“The English the English the English are best, I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest”. It seems that the spirit of Flanders and Swann's 'Song of Patriotic Prejudice' took possession of David Cameron during the G20 meeting in St Petersburg last week. It is a pity he was not capable of sharing its tongue-in-cheek take on national braggadocio.
'What canst thou say?' Syria, cliche and creative non-violence
The World Council of Churches, the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Quakers in Britain and senior figures in the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have all spoken out in either condemnation or warning against military strikes on Syria.
Sniping at the holiday choices of politicians is a fixture of the Silly Season. Whatever they do, they lose. They are either self-indulgent and free-loading (Tony Blair) or grimly and self-consciously puritanical (Gordon Brown).
Wise monkeys or vicious beasts? Abuse, cruelty and free speech
Our animal natures are in a constant state of tension between the personal and the communal. We have instincts which drive us to gratify ourselves, to dominate for food, status and mates. And then we have the pull towards the good of the tribe, pack or troop and the protection and support it offers.
At the end of this month (July 2013), a small change will take place which will make not the tiniest ripple in the political fabric of our country. In fact, it will go completely unnoticed beyond my family and immediate circle of friends. That it represents a significant change in my life, is in that sense, neither here nor there.
Posh boys or bad governance? Invective versus dialogue
“Two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk” Nadine Dorries' opinion of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor gave every appearance of welling up from a deep reservoir of personal peeve. But last week, a Conservative MP expressed an almost identical opinion to me.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said reports that GCHQ are gathering intelligence from phones and online sites should not concern people who have nothing to hide. Hague's refusal – on security grounds of course – to either confirm or deny the UK's links with the US Prism secret surveillance programme is a source of further disquiet.
The sacrament of the teapot: resolving conflict in York
“I'll get you a nice cup of tea.” There can be few people in these islands – particularly in England – who have not heard these words at a time of distress. In shock or bereavement many of us will have smiled through our tears at being gently offered the national sacrament of solidarity.