I wake up every day to the sound of an argument. This time it’s James Naughtie pressing a shadow minister to declare his position on the prospect of a Corbyn win in the Labour Party leadership contest. The Today programme’s combative exchanges are all too familiar. The politician says no more than his notes allow; the interviewer attempts to expose his subject’s hypocrisy or ignorance. If the politician is guilty of selective hearing, driven by the soundbite and haunted by the Whip, then political interviewers don't fare much better: irascible, heavy-handed, hectoring. It’s a game where each player depends on the other for his own performance. But for all its frustrations there’s no denying that such rhetorical sparring draws a crowd. Konrad Lorenz, the Nobel Prize-winner and zoologist, once told a story about taking his French bulldog, Bully, for his daily walk. They would pass by the long and narrow garden of a neighbouring house, where a white Spitz lived.
At Crufts last week, as a five-year-old Scottish Terrier called Knopa (who competes under the name ‘McVan’s to Russia with Love’) was being awarded Best in Show, a protester stormed the floor holding a sign that read ‘Mutts against Crufts’, before being dragged off by security staff. PETA explained that the protest was against the practice of pedigree breeding, which leads to chronic health problems in purebred dogs as well as the neglect of mixed-breed dogs. (The BBC dropped its coverage of Crufts in 2008 after the Kennel Club refused to exclude from the competition some breeds particularly at risk because of generations of inbreeding.)