded as such — are rising. But it comes back to the thorny question of what counts as a hate crime. As with child abuse claims, this is solemnly recorded as being a crime just because the victim, or anyone else, reports it as such to the police. No corroboration is required. The question then arises, ‘Do these figures have any value at all?’

A Swiss acquaintance writes to complain that the newly revamped café in the National Gallery no longer sells kedgeree. It is always interesting to find out what foreigners like about Britain. As often as not, they treasure things we ourselves deprecate. For example, the English gentleman, though widely mocked in the British Isles, and rare as kedgeree, is about the only sort of human being we produce in this country who is admired virtually everywhere in the world.

This week, we went to the National Film Theatre to see a 1951 French film called Edouard et Caroline. It is an utterly charming, sharp comedy of manners about a penniless young pianist and his newly married bien elevée young wife. I defy anyone not to be beguiled. Yet at one point Edouard slaps Caroline on the face and then, a little later, threatens to rape her. Such scenes in a modern film would move it firmly into the category of ‘dark’ and/or ‘unacceptable’. Yet it just isn’t. How to explain this? It is to do with how genre works, rather as in Kind Hearts and Coronets it is funny rather than horrific that the entire family is murdered.

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