Over two decades, the self-help organisation NXIVM recruited more than 16,000 members to its various training programmes with promises of empowerment and ‘self-actualisation’. It was based in Albany, New York, but its reach stretched across the United States and beyond. At the centre of it all was Keith Raniere, a self-proclaimed ‘genius’ and Ayn Rand acolyte who was convicted last week of crimes including racketeering, child pornography, forced labour and sex trafficking.
In the end it was never even close. Ekrem İmamoğlu was elected mayor of Istanbul yesterday for the second time in three months, taking 54 per cent of the vote, more than double the share of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he ascended to the post in 1994.
President Erdoğan, once such an astute political operator, should have sensed early that rerunning the March election was a mistake. After winning a spirited first campaign, and bringing political fresh air to Istanbul for the fortnight he was in office in April, İmamoğlu’s movement only grew as the second ballot approached. His unapologetically upbeat campaign slogan, ‘Herşey çok güzel olacak’ (‘Everything will be OK’), was popular beyond the metropolis. It was reported that people mistakenly showed up to vote as far afield as Diyarbakır, a predominantly Kurdish city in the south-east.
In April, I asked Denise Riley if I could put her name forward as a possible Oxford Professor of Poetry. To my delight, she agreed; not because she wanted to win, or believed she would (we soon learned that Alice Oswald was in the running), but because, despite her strong reservations about the culture of literary competition, she thought that it would be good to present a field of female candidates. But Riley’s name did not appear on the ballot. Like several other potential candidates, Riley turned out to be ineligible because of her age.
Fear of a Corbyn government stalks the Tory leadership race. Each candidate has claimed he alone possesses the necessary quality to defeat the red menace: Gove points to his gyrating denunciations at the despatch box; Johnson’s proxies emphasise his anti-politician charisma. The closer a candidate comes to elimination, the more obvious the recourse to fear and the more outlandish the claims made in its service: Sajid Javid, now out of the race, said on Monday that a Corbyn government would put Tories and journalists ‘against the wall’. There is some strategic wisdom to this, since a recent YouGov poll suggests that Corbynphobia is the only animating passion equal to Brexitphilia among Tory party members.
Turning Point UK was launched a few months ago in order to defend (or so it claimed) Conservative students who find themselves isolated or intimidated by the left’s alleged takeover of universities across the country. The group is led by George Farmer, a 29-year-old ex-Bullingdon man, and counts in its ranks the Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes, who has been fined for breaking electoral law. They are holding a fundraising dinner tonight, where the guests of honour will be Nigel Farage and Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA. (The American organisation maintains a ‘watchlist’ of academics who ‘advance a radical agenda in lecture halls’. Several of the people on the list have received death threats.)
Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi collapsed and died yesterday in the glass-enclosed dock of a jailhouse courtroom. No images have been published of his final moments: the authorities confiscated the cameras of everyone present. Morsi had spent years in the Scorpion wing of Cairo’s Tora prison, often in solitary confinement. He was denied medical treatment for long-term illnesses. His family say he was subject to a programme of medical negligence. They have not yet seen his body. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for an investigation but there is no chance of that.
Ghazouani travelled by presidential jet to Bir Moghrein’s airstrip, outside town; most of the time you wouldn’t know it was there, if it weren’t for a set of aircraft steps standing alone in the desert. Bir Moghrein is ‘only Mauritanian depending on the mood of the guard that day’, a European photojournalist who has worked there told me. Most of the cars in town have licence plates from the neighbouring Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. At the moment, though, conversation there is as much about the election as it is about the WhatsApp group for finding lost camels.