‘Scoutcraft,’ Robert Baden-Powell said, ‘is a means through which the veriest hooligan can be brought to ... God.’ It was in a similar spirit that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week gave £5 million to uniformed youth groups to create 5500 extra places in deprived areas across England. It won’t offset the projected £2 billion shortfall in children’s services by 2020. But the minister for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch, says the money will equip ‘vulnerable young people’ with the ‘friendships’ and ‘important life skills’ they need to ‘reach their full potential’.
After eighteen months of memoir-writing in his £25,000 shepherd’s hut, interrupted now and then by lucrative international speaking engagements on the implications of the political mess that he made, David Cameron yesterday returned to a British podium for the first time since the morning of 24 June 2016 to attack three easy targets: Trump, Putin and Fifa. In a lecture to Transparency International, he looked ahead to next year’s World Cup in Russia, and back to the bidding process that took place in 2010. ‘President Putin actually boycotted the whole thing because he said it was riddled with corruption,’ the Guardianreports Cameron as having said. ‘He was right – it was.’
On 19 June, shortly before the EU referendum, David Cameron tweeted that 'Britain isn't a quitter.' Outside 10 Downing Street three days later, he reaffirmed that 'Brits don't quit.' The next day, Britain voted to quit the EU. During the campaign, he had let it be known that if it did, he would remain prime minister – before quitting on the morrow of the referendum. In his resignation speech he vowed to stay on until the autumn, to 'steady the ship' for his successor. When he was elbowed aside within a fortnight, he vowed not to quit as MP for Witney. Now he's quit at that, too.
As we know from William Hague’s career-trouncing baseball cap boo-boo, a Conservative leader has to be very careful what he puts on his head. Lord Ashcroft’s allegation, serialised in the Daily Mail and denied by the Tory party, that as part of David Cameron’s initiation into the Piers Gaveston Society, the future prime minister got it on with a dead pig, testifies maybe to a youthful lack of judgment, or perhaps simply to a dearth of sexual partners in Oxford in the 1980s. Whatever the reason, and regardless of the facts of the matter, the vision rears up of Dave tuxed and red-cheeked, breeches at half-mast and a bristly ear in each fist, pounding the snout with his symphysis.
The Queen’s Speech has all the pomposity and solemnity of a panto you’re not allowed to laugh at. This bowdlerises its political content, grimly apparent were it delivered by a nerd in a lounge suit. Elizabeth lumbers in, glazed and jowly, with the familiar cast of attendant lords, including her husband, her heir and her heir’s duchess, who’s kitted out with a purple sash that could be left over from the Ukip election campaign. As ever the queen herself looks as if her breakfast porridge had too much mogadon in it. Since she always reads her script as if she were reciting the E numbers on a packet of jelly, it’s anyone’s guess what, if anything, she thinks about it. The custodian of the speech is a nerd usually seen in a lounge suit, Michael Gove, who from journeyman beginnings as a Times hack and a Commons expenses home-flipper, has now hit it big as lord chancellor. Yesterday he got to try out his new 18th-century chancellorial garb.
Political party gatherings in the UK are no longer conferences, but telly-fodder rallies. The members show up, apparently of their own volition, and sit there like mannequins, a studio audience tasked to chortle, applaud, boo, pout concern and ovate on cue. As it’s going out in real time, it has to be got right in the first take. Even Triumph of the Will had to fake up some sequences in post-production. In a banner over the entrance to Birmingham's Symphony Hall, and plastered across the lectern, was the legend ‘Britain Can Deliver’. When and why did this intransitive, wholly generic use of deliver catch on, as if the UK were a nation of milkmen or obstetricians? Whether delivery is welcome rather depends on what’s being delivered. One can imagine a Tory conference anno 1770 under the strapline ‘Britain: Delivering Slavery throughout the Empire’. In his speech David Cameron had the gall to puff the fact that Britain had ‘led the world’ in abolishing slavery, having practised it with gusto for 150-odd years beforehand, and tossing in the towel only after losing the American colonies.
Four hundred up for the King James Bible and David Cameron has this to say: Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France. Why? Because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths too. And because many of the values of a Christian country are shared by people of all faiths and indeed by people of no faith at all. The French say bad things about our economy. We respond that we’re not the sort to sneer at people for their religion or tell them what they shouldn’t wear. Ours is a big tent full of believers and unbelievers, with an altar at the far end, the bailiffs at the entrance and Group 4 Security on the perimeter. Theirs is a profane republic, with an army of sapeurs-pompiers hosing down the bright flame of multiculturalism wherever it appears.