The Spectator's Notes

Sir Kim Darroch failed to recognise Trump’s communicative genius

13 July 2019

9:00 AM

13 July 2019

9:00 AM

When I last talked to Sir Kim Darroch, he was a slim young private secretary, so it was a long time ago; but I can categorically state that President Trump is wrong to call him ‘wacky and a very stupid guy’. His particular sort of mandarin ‘Rolls-Royce mind’ intelligence does, however, amount to a form of stupidity when confronted with Mr Trump. Intellects like Sir Kim’s are slower than those of ordinary mortals to spot Trump’s communicative genius. They cannot see that it keeps him ahead of the game. It is really remarkable that a 73-year-old man can be such a master of forms of social media which did not exist until his sixth and in some cases his seventh decade. The chancelleries of Europe and the mainstream media see the President’s tweeted outbursts or comments shouted beside a helicopter as ill-judged. They falsely equate what they don’t like with what doesn’t work, and therefore they lose. A Trump tweet can be as decisive an expression of power as the Roman emperor’s thumbs-down in the gladiatorial arena. So it has proved.

‘Britain not ready for no-deal crash-out, claim experts.’ That was a newspaper headline I saw a couple of weeks ago. It unconsciously encapsulates the Remain mindset. You cannot, by definition, be ready for a crash-out: if you were, no crash would be involved. It is psychologically very important for some Remainers that no deal must remain as terrifying as possible and nothing must be done to make it less so. Philip Rycroft, another of our supposedly impartial public servants, was, until March, charged with exiting the European Union. On Monday night, he told BBC Panorama that no deal would be ‘a very abrupt change’ (abrupt? haven’t we been working it out for more than three years?) and is ‘fraught with risk’. Of course it is fraught with risk! If it is to have meaning at all, Brexit is a risk because it achieves self-government, thereby overturning existing authority — always a great change in any political order. The American Declaration of Independence was fraught with risk. If the no-deal option (WTO terms) is required for Brexit to be achieved, it is a risk worth taking. Civil servants must, of course, warn: that is part of their job. But if risk is what they are trying at all costs to avoid, then obviously Brexit will never happen. I do not know if Mr Rycroft has deliberately calculated this, or whether it is just that, like poor Theresa May, he has a mind which instinctively shies away from danger when it should be trying to quantify it, manage it and overcome it.


Having overindulged ‘whistleblowers’ as a breed, Labour is hoist with its own rhetorical petard when it tries to gag employees who protest at its anti-Semitism. The truth is that non-disclosure agreements are not always wrong: a great many disputes are best settled by money and silence. There are occasions, however, when they just won’t do. When I was an editor and we worried that we might be sued for breach of confidence over stories based on leaks, I took comfort in the old common-law phrase ‘There is no confidence in iniquity’. Labour’s processes which pretend to investigate anti-Semitism are iniquitous.

Under a photograph of a man with a turban, dark glasses, yellow silk costume and a gilded walking stick, the Times caption on Monday said, ‘on parade: The annual Pride gathering drew a crowd of 1.5 million to its main event in the West End.’ Although I cannot prove my claim, this figure must surely be untrue. One and a half million people is more than three times the entire population of the city of Liverpool. It is a vast number. Behind such figures is the strange fact that no one ever properly counts crowds. As I have mentioned before, the Metropolitan Police have given up making their own estimates of crowd numbers, and have a policy of accepting whatever number the organisers declare. So it is greatly in the interests of all such to inflate them. Then they can deploy the numbers rhetorically to big up the cause and attract public money. In any other numerical field, the media would make at least some attempt to check but, with crowd numbers, we just print what we’re told. As a result, we are told bigger whoppers every year. If I were running Pride, I’d claim six million attendees next year and see if anyone dared challenge me.

Matthew Parris was so right in his column last week to question the concept of ‘re-wilding’. Like him, I find some of the results — including those I saw in their early stages at Knepp Castle — beautiful and interesting, and want to learn more, but re-wilding a landscape is just as much a human endeavour as is ‘taming’ it. It is a mere Romantic fancy, like putting pretend hermits in custom-built grottoes, to suppose that what is re-wilded is more real or simple than what is conventionally cultivated. The additional point, which Matthew did not make, is that re-wilding is a symptom and a display of wealth. It is very striking that many of the great reclamations for wilderness of large tracts of land in South America, the Scottish Highlands, Africa etc. are accomplished by vast fortunes made from heavy industry or modern consumerism or the money that can be made out of money itself. Wealth used in this way may bring great benefit — beauty, better care for plants or animals, more nourishing ways of treating the land, even, in some cases, more jobs for the tourist industries that grow up round these schemes — but it is a serious mistake not to recognise that such ventures would not happen without the immense prosperity of our urban, industrial, energy-consuming civilisation. Re-wilders are like children who play thrilling games of cowboys and Indians but then go home to a secure house with electric light, mains drainage and good broadband connection. Nothing wrong with that at all, but re-wilding should be seen as a lovely game, not as the future of a planet which will soon contain eight billion people.

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