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The Sunday Times UK - 17 December 2017

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December 17, 2017 · Issue no 10,084·
£2.70 · only £2 to subscribers · Sunday Newspaper of the Year
Boris: Brexit
mustn’t leave us
a ‘vassal state’
— Let me off
the hook in
a British jail
Dipesh Gadher
The notorious hook-handed hate
preacher Abu Hamza has had
enough of the tough conditions in
an American “supermax” prison
and yearns to return to the comparative comforts of a British jail to
serve out his life sentence for
terrorism offences.
Lawyers for the former cleric of
the Finsbury Park mosque in north
London argue that he is suffering
“inhuman and degrading” treatment in solitary confinement at the
ADX Florence prison in Colorado.
Court papers seen by The
Sunday Times claim that when Abu
Hamza was held at Belmarsh
maximum security jail in southeast
London as he fought extradition,
he was allowed to mix with other
inmates, was tended to daily by a
healthcare aide and was visited by
a nurse or doctor up to five times
a week.
In America he is allowed only
“one hour per day of recreation
time”, but even then is confined to
a “cage” no bigger than his cell.
The preacher, who is blind in
one eye, complains that he is virtually starved of human contact and
has no help with his disabilities.
His lawyers say he would be willing
to return to Britain “in a second”.
Warning to May on EU deal breaks cabinet truce
Tim Shipman
Political Editor
Boris Johnson has called on Theresa May to strike a Brexit trade deal
that gives Britain the power to
ditch EU laws, warning that failure
to do so would render the UK a
“vassal state” of Brussels.
In an interview with The Sunday
Times, the foreign secretary said
the government must seek to
“maximise the benefits of Brexit”
and failure to get an agreement
that allowed divergence would
mean the UK could not do “proper
free trade deals” with other countries. In a move that will create
nervousness in Downing Street,
Johnson announced that he was
planning a fresh intervention this
week, penning the case for a “liberal Brexit” because the advantages of leaving have not been properly outlined for the public.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, sparked fresh tensions yesterday when he said the government
would “effectively replicate the
current status quo” in the two
years after Brexit, an approach the
former Brexit minister David Jones
branded “capitulation”. Members
of May’s Brexit “war cabinet” will
meet tomorrow and the full cabinet on Tuesday to discuss what
demands Britain will make when
trade talks begin next year.
Johnson rounded on hardcore
Eurosceptics who have called for
the deselection of 11 Conservative
MPs who helped defeat the government last week. He said it was
“absolutely obscene” that the MPs
had received death threats after
backing a meaningful parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal.
“These are honourable people,” he
said. “They are voting with their
The foreign secretary said the
prime minister had “done a fantastic job” in the first phase of the
negotiations but the government
now had to seek a “new and ambitious” trade deal that “gives us that
important freedom to decide our
own regulatory framework, our
own laws and do things in a distinctive way”.
Johnson said that if Britain were
simply forced to mirror EU laws,
even remain supporters he knows
“would say, ‘What is the point of
what you have achieved?’ because
we would have gone from a member state to a vassal state”. His
words echo those of the backbench
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
May’s “war cabinet” is divided
between Johnson’s “divergers” —
big hitters David Davis, the Brexit
secretary, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and the
defence secretary Gavin Williamson — and Hammond’s “aligners”,
who include Amber Rudd, the
home secretary, and the business
secretary Greg Clark. But Johnson
claimed that even Hammond
would support some divergence
from EU rules because it would let
the government make the UK a
more attractive place for tech
“It was very notable in the budget speech that the chancellor
majored on the idea of future regulatory divergence,” Johnson said.
“Philip can see that we have a very
original economy . . . we may in
future wish to regulate it in a different way from the way that Brussels
Gove and other ministers will
use tomorrow’s meeting to call for
Britain to abandon the EU working
time directive, which restricts the
working week to 48 hours.
Heidi Allen, one of the 11 rebels,
has been summoned to a meeting
of the Tory executive in her South
Cambridgeshire seat. Sources said
her local party chairman, Ben
Shelton, wants her removed as the
party’s candidate at the next election. A source said: “Ben is apoplectic and is ordering her to
explain herself. He has said there is
no way she will be readopted.”
Shelton did not return calls seeking comment.
I hiked student loans; now slash them
Nicholas Hellen
Social Affairs Editor
The architect of £9,000 university
tuition fees says the government
must slash loan repayments for
graduates if it wants the controversial system to survive.
David Willetts, who oversaw the
tripling of fees as universities minister in the coalition government,
is to urge an imminent government
review to scrap a 3%-above-inflation charge on repayments.
This levy adds around £3,000 to
student debt on graduation — and
£13,000 to the average debt of
graduates by the age of 40.
Lord Willetts’s intervention is an
admission that the high interest
rates are so unfair they threaten
the survival of the system.
He said: “For the greater good of
preserving a viable graduate
repayment system that is politically acceptable, the extra 3% on
the interest rate should be
dropped. It was done to collect
more money from affluent graduates but there are limits to that.”
Dropping the 3% levy would cost
the government £1.3bn.
Lord Adonis, who as an education minister under Tony Blair
introduced the principle of tuition
fees, said: “With an interest rate at
6.1%, richer parents will pay off the
loans for their kids whereas poorer
students don’t have that luxury.”
He also wants the government to
cut fees to £3,000 a year.
Currently, students are charged
interest according to a formula of
RPI + 3% until the April after graduation. The rate then reverts to
RPI, with graduates making payments only once they earn more
Continued on page 2 →
Abu Hamza desperate to be
in UK jail, page 7
Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo, who won the reality TV series I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! last week,
says she fancies helping the Tories — and Jacob Rees-Mogg Report, page 9
Green may face second sex inquiry
Tom Harper and
Jon Ungoed-Thomas
Damian Green faces the prospect
of a second inquiry into claims of
sexual misconduct at Westminster.
Alleged victims of Theresa
May’s closest ally have been urged
to contact Kathryn Hudson, the
parliamentary commissioner for
standards, who is expected to
be announced this week as the
new arbiter of sexual allegations
against MPs.
The Sunday Times understands
that Hudson’s role will be
expanded following weeks of
cross-party talks led by Andrea
Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, in an attempt to deal with
the misconduct scandal that has
swept Westminster.
This weekend there were calls
for Green to be referred to Hudson
almost seven weeks after Sue Gray
launched a Cabinet Office inquiry
into his conduct.
Gray, who is director-general of
the propriety and ethics team, has
been investigating the first secretary of state over allegations of
Continued on page 2 →
TV & Radio
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The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
In your Sunday Newspaper of the Year
Judith Flanders reveals the true
origins of our celebrations
Isabel Hardman uses cycling
and her house plants to help
keep depression at bay
After suffering a bad fall,
Lynn Barber’s thoughts turned
to mortality. Now she wants the
freedom to choose how she dies
Jill Insley
has won
for our readers
this year
Ten apartments, a cryotherapy
spa, an art gallery and 24-hour
room service. Who said
d it’s
it s
grim up north?
We’ve got the perfect festive
presents for your dogs and
nd cats
Aaron “Westt
Wing” Sorkin’s
directing debut
is the true story
of a woman
who ran A-list
poker nights
Magazine podcast:
or subscribe on iTunes
If your paper is incomplete we will send you the missing
section(s) subject to availability. Telephone 020 7711 1521 or
email your details to:
with Missing in the subject.
DEC 16
DEC 16
DEC 15
22, 25, 35, 45, 46, 57
Bonus 14
2, 11, 14, 21, 34
Thunderball 14
25, 30, 31, 42, 50
Lucky Stars 2, 11
NO 10
Tommy Stubbington
and Jon Ungoed-Thomas
From chic tented lodges to hip
poshtels, Susan
d’Arcy picks
the new
year’s most
The former prime
minister is to lead a new
investment venture
promoting business in
Britain and China
Refresh your office
wardrobe with
relaxed tailoring
and a pop of colour
Damien Hirst on booze, drugs
and how money spoilt his art
Cameron to head
£750m trade fund
David Cameron has accepted his first big
job since leaving Downing Street, heading a £750m fund to forge new links
between China and its trading partners.
Cameron, who helped foster a “golden
era” in UK-China trade relations while in
office, is expected to work two or three
days a month at the fund. It is supported
by the British government but will not
receive any cash from British taxpayers.
The UK-China investment fund will
operate on a commercial basis, investing
in innovative business ventures in China,
Britain and other countries.
The new fund is expected to be registered in Ireland, which has been chosen
as a location by some of the world’s biggest corporations — including Apple and
Microsoft — for tax reasons. The fund will
have offices in London and Beijing.
The registration will raise eyebrows
since Cameron once spearheaded a
crackdown on overseas tax havens. Last
year he had to admit that he had benefited from a Panama-based offshore trust
set up by his late father. A spokesman
for Cameron said Ireland was not being
chosen for tax reasons.
Lord Chadlington, a Tory peer and
close friend of Cameron, is also involved
and helped to bring the former prime
minister to the London-based role.
The advisory committee on business
appointments (Acoba), which vets jobs
taken by former ministers, has approved
Cameron’s new role.
The former prime minister has kept a
low profile since leaving office in July
2016, mostly taking unpaid roles, including becoming president of Alzheimer’s
Research UK and an advisory role at the
Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
He has accepted speaking engagements — for which he is reportedly paid
up to £120,000 an hour — and a reputed
£800,000 advance for his autobiography, due to be published next year.
Paul Flynn, the Labour MP, has highlighted the “revolving door” between
Cameron’s speaking fees
are reported to be up to
£120,000 an hour. He has
joined the Washington
Speakers Bureau, where he
is described as “one of the
most prominent global
influencers of the early 21st
He has signed a deal for his
memoirs with a reputed
advance of £800,000.
As well as his new role with
the UK-China investment
fund, he has an advisory
role with First Data, a US
electronic payment
company, and a number of
voluntary positions, such as
at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Cameron relaxes
with his
shepherd’s hut,
depicted on his
Chrismas card,
below. Right,
with Xi Jinping
He owns homes in London
and Oxfordshire (including
a £25,000 shepherd’s hut)
and recently bought
another in Cornwall.
government and the private sector. He
said: “The revolving door has spun out of
control with no restrictions at all on
ex-ministers cashing in on contacts they
have made while in office.”
Cameron has some way to go to match
Tony Blair, who racked up huge earnings
through his consultancy after leaving
office. Between 2010 and 2016 Blair’s
main company, Windrush Ventures, had
revenues of almost £100m.
In office Cameron carefully courted
the Chinese state. In 2015 he enjoyed a
pint of Greene King IPA with President Xi
Jinping at a pub near Chequers.
A spokesman for Cameron said:
“David Cameron remains very proud of
his work as prime minister launching the
‘golden era’ between the UK and China.
“In an effort to build on that work out
of office, he wishes to play a role in a
new UK-China bilateral investment fund
that will invest in innovative and sustainable growth opportunities in the UK
and China.”
The government has backed the fund,
which was among a number of new
agreements announced yesterday during
a two-day trip to Beijing by Philip
Hammond, the chancellor.
Planning corruption ‘endemic’ in UK
A former senior policy
adviser to the prime minister,
Rohan Silva, has claimed
that planning corruption is
“endemic” in councils
across Britain.
His comments follow
last week’s revelations in
The Sunday Times that a
businessman with close ties
to Labour had been secretly
taped demanding a £2m bribe
from property developers
allegedly on behalf of the
party’s politicians.
Writing in News Review
this weekend, Silva argues
that the planning authorities
have been given too much
power to make decisions that
could dramatically affect the
value of properties and
He writes: “Given that
the value of a property can
increase by tens — or even
hundreds — of millions of
pounds depending on what
the planners decide, the
incentive for corruption
among low-paid officials and
councillors is overwhelming.”
Silva adds: “The
depressing truth is that
corruption is endemic in
Britain’s bureaucratic
planning system. In every
corner of the country, you
can find stories of bribery,
with local councillors and
officials rigging the planning
process for their own gain.
“The corruption is
systemic, and it’s caused by
the inadequacy of Britain’s
property rights.”
Silva, who advised both
David Cameron and George
Osborne when they were in
office, was the brains behind
the government’s Tech City
UK initiative in east London.
The programme aims to
boost the technology sector
by giving support to start-ups
and young companies.
He believes Britain should
adopt a system similar to
the one in America where
properties are purchased
with existing rights that allow
the owner to build and
develop without planning
permission as long they keep
within certain limits.
Last week The Sunday
Times released extracts from
a leaked tape recording in
which Abdul Shukur “Shuks”
Khalisadar, a 38-year-old
entrepreneur with ties to
Labour, talked openly
about how he sought a bribe
from developers seeking to
build one of Britain’s tallest
skyscrapers in east London.
Khalisadar claimed the
cash would be split between
four Labour politicians on
Tower Hamlets council who
had influence over planning
Rather than pay the bribe,
the developers reported the
approach to the council’s
mayor. The National Crime
Agency is investigating.
Bricks, bribery and mortar,
News Review, page 29
Children may get lessons on sexting
Sian Griffiths
Education Editor
Primary school children
could be offered lessons on
“sexting”; being lesbian,
gay, bisexual or transgender;
and domestic violence and
sexual harassment under
government plans to be
published this week.
The controversial
Department for Education
proposals will be published
→ Continued from page 1
sexual misconduct and
claims that he watched vast
amounts of pornography on
his parliamentary computers.
Green has denied the claims.
Jess Phillips, a senior
Labour MP, urged
complainants to use the new
system. “The Cabinet Office
investigating itself is akin to
people marking their own
homework,” she said.
“I would encourage
victims of members of
on Tuesday. They follow new
legislation, unveiled earlier
this year, that will make sex
and relationship education
compulsory in all schools.
The aim is to offer children
lessons that prepare them for
the modern world.
Parents, teachers, students
and faith groups will be
invited to give their views on
the new lesson content in a
two-month consultation.
Faith schools are likely to
object to teaching some of
the issues being proposed.
Critics say that parents,
rather than schools,
should be responsible for
teaching children about
sexuality and personal
However, an MPs report
recently discovered an
epidemic of sexual
harassment in schools, while
police have warned that
sexting — sending naked
photos by mobile phone — is
commonplace among young
people despite it being a
criminal offence to exchange
indecent images
The consultation will
be headed by Ian Bauckham,
the head teacher of a Church
of England school, and is
expected to emphasise
the importance of
age-appropriate lessons.
parliament to use this new
system, because it is the only
system that has a degree of
independence through
Kathryn Hudson.”
Green’s immediate
ministerial future rests on
the Cabinet Office findings
which, after repeated delays,
may not be delivered before
While the prime minister is
known to be desperate to
save her old Oxford
University friend, senior
Downing Street officials
including Gavin Barwell, her
chief of staff, are understood
to believe he should go.
Bernard Jenkin, a senior
Tory MP and chairman of the
public administration and
constitutional affairs
committee, said complaints
about breaches of the
ministerial code should be
investigated independently of
Cabinet Office civil servants.
l Alex Rowley, deputy
leader of the Scottish Labour
Party, announced yesterday
that he would not resume the
role after being suspended
last month over claims that
he sent abusive text messages
to a former partner.
l A senior employee at the
international investment
bank Goldman Sachs has
been sacked for groping a
colleague, who complained.
The bank said it had “fully
investigated” the matter
before sacking the man.
Additional reporting:
Sabah Meddings
‘Scrap levy
on tuition’
→ Continued from page 1
than £25,000. However, if
they earn more than £45,000
they are charged the extra 3%
— so two students with the
same degree can end up
repaying different amounts.
Julie Scholefield, 20, who
began her biochemistry
degree at Manchester
University in 2015, said she
had borrowed £25,000 but
interest charges had already
added £2,148 to her debt.
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Have a glass of
Grandad! Plan
to flush dead
down the drain
A West Midlands council wants to pioneer ‘water cremation’,
using a machine to liquefy corpses, but it faces opposition
David Collins
Northern Correspondent
It may not be what you expect to happen
to a body, but a West Midlands council
wants a crematorium to be able to dispose of the dead by using a technique
called water cremation.
It involves placing the corpse in a
torpedo-like metal chamber where it is
liquefied and then flushed down the
drain. The prospect of this happening to
your loved one has been delayed, however, after coming up against obstacles
from Severn Trent.
The water company has refused to give
a “trade effluent” permit to Sandwell
metropolitan borough council, near
Birmingham, arguing that dissolved bodies are not covered. The permit covers
only waste disposal.
Despite the setback, the council still
hopes to become a trailblazer in the
technique, which is already carried out in
parts of America and Canada.
It is said to be more environmentally
friendly than traditional cremation,
using less energy while producing fewer
greenhouse gases.
Sandwell has given planning permission for the crematorium, Rowley Regis,
to fit the £300,000 device, known as a
Resomator. The machine turns corpses
into softened bone and a tea-coloured
liquid in just over three hours. The bone
is ground to powder and given to the
family in an urn, while the liquid is
flushed away.
The crematorium, which is owned by
the council, needs the Severn Trent
licence before it can dispose of waste
down the drains, which amounts to
about 330 gallons (1,500 litres) per dead
Sandy Sullivan says bodies dissolve
naturally: his company, Resomation,
simply speeds up the process
body. Sandwell council is working with
Resomation, which provides the service,
and Water UK, the industry trade body, to
“explore all the options”.
Resomation’s founder, Sandy Sullivan,
61, said “dozens” of crematoria around
the UK were interested in installing his
machine. The Resomators are built by
engineers in a workshop in West Yorkshire. So far Sullivan says he has sold four
machines to America where they are
operating in Florida, Minnesota and
California and, shortly, in Chicago.
The Anderson McQueen funeral home
in Florida advertises the service online as
the “new flameless cremation option”,
which gives the freedom to “honour your
loved one in a way that’s right for you”.
Lynn Moshier, who features on the
Anderson McQueen website, said: “I got
so interested in it, as did my 96-year-old
mother, that I decided that’s what I
wanted and that’s what she wants also . . .
It’s good for the environment.”
Sullivan, a biochemist, said he hoped
Rowley Regis would be able to overcome
the hurdles and operation will begin
“around late spring”.
He said: “There is no technical reason
why the liquid can’t go down the drain. It
is a very treatable organic liquid. It is
sterile and there is no DNA in it.
“We are copying nature. The body
dissolves by soil bacteria and it is a very
long process. All we are doing is taking
the exact same chemistry and applying
heat, which speeds it up. This is a third
option, other than cremation and burial.
“Resoma in Latin means ‘rebirth of the
human body’. When I die, this is the way
that I want to go.”
The Sunday Times understands there
is no legal or technical basis for Severn
It’s pricy up north: Harrogate’s £12m flats
Alexandra Goss
and David Collins
The madness that is London
house prices appears to be
heading north after the sale
of two flats in Harrogate, each
for more than £12m.
For a sum that could buy
you an entire village in some
of the cheaper corners of
Britain, the owner will get a
four-bedroom penthouse in
a new development in North
Yorkshire’s well-heeled spa
There will be 10 exclusive
homes in the Crescent
Gardens development with
prices starting at £2.5m for a
1,800 sq ft two-bedroom flat.
Even though the
development will not be
completed until 2020, half of
the flats have already been
reserved with two of the
penthouses selling “off plan”
for more than £12m.
For London, where a home
selling for £1m or more is
nothing remarkable (to the
exasperation of those who
would like a place to live), this
would not make headlines. In
Harrogate, however, it is by
far the highest price yet paid
for a property.
There have been only six
residential sales in or near
Harrogate of more than £2m
recorded by Land Registry.
One of the biggest sales
occurred in 2006 when
Gareth Southgate, now the
England football manager,
bought a grade I-listed
country pile for £3.25m.
By comparison, an hour’s
drive down the road in
Clayton, a district of
Bradford, the average price
of a flat is listed on the Zoopla
website as £74,500. Which
means the owners of the two
Harrogate penthouses could
each have bought 161 flats.
Asked last week about the
sale, one resident said:
“Blimey, £12m for a flat? For
that price I’d expect the Mona
Lisa hanging in the lobby.”
Ruth Fisher, owner of
Blamey’s Florist of Harrogate,
said: “If you have it to spend
then why not spend it in
Harrogate — where 99% of the
people are lovely. Some are as
nutty as a box of frogs, mind
Damien Hirst says
no to ‘uncool’ CBE
Roya Nikkhah
Royal Correspondent
The artist Damien Hirst has
revealed that he turned down
an honour because he thinks
it is “a bit uncool”.
In an interview in today’s
Sunday Times Magazine,
Hirst says he was offered
a CBE but does not really
like “that stuff”, adding: “I
got where I was going by
myself. The letters after your
name thing just feels a bit
He also speaks of being
“horrified” by Brexit. “It
[Europe] is about freedom,
flexibility, being able to
travel. I feel sad that my
children won’t have that kind
of access and sad we would
limit our options in that way.
It doesn’t make any sense.
But it’s not really the people
of Britain, is it? To choose
something as small-minded
as that. A lot of young people
didn’t vote.”
Hirst, 52, who has sons
Connor, 22, Cassius, 17, and
Cyrus, 12, with his former
partner, moved from Devon
to London to be their main
carer but gets more help than
most parents with the daily
chores. “I’ve a nanny and a
teacher to do their homework
with them,” he says.
His latest exhibition,
Treasures from the Wreck of
the Unbelievable, has so far
earned him £250m.
Damien Hirst interview,
Magazine, pages 8-13
FOR £12M
161 flats in Clayton, Bradford,
where the average cost of a flat
is £74,500
Bought last year for almost
£10m, Kinnaird Estate in
Perthshire has more than 6,200
acres of land, an eight-bedroom
Victorian house, a number of
holiday homes and plenty of
shooting, stalking and fishing.
You'd still have £2m
to spend on a pied a terre
in Edinburgh
you. We’ve always been
known as the posh bit of
The scheme is the
brainchild of Adam Thorpe,
a developer who has
completed 200 residential
projects in the area. Some
other things about the
development will be unusual,
such as offering cryotherapy
in its spa.
This is a treatment where
you stand in a chamber
cooled to anything from -80C
to -160C for a few minutes. It
is claimed the temperature
will invigorate your body and
kick-start your immune and
central nervous system.
“The buyers [of the new
flats] are successful,
international individuals
who might have a Yorkshire
connection,” Thorpe said.
Home, pages 10-11
Faringdon House, Oxfordshire,
which had a guide price of
£11.5m, has just been sold. It
includes 12 bedrooms and two
three-bedroom cottages set
in 225 acres of parkland
Sources: Zoopla and Savills
Analysis: the £12m flats
Read from midday at
or our phone app
A worried dad’s ideal
gift — DNA testing kit
Jonathan Leake
Science Editor
It could be the most macabre
of gifts: Christmas, a day that
commemorates a virgin birth,
has seen surging sales of DNA
testing kits designed to check
paternity and ancestry, or to
tell you how you might die.
Amazon’s “last minute
Christmas deals” include a
range of paternity testing kits
allowing men worried about
whether a child is theirs to
find out, for as little as £42.
Perhaps the biggest “gene
test for Christmas”
promotion is by 23andMe, a
US firm whose £149 test for
ancestry and health risks has
a £20 festive discount.
Kathy Hibbs, the firm’s
regulatory officer, said the
test would tell people if they
had genes putting them at
risk of up to 10 deadly
diseases. The cheapness of
such tests show how far
genetics has come since the
human genome was decoded
17 years ago.
Last week, however,
delegates at a conference
on genomic medicine in
London expressed concern at
using Christmas to promote
such tests.
“If people don’t
understand what is medically
important they will ask their
GP and the GP may go to a
specialist . . . the burden it
puts on the NHS could divert
resources from those in
greater need,” said Philippa
Brice of the PHG Foundation,
a genomics think tank.
Body is loaded into a
Resomator machine,
which calculates the
amount of water and
potassium hydroxide
This alkaline solution fills
the pressurised tank and
is heated to 152C. It
dissolves flesh and tissue
after three hours. The
remaining liquid is cooled
into a separate tank and
drained before bones,
teeth and foreign objects
are rinsed at 120C and
The liquid’s pH level is
tested. Once approved, it
is emptied as waste down
the drain and makes its
way into the water
Ab Fab’s Edina would have avoided grave embarrassment by liquefying her father’s body
Trent to have refused the licence other
than that it might be regarded as “distasteful”. Sewage water in the UK is
treated before being released back into
rivers and into the water supply.
Sources at Water UK, which represents
water suppliers, have concerns that the
public may not accept the technique because of the way the bodies are disposed
of. “We are not convinced and believe the
technology needs to be explored in much
greater depth,” said a Water UK source.
“This is an absolute first in the UK. We
have serious concerns about the public
acceptability of this. It is the liquefied
remains of the dead going into the water
system. We don’t think the public will like
the idea.”
Water companies are waiting for the
Ministry of Justice and the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
to issue guidance on the matter.
Sandwell council said: “The funeral
industry is evolving and modernising and
we want to offer people more choice.
Water cremation is the next phase in this
evolution and would give people a more
environmentally friendly option.”
Editorial, page 22
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Activists want free sex-change hormones for children
Andrew Gilligan
A taxpayer-funded
transgender lobby group that
has trained hundreds of NHS
staff is demanding the
abolition of legal gender for
everyone in the country as
well as an end to birth
certificates and for sexchange hormones to be given
free on demand to children.
Action for Trans Health
(ATH) and its director, Jess
Bradley, were central to the
recent parliamentary inquiry
that recommended
controversial reforms —
which the government will
soon consult on — allowing
transgender people to change
sex on demand.
Bradley, who gave oral
evidence to the inquiry, and
her group were cited seven
times in the MPs’ report,
which adopted several of
ATH’s recommendations and
claims. The group’s views are
significantly more radical,
however, than those that
were expressed to the MPs.
Bradley has excused
violence and was arrested at
this year’s Pride event in
Glasgow after protesting that
gay police officers would take
part in the parade. ATH has
stated “the only good 10,000
cops is 10,000 dead cops”.
In September ATH
supporters punched and
smashed the camera of a
60-year-old woman in Hyde
Park, London, as they tried to
break up a group of feminists
opposed to the reforms.
Bradley was not present but
defended the assault as an act
of “self-defence” caused by
“anti-trans activists . . . riling
up the trans community and
provoking that trans person
to take a swing at someone”.
She accuses opponents of
“using Nazi tactics” and is
pictured on her Facebook
page holding a sign that reads
“Punch Nazis”.
ATH’s Edinburgh branch
states “we must be radically
and transformatively
violent”, while Bradley says
“there is no such thing as a
‘real’ woman”. She also says
she has “trained hundreds of
medical staff for the NHS and
private providers”.
Recent NHS-funded events
and training organised by her
group include a course on
“trans cancer awareness” in
Manchester and a “trans
master class” in Wigan. ATH
has been contracted for work
by Manchester city council
and is a consultation partner
for NHS England.
ATH recently circulated a
manifesto demanding “the
total abolition of the clinic, of
psychiatry and of the
medical-industrial complex”.
It says all NHS gender
identity services must be
closed and gender doctors
and nurses expelled from the
profession and replaced with
sex-change “hormones and
blockers made available over
the counter and by free
prescription upon request . . .
at any age”.
Written by Scottish ATH
activists and tweeted from
ATH’s central account, the
manifesto also demands “an
end to birth certificates and
to legal gender” as they are
“a violence against trans
people” and “immediate
release & pardon for all trans
prisoners”. A “GP shitlist” of
doctors “disrespectful” to
trans people has been
compiled by the group.
Bradley and ATH declined
to respond to requests for
comment. After being
approached by The Sunday
Times, Bradley removed her
affiliation with ATH from her
Twitter biography but she
continues to be shown as a
trustee on its website.
Under her former name of
Josh Bradley she also remains
a director of the group at
Companies House.
Drivers, Yule
be in a jam 29m
‘leisure’ car trips over
the Christmas break
Mark Hookham and Jedidajah Otte
If you were planning to make your
Christmas getaway on Friday — think
The busiest time to travel on Britain’s
motorways during the festive period is
expected to be between 4pm and
8pm as those travelling to visit family
and friends for Christmas clash with
motorists returning home from work.
It has been dubbed “Frantic Friday”
and for many it will herald the start of a
10-day break that will leave offices across
Britain deserted until January 2. The way
Christmas falls this year means staff need
to claim only three days’ holiday to enjoy
10 days off work.
The RAC warned that the M25 anticlockwise, the interchange of the M4 and
M5, the M3 out of London and large
sections of the M1 and M6 are likely to be
worst hit by jams, with 29m non-work car
journeys expected over the break. The
RAC added that motorists planning long
journeys should avoid Friday, if possible.
Chaos on the roads will combine
with misery on the railways as Network
Rail, which manages Britain’s track
and signals, undertakes its biggest
programme of Christmas engineering
works, with five of the seven mainline
routes partly shut. Journey times will
double on some routes. There will be no
Great Western trains into London
Paddington from Christmas Eve to
December 27, with a reduced service
from December 28 to 31. Strike action will
add to rail passengers’ woes after
members of the RMT union revealed
plans to strike on the Greater Anglia
network on December 27 and on South
Western Railway on New Year’s Eve.
Football fans have long become used
to the nationwide rail shutdown on
Boxing Day but Swansea City supporters
have particular cause to complain this
year. They face a 454-mile motorway
round trip to see their team play Liverpool — about 160 miles further than any
other Premier League fans.
Travel plans could be further disrupted by bad weather this week with
strong winds and rain or showers forecast in northern parts of the UK.
Working parents may face a steep
childcare bill this Christmas, with many
schools having broken up last Friday,
including those in Leeds, Dorset, Devon,
Cumbria and parts of London.
But while schools have shut early,
there is one group of people who — unusually — are putting the hours in. Despite
a reputation for enjoying long holidays,
MPs will not leave Westminster until
Thursday, their latest start to a Christmas
break for seven years.
mainline routes will be
partially shut during
the Christmas period
1 Great Western Railway
No trains into London
Paddington, December 24-27;
reduced service, December 28-31
journeys planned
on Boxing Day
2 West Coast Main Line
The line between Preston
and Lancaster will be shut
on December 24-27.
Replacement buses will be used
December 22: 4pm to 8pm
December 24: 10am to 2pm
December 26: 10am to 2pm*
3 Southeastern
London Bridge, Charing Cross,
Waterloo East and Cannon
Street will be closed from
December 23 to January 1
*Later where there are Boxing Day football matches
December 20
2hr 28 min
Hit and run: fifth
driver questioned
A woman who was killed in a
hit-and-run accident
involving four vehicles in
Tulse Hill, south London,
may also have been struck
by a fifth. Police have
questioned five drivers, but
are still appealing for
witnesses to last Monday’s
Argos alert over
collapsing chair
RAC warns of ‘Frantic Friday’ on the roads
journey time
1 M25 clockwise
December 21
5hr 20 min
2 M6 southbound
J23 A580 to J12 Gailey interchange
65 miles
December 22
2hr 8 min
Southampton Central
3 M1 northbound
J11 Luton to J22 Leicester
59 miles
Source: RAC, Inrix, National Rail Enquiries
MPs will today warn they
“seriously doubt” the
Ministry of Defence will be
able to achieve its £178bn plan
for new aircraft, ships and
armoured vehicles for the
armed forces.
The damning report,
published by the Commons
defence select committee, is
critical of the department’s
top civil servant and
questions the affordability of
its 10-year programme.
The plan, which includes
buying jet fighters, maritime
patrol aircraft and light
tanks, relies on the MoD
making £7.3bn of “efficiency
savings” that have yet to be
achieved. This is in addition
to £7.1bn of savings
previously announced, the
MPs said.
“We seriously doubt the
MoD’s ability to generate the
efficiencies required to
deliver the equipment plan.”
The MPs warn that their
confidence in the MoD’s
ability to make savings “has
not been enhanced” by
different figures quoted
No trains
Central and
Eastleigh from
publicly by Stephen
Lovegrove, the MoD’s
permanent secretary,
including a figure of £20bn
“that appeared to leave even
the former secretary of state
for defence [Sir Michael
Fallon] confused”.
Julian Lewis, the Tory MP
who chairs the committee,
warned that a failure to
make more savings in the
MoD’s already “stretched”
budget would “inevitably
lead either to a reduction in
the numbers of ships, aircraft
and vehicles or to even
greater delays”.
Teens made to save for pensions
Tim Shipman Political Editor
Workers aged 18 will be
enrolled in pension schemes
under plans announced
today. At present only those
over 21 who are paid more
than £10,000 a year are
automatically placed in a
workplace pension.
The reduction in the age
limit means that more than
900,000 young people will
be encouraged to save for
their retirement. It is
expected to lead to an extra
£800m of saving every year
and significantly boost young
people’s chances of a
comfortable retirement.
The change will be made
after a government review of
automatic enrolment. It
found that putting people
into a pension scheme unless
they opt out has changed
behaviour so workers see
saving for retirement as
The government will also
test ways to encourage
retirement saving by the
UK’s 4.8m self-employed,
who do not benefit from
David Gauke, the work and
pensions secretary, said: “For
an entire generation of
people, workplace pension
saving is the new normal. My
mission now is to make sure
the next generation of
younger workers have the
same opportunities.
“We know the world of
work is changing, so it is only
right that pension saving does
too. This package will see
more people helped onto the
path towards building a
secure retirement.”
First steps to retirement,
Money, page 16
Obese mothers strain maternity units
Sarah-Kate Templeton
Health Editor
Obesity is the biggest
problem facing maternity
units, the new chief executive
of the Royal College of
Midwives (RCM) has warned.
Gill Walton said she was
“very concerned” that almost
half of women are overweight
or obese at the beginning of
their pregnancy. In 1990
two-thirds of women were a
normal weight.
Complications in
childbirth caused by obesity,
together with a shortage of
3,500 midwives, were
damaging the service offered
by the NHS, Walton said.
Midwives now had to
prepare women for the
prospect of being transferred
to another hospital as they
were about to give birth
because the system was
under stress, she added.
An RCM survey showed
that maternity units closed
The Labour MP Lindsay
Hoyle said he was “truly
devastated” by the sudden
death of his daughter,
Natalie, 28. Mother Miriam
described her only child as
“my mini-me” and appealed
for information about what
she was doing before she
was found dead at an
address in Essex on Friday.
5 South
Doubt over ‘stretched’ MoD’s
ability to buy new weapons
Mark Hookham
Defence Correspondent
MP ‘devastated’ by
daughter’s death
4 Heathrow
and Heathrow
No service
J13 A13 to J24 Potters Bar
31 miles
Argos has issued a warning
about its £250 Hygena Angel
chairs after some collapsed.
Anyone who bought the
armchair between
December last year and July
this year was advised to
stop using it immediately.
Buyers will be issued with
new legs for the chair.
their doors to mothers about
to give birth 209 times from
April 2016-17. Six units closed
on 10 or more occasions and
one had to divert
mothers-to-be 33 times.
“If we have an increase in
diabetes [caused by obesity],
women with diabetes need
more care, they need more
scans, they potentially need
more care when they are in
labour,” Walton said. “They
potentially then end up
needing caesarean sections.”
Natalie Lewis-Hoyle: died
suddenly last week
I wrote hits on
cocaine: McVie
The Fleetwood Mac singer
Christine McVie says she will
never know if she could have
written her hits sober. She
tells today’s Desert Island
Discs: “I don’t know if I would
have written Songbird had I
not had a couple of toots of
cocaine and a half bottle of
Car passenger
dies in lorry crash
Police are appealing for
witnesses after a 25-year-old
man died when a Nissan
Micra crashed into a lorry
parked in a layby near
Warninglid, West Sussex,
early yesterday morning.
The car’s driver and another
passenger were in a critical
Man arrested over
toddler’s death
Police have opened a murder
investigation after the death
of a two-year-old boy in
Northampton. The child was
taken to hospital in a serious
condition on Friday after
being found unconscious.
He died later. A 30-year-old
man has been arrested,
according to East Midlands
Water cut off for
10,000 homes
More than 10,000 homes in
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
were without water
yesterday following a burst
pipe on Friday. Severn Trent,
the local water authority,
said it was working to fix the
pipe and had handed out
nearly 300,000 litres of
bottled water.
Sheeran leads race
for Christmas No 1
Ed Sheeran’s Perfect is
leading the race to top the
Christmas charts ahead of
Eminem’s River and Wham’s
1984 hit Last Christmas,
which is helped by a social
media campaign in memory
of George Michael, who died
on Christmas Day last year.
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
English outcast eyes
Romanian crown
the late King of
grandson, with
his fiancée
The former public schoolboy was cut out of the succession after a
sex scandal, but he and his fiancée are winning hearts in Bucharest
Tony Allen-Mills
Representing the Queen at the funeral
in Bucharest yesterday of former King
Michael of Romania, the Prince of Wales
found himself in the unusual position of
being, for many Romanians, only the
second most interesting Englishman
An impressive array of European
royals turned out for ceremonies honouring the late king, who led Romania
through the Second World War but lost
his throne to communist rule in 1947.
His death in Switzerland aged 96 this
month has provided an intriguing twist to
an improbable royal saga featuring a
former English public schoolboy named
Nicholas Medforth-Mills.
The collapse of communism and the
arrival of democracy has inspired a
revival in the long-exiled monarchy’s
fortunes — and Medforth-Mills, 32, has
emerged as a key figure. His father was
the late Robin Medforth-Mills, a geo-
A dispute over an
illegitimate child
soured relations
with the king
Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, left, Prince Charles and Queen Sofia of Spain
attend the funeral of King Michael of Romania in Bucharest yesterday
graphy professor at Durham University
who married King Michael’s second
daughter, Princess Elena.
Their son, a graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London, is the late
king’s only grandson.
Formerly known as Prince Nicolae, he
was third in line for the (officially nonexistent) Romanian throne, and has
become, with his fiancée Alina-Maria
Binder, Romania’s answer to Prince
Harry and Meghan Markle.
“Nicholas has become very popular,”
said Marlene Eilers Koenig, an American
historian who knew King Michael and has
written about his family. “But there have
been signs that other members of the
family resented his popularity.”
In Bucharest yesterday, MedforthMills and his glamorous Romanian brideto-be joined a gathering of family mourners, including former King Juan Carlos of
Spain and King Carl Gustaf of Sweden. Yet
for much of the past two years, a bitter
family feud had in effect excluded him
from royal circles and appeared to have
cost him his princely title.
A dispute over an illegitimate child
that Medforth-Mills was alleged to have
fathered in a one-night stand soured his
relationship with his grandfather, King
Michael, and led to an embarrassing
falling-out with his mother. Princess
Elena publicly complained that her son
had “shown contempt” for the Romanian
people after he attempted to break into
the king’s Swiss residence last month in
order to visit him.
Medforth-Mills, who had lived in Britain since the age of five and attended
boarding school at Shiplake College in
Henley-on-Thames, claimed other members of the royal household were
attempting to discredit him.
“I will not take part in this ‘dirty
game’,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
If all this sounds more like comic relief
than the serious concerns of modern
Romania, local experts note that the
royal family has begun to play an increasingly high-profile role. It now controls
such royal jewels as Peles Castle, an
was Gordon
Among the many titles
accumulated by Princess
Margareta, the new head
of the Romanian royal
family, one stands out for
British readers, writes
Tony Allen-Mills. She
is Gordon Brown’s
More than 20 years after
the abolition of the
monarchy in 1947, the late
King Michael’s oldest
daughter arrived at
Edinburgh University to
study sociology and political
science. There she met the
man who would later
become Britain’s
prime minister.
It never seemed the most
likely of romances, between
an ambitious Scottish socialist
and a rootless princess in exile, but
the relationship lasted five years
and has since been remembered
fondly by both.
Brown’s biographer, Paul
Routledge, quotes a friend of
the couple’s from the time as
saying “they seemed made for
each other”.
Like many a student romance,
however, it petered out after
Margareta, now 68, has been
quoted as blaming the split on
“politics, politics, politics”. She
has since denied making the
comment, but another of Brown’s
friends has claimed he “never got
over” losing her.
extravagantly spired neo-Renaissance
estate in the Carpathian foothills, and the
Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, home
to King Michael’s oldest daughter,
Princess Margareta, now known as
“custodian of the Romanian crown”.
There is currently no serious suggestion that the monarchy will be restored in
Romania, but there remains a strong
body of monarchist support. “We need a
symbol, to lead by example and offer guidance,” argued Emilia Petrita, a Bucharest blogger.
A row over DNA testing has left the
issue of Medforth-Mills’s alleged child
unresolved, but the scandal was apparently enough to persuade King Michael to
strip his grandson’s title and remove him
from the succession in 2015. Since then,
however, Medforth-Mills met his fiancée,
known as Alina, and proposed in Cornwall last July.
A surge of Romanian enthusiasm for
the couple, who will marry next summer,
appears to have persuaded the rest of the
family to welcome him back into the fold.
The marriage of Harry and Meghan will
not be the only royal union to tantalise
the European paparazzi next year.
Margareta: romance with Brown
began at Edinburgh University
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Abu Hamza
desperate to
be in UK jail
The hate preacher has begun a legal appeal
to be freed from an ‘inhuman’ US prison
Dipesh Gadher
Abu Hamza, the hook-handed former
imam of Finsbury Park mosque, has
launched an attempt to be freed from
America’s most secure prison — and his
lawyers say he would return to a British
jail “in a second” if he could.
The hate preacher argues that his longterm incarceration at ADX Florence
“supermax” prison in Colorado is “inhuman and degrading” and breaches his
human rights.
Court papers seen by The Sunday
Times give the first detailed insight into
his circumstances after he was given a life
sentence for terrorism offences in New
York. Since October 2015, the preacher
has been kept in solitary confinement in a
special unit at ADX Florence under
measures that prevent him from having
contact with much of the outside world.
The 242-page appeal, filed under his
real name, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa,
states: “Mostafa is permitted to one hour
per day of recreation time outside of his
cell . . . Even during that one-hour recreation, however, Mostafa is still confined
within a cell-sized cage and is in that
cage alone.”
The submission indicates that his cell
is not suitable for a double-amputee such
as Abu Hamza, who is blind in one eye,
suffers from diabetes and psoriasis, and
has a neurological condition that
produces excessive sweating, so he has to
take at least two showers a day. It adds:
“The stumps in both arms are subject to
regular outbreaks of infection, which
have been increasing in severity.”
The appeal points out that when Abu
Hamza was fighting extradition from
custody in Belmarsh maximum security
prison, southeast London, he was tended
to daily by a healthcare aide, and a nurse
or doctor would visit him up to five times
a week. He was also allowed to mix with
other inmates.
His lawyers claim that his treatment at
ADX Florence — home to some of America’s most dangerous prisoners, including Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber —
amounts to a breach of article 3 of the
Human Rights Act, prohibiting torture
and inhuman or degrading treatment,
and that he should be moved elsewhere.
“We strongly believe that the conditions of his confinement violate the
expectations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the promises
that were made by the US government to
the [British and European] courts as part
of the extradition process,” said Michael
Bachrach, one of the preacher’s appeal
lawyers. “He would go back to Belmarsh
in a second if he could.”
Bachrach, a terrorism specialist who
last saw Abu Hamza in September, said
the cleric was “hopeful” about his
appeal. The action is being financed out
of US public funds and follows an eightyear legal battle to get him extradited to
America. The preacher has cost British
taxpayers almost £1m in legal fees.
Abu Hamza also suggests that his notoriety in part meant he did not receive a
fair trial when he was convicted in New
York in January 2015 of 11 terrorism
counts, including hostage-taking in
Yemen, sending recruits to Afghanistan
to join al-Qaeda and helping to set up a
jihadist training camp in Oregon. His submission states: “This appeal raises the
question of whether a fiery orator can receive a fair trial when his speeches offend
the values that Americans hold dear.”
The Egyptian-born preacher came to
prominence for inflammatory sermons
at Finsbury Park mosque, north London.
In 2006 he was jailed in the UK for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.
It was the bloke wot
won it: Joe McFadden
takes Strictly crown
TV Critic
Well done to Joe McFadden,
the oldest winner in Strictly
Come Dancing history — but
not the one many people
were expecting.
The 42-year-old Holby City
actor stormed to victory last
night, beating Debbie McGee,
59, in a surprise result.
McFadden won by
impersonating almost every
toy in a particularly camp
toybox, taking in The
Nutcracker, Torero and a
white brocaded number that
mostly screamed “closeted
Hilton Dubai bellboy”.
If he was not quite our
Prince Charming, he was a
relentlessly shiny Buttons
— and as such the perfect
Strictly hero, with his partner
Katya Jones.
The final was sparkling,
superlative and safe as
houses, as exemplified by
Ed Sheeran’s shockingly
dreary, Christmas No 1-cert
ballad. Very rude of Ed not to
do up his tie properly, since
everything else was hoiked
up to the nines (not least
Craig Revel Horwood’s
Of the other finalists,
Joe McFadden
celebrates victory
with partner Katya
Jones last night.
Right, Debbie McGee
poor Gemma Atkinson never
had a chance, but Alexandra
Burke and McGee sparkled
and would have been worthy
winners, had it not been for
the power of McFadden, the
undeniable favourite for
mums of all ages.
Regardless of the result,
though, the real success story
was McGee. Week after week
the widow and former
assistant of the magician Paul
Daniels wowed the audiences
with her ever-cocked right
leg, a Cleopatra’s Needle first
unearthed nearly 60 years
ago in Kingston upon
It is McGee who made
this a final worth watching:
three C-listers and one hell of
a little lady.
She was only the secondoldest finalist in Strictly
history, but certainly the
springiest. Her showing is
most relevant for its class and
dignity. Older people do
populate the box, but more
often than not they are
there to groan, moan or be
grotesque (see The Real
Marigold Hotel, also airing).
Yet there was nothing too
desperate in McGee’s flings
with her partner Giovanni
Pernice, less than half her age
at 27. Instead, she has held
her own in a very solid, very
British kind of way, coming
across like a mix of your
nan’s carer and Jessica
Rabbit. But all that was to
little avail when faced with
the march of McFadden’s
Nutcracker — an unholy
mix of genres if ever
there was one.
Strictly motors on —
a huge, sequined
comfort blanket. And
when it does
surprise, it does so
with a force that is
now lost on more
shocking telly sagas.
Incest? Dragons?
Pah. Did you see
Debbie’s Argentine
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Oscar winner McQueen to film Grenfell tribute
Dipesh Gadher
Steve McQueen, the artist
and director who made the
Oscar-winning film 12 Years
a Slave, is to start work
tomorrow on a project to
create a “lasting memorial”
to the Grenfell Tower fire.
He will use a helicopter to
film the charred remains of
the building in Kensington,
west London, from morning
to night. The artwork,
which has the working title
Grenfell Tower, will
eventually go on display in a
London museum.
“This is to record this
moment in the community’s
history and make a lasting
memorial to the tragedy,”
says an official website
intended to explain the
project to survivors of the fire
and other local people.
“This would be done with
respect to those who lost
their lives and the wider
community. The aim is that
it lives on in the mind of
the nation and the world
long after the covering has
gone up.”
The tower, where 71 people
died in June, is being covered
by a white plastic screen to
prevent more psychological
trauma to those living and
working nearby. Officials
hope the building will be
fully shrouded by the end
of March.
The new artwork is being
funded by McQueen, 48, who
comes from a council estate
in White City, near the site of
the disaster.
Steve McQueen
plans to capture
a ‘life-in-a-day’
montage of the
burnt-out shell of
Grenfell Tower
He directed 12 Years a
Slave, which won him an
Oscar for best picture in 2014,
the first film made by a black
director to win the award.
McQueen also won the
Jungle queen
bangs drum
for Tories
Turner prize for visual art in
1999 and represented Britain
at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
One of the victims of the
Grenfell fire was the artist
Khadija Saye, 24, who won
rave reviews for work
exhibited at this year’s
Biennale. She was trapped
with her mother in their
20th-floor flat.
NHS flyers were being
handed out this weekend to
explain the filming schedule
and reassure residents that
no individuals would be
captured by the footage.
Mental health workers will
be on standby to provide
McQueen’s team will send
a helicopter into the air about
four times from 9am to 6pm
to capture a “life-in-a-day”
montage of the burnt-out
shell of Grenfell.
The project will not go
on display for at least two
years — while the police
investigation into the fire and
an independent public
inquiry take place. The
artwork is expected to be
shown to survivors and
bereaved families before it
goes on display.
Survivors and local
residents were joined by
members of the royal family
and senior politicians on
Thursday to mark the
six-month anniversary of the
fire at a national service of
remembrance at St Paul’s
Cathedral in London.
There was no official
representative at the service
from Kensington council,
which has been heavily
criticised by survivors for its
handling of the crisis.
The Bishop of Kensington,
Graham Tomlin, said he
hoped Grenfell would not
just be a “symbol of sorrow,
grief or injustice” but also a
turning point when Britain
learnt “a new and better way
— to listen and to love”.
She has been an enthusiastic Conservative since she was a teenager and thinks
Jacob Rees-Mogg is a “sex god” (she fancies Zac Goldsmith too).
Unlike many 23-year-olds, Georgia
“Toff ” Toffolo, the new queen of the
celebrity jungle, says becoming a Tory
MP would be “a dream”.
Within hours of her triumphant return
from Australia after the latest series of
I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!,
Toffolo — who has been dubbed “Boris in
a bikini” — was offering her services to the
Conservative Party.
However, she warned the Tories they
were falling behind Labour in their use of
social media and popular television to get
their message across.
In an interview with The Sunday Times
today, she argues: “Sometimes politics
can become snobby and archaic and I
think Labour has done very well in not
being like that recently.”
Toffolo, who formerly appeared on the
reality TV show Made in Chelsea, said she
had long been a vocal Conservative supporter, but the party had not sought to
exploit her reach on social media.
“I’ve got 1.5m followers on Instagram.
Yes, I might have blonde hair, go to the
pub a lot and be on a reality show, but this
is the way the world is going. Perhaps it’s
time for them to embrace that.”
Toffolo first became interested in politics at boarding school, where she and
her best friend ran the Conservative campaign for a mock election in 2010.
“We got in touch with CCHQ [Conservative campaign headquarters] and they
sent us lots of stuff,” she said.
“We hung up huge posters on the main
road and got into so much trouble. We
obviously won by a landslide and so did
Dave [Cameron]. I’ve just loved politics
ever since.”
PAGES 17-21
Georgia Toffolo
admits to being
a big fan of the
Tory MP Jacob
Rees-Mogg is
a sex god. He’s
so clever. I
just love him
The reality TV star has offered her services
— and 1.5m Instagram fans — to the party
Laura Pullman
Asked which politicians she admires,
she replied: “The standard: Zac Goldsmith, Jacob Rees-Mogg. I fancy them all.
Jacob’s a sex god.”
When it was suggested that others
might consider Rees-Mogg the personification of “snobby and archaic”, Toffolo
insisted: “Come on! The human mind
can be sexy. He’s so clever, I just love
When Toffolo was chosen for this
year’s series of I’m a Celebrity, she said
she assumed viewers would write her off
as a “blonde airhead who doesn’t do anything and doesn’t know anything”.
She was thrilled to find that her rivals
included Stanley Johnson, the father of
Boris. “The minute I met Stanley I loved
him,” she said. He talked to her about
environmental issues, she talked to him
about what Johnson called “the Instagram, the selfies, the YouTube”.
Toffolo offered sympathy for Kezia
Dugdale, the former leader of the Scottish Labour Party, who was widely criticised for joining the jungle crew. Dugdale’s party formally reprimanded her
for her “unauthorised absence” in Australia — she was the second contestant to
be voted off the show — but Toffolo said
the Labour MSP “did them proud”.
Does the public really want a toff
like Rees-Mogg as prime minister? Or, for
that matter, a Toffolo? “I don’t think people should be judged for their background,” said Toffolo, who laughed
off suggestions she might become an MP.
“It would be a dream in about 25 years,”
she said.
Rees-Mogg said last night that he was
“greatly surprised but nonetheless flattered” by her remarks. “I am glad
Miss Toffolo won and hope this is the
launchpad for a glittering career.”
I am greatly
surprised but
I’m the ditz the Tories should be
listening to, News Review, page 28
We have enough stock for Christmas, says troubled Poundland
Sabah Meddings
It has been a signal of trouble
brewing for what used to be
some of the biggest names on
the high street: Woolworths,
Zavvi and Kwik Save all lost
“credit insurance” before the
shop chains collapsed only
months later.
Now one of Poundland’s
credit insurers, Atradius, is
reducing its cover — but the
budget chain insists that it is
fully stocked for Christmas
and “trading more strongly
than it has in years”.
Without the security of the
insurance, suppliers who
stock the British high street
with toys, groceries and
clothes have no guarantee
that bills will be settled if a
retailer falls into financial
Credit insurers have been
alarmed by an accounting
scandal at Poundland’s
parent company — Steinhoff,
based in South Africa — which
has led to the group losing
80% of its value over the past
two weeks.
An investigation into
accounting irregularities has
made credit insurers wary
that the scandal will have a
knock-on effect on the
retailers throughout the
Steinhoff empire.
My budget is £5 and I‘ve
come to the Poundland in
Elephant and Castle, south
London, to buy for three
grown-up sons and my wife,
writes James Gillespie. So I
allow £1 each with a present
for myself as well. Easy.
My oldest son,
Liam, has recently
bought his first home with
his girlfriend, so he will
need something for the
house. The ideal gift
appears: a biscuit
mug, which has a
clever little opening
to store your
biscuits while you
drink your tea. And this
is just £1. Perfect.
My youngest
son, Matthew,
Secret Santas do their shopping at Poundland last week
While Poundland has
insisted that it is a “profitable,
cash-generating business” —
and delivery lorries were still
pulling into its distribution
centres — losing credit
insurance will be a blow to
the chain.
Euler Hermes, one of the
world’s largest credit
insurers, is also understood
to be considering reducing
the cover that it provides for
Poundland suppliers.
When most of the 20 credit
insurers for Woolworths
stopped providing cover for
its suppliers in the summer of
2008 over fears that they
would not be paid, the
retailer was forced to pay
them upfront — setting it back
£200m and devastating the
chain’s current account.
Woolworths ultimately
Richard Hyman, a retail
analyst who has monitored
the high street for more than
30 years, said losing credit
insurance was a “black mark”
against any retailer.
“It shows that part of the
financial community thinks
you’re a risk too far,” he
Poundland, which has 763
stores across the UK and
employs 18,000 people in the
UK, Ireland, France and
Spain, has been quick to try
to quell fears.
“Any action by credit
insurers to make life difficult
for Poundland suppliers is
irrational,” it said.
The chain was founded in
December 1990 when
is a bar manager who
regularly organises a piss-up
in a brewery — so a cannon
that fires streamers should
get the party started.
A cat bowl for my
middle son, Daniel.
There is only one
problem: he has two cats,
both blind, so
whether they will
appreciate it is
another matter.
task of all: a gift
for Pauline, my
wife of 34
years. Even a
such as myself
knows that
Poundland opened its first
shop in Burton upon Trent,
Staffordshire, with what is
thought to be the first
single-price store in the UK.
Steinhoff bought the chain
last year for £597m.
Poundland is among the
discount retailers, such as
Aldi, B&M and Lidl, which
have grown popular with
families who are attracted to
women want
something that
makes them feel
I scoot pastt the
Nooky Vitality
Supplement for
or Her
packets — even
en I’m not that
stupid — and finally settle on
prosecco liqueurs. You can’t
go wrong with
prosecco, surely?
A rather
glitter Santa hat for
me, and I’m done.
The smiling woman
on the cash register
rings up my
purchases and that’s
the Christmas
shopping over for
another year. A
fiver well spent.
their selection of branded
products at knockdown
Some critics have said that
retailers with a single price
point have come under
pressure from the fall in
sterling since Britain voted to
leave the European Union.
Goods bought by British
companies in dollars, for
example, have become more
expensive. Poundland has
started to introduce items
priced at £2 and £5, but says
that 90% of its products still
cost £1.
Atradius did not respond
to attempts to contact it.
Euler Hermes declined to
Poundland showdown with
key creditors, Business
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Achtung baby — the German
way of raising carefree kids
Top chef
in the soup
over poor
David Collins
Northern Correspondent
A new book advises parents to take a relaxed approach if they want happy, self-reliant children
James Gillespie and Clara Strunck
Anyone who sees Germany as a dourly
efficient nation blighted by a history of
authoritarianism is in for a surprise.
A book to be published on January 2
reveals that, far from raising their
children in a spirit of rigid Teutonic
discipline, German parents are among
the most relaxed in Europe.
In Achtung Baby, the German Art of
Raising Self-Reliant Children, the author
Sara Zaske chronicles her surprise at the
Germans’ approach during the six
years she spent in Berlin after moving
from Oregon with her husband and
toddler. She had a second child while in
When The Sunday Times reported in
February that the book was on its way,
one reader remarked that it wasn’t long
since “an article explaining how French
parenting is so much better than ours . . .
apparently we must be rubbish at it”.
It certainly seems that way if you look
at the bookshelves, where works extolling the virtue of the French, Dutch,
Norwegian, Danish and Chinese ways of
parenting vie for supremacy.
Zaske’s book will take its place in this
crowded market of advice — everything
from helicopter parents who hover anxiously over their offspring, monitoring
every element of their lives, to the fearsome tiger mothers of the Far East, who
demand academic achievement and
ruthless discipline.
Their methods were championed by
the American writer and academic Amy
Chua in her — for many, infamous — book,
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her two
daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were
“never allowed” to go on a sleepover, or
even a playdate, with friends; be in a
school play; watch TV; or get any grade
less than an A.
Zaske found parents in Berlin took a
far more relaxed approach. She said
“Berlin doesn’t need a ‘free range parenting’ movement because free range is
the norm.”
Children are allowed to play outside
alone and travel to school on public
transport from a young age, and take
risks such as studying “fire” with candles
and matches.
The German view is that “there is no
such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, Zaske says.
It is not that the parents do not worry
about their children but they believe that
independence is an essential part of
growing up. One mother confessed that
she worried when her children, aged 8
and 10, travelled on their own for four
stops on the underground. “I want them
to be independent and proud of what
they can do,” she told Zaske. “If I am
always with them, they won’t be.”
Zaske says that parents in Germany are
different from those she encountered
while living in America. “Contrary to
stereotypes, most German parents I’ve
met are the opposite of strict,” she writes.
“They place a high value on independence and responsibility.”
They also, it appears, have a high
regard for a bit of nudity. When she sent
her child to nursery with a swimsuit, she
was the only child wearing one. “On hot
summer days, I would often come to pick
up my kids at kita [kindergarten] to find
18 naked kids splashing in the outside
water play area.”
German kindergartens do not press
children into academic subjects. Zaske
was discouraged by teachers and other
parents from trying to teach her children
to read. “I was told it was something
special the kids learn together when they
start grade school [at 6]. Kindergarten
was a time for play and social learning.”
When it comes to discipline, the Germans also fail to live up to the stereotype.
“Germans have rejected authoritarian
ways of handling children,” Zaske writes.
“Corporal punishment, spanking or
hitting children whether by teachers or
parents is against the law.”
Zaske admits that when she tells
friends about the freedom experienced
by German children they react with
“surprise and disbelief ”.“I usually end up
reminding them how long it has been
since the end of the Second World War.”
Do it like the Deutsche, Style,
pages 30-31
Sara Zaske with children Sophia, climbing a tree, and Ozzie in a Berlin playground. ‘Free-range parenting is the norm,’ she says
The Danish Way of
Parenting by Jessica Joelle
Alexander and Iben Dissing
Shows how the “happiest
people in the world” foster
an “inner compass” in
children and “reframe”
(whatever those mean).
Battle Hymn of the Tiger
Mother by Amy Chua
Your fondest childhood
memories would never have
happened under a tiger
mum, who relentlessly takes
all the fun out of being a
child — but you will learn
how to play the piano.
French Children Don’t
Throw Food by
Pamela Druckerman
Explains why French babies
sleep through the night,
children play quietly and
their mums wear skinny
jeans, never tracksuit
He is known as a perfectionist
in the kitchen but the chef
Marcus Wareing appears to
pay less attention to his use of
The great question that
perplexes many children — is
it “their” or “there”? — still
appears to confuse him.
The Michelin-starred chef,
who recently published his
seventh cookbook, New
Classics, received a
reprimand last week from the
“Grammar Police”, as they
style themselves, on Twitter.
The founder of the
restaurant Marcus in
Knightsbridge, west London,
which serves up delicacies
such as wood pigeon with
smoked bone marrow, posted
a tweet last week that read:
“If their is any young chefs
who want’s to know what
training looks like at top level
take a look at tonight’s
Two minutes later the
Grammar Police had leapt
upon Wareing’s words. “It
appears to be true that
@marcuswareing posted an
error and can use “If [there]
is any young” instead. ‘Their’
belongs to ‘them’.”
The overseers of the
nation’s language on social
media did not, however,
correct “there is” to “there
are” and made no mention of
Wareing’s unnecessary use of
an apostrophe in “want’s”.
The chef ’s response? No
words — just the symbol of a
rude hand gesture. He later
added: “I went to work not
school . . . !!!”
Wareing, 47, went to
Stanley High School in
Southport, Merseyside, and
took a three-year course in
catering at Southport College
before going to work for
Gordon Ramsay. His agent
did not respond to a request
for comment.
Cuppa in hot water over plastic in teabags
Green campaigners take
on tea manufacturers
after the revelation
that their bags are not
fully biodegradable
Jon Ungoed-Thomas
and Sophie Badman
The British cuppa faces an anti-pollution
campaign after the manufacturers of teabags admitted their products, excluding
the leaves, contain up to 25% plastic.
Gardeners have long been baffled by
the remains of teabags that appear in
compost, but tea companies disclosed
last week why this happens: most teabags
are sealed with plastic.
Britons use about 57bn teabags annually, which pollute the environment
with up to 2,400 tons of plastic each year.
Tea manufacturers are now being
called on to remove the plastic — polypropylene — from bags.
Mike Armitage, from Wrexham, north
Wales, a gardener and editor of the
website Nature Matters, has launched a
petition on the issue.
“I do a lot of composting and I noticed
teabags were not breaking down,” he
said. “I investigated and found that it was
because they contained plastic. I was
quite shocked about it.”
Gove gets own
navy to repel
foreign trawlers
Jonathan Leake
Environment Editor
He helped lead Britain out of
Europe — and now Michael
Gove is getting his own navy
to keep the Europeans away:
a squadron of armed patrol
boats to deter foreign
trawlers after Brexit.
His department is about to
get the first of four powerful
fishery protection vessels,
whose task will be to prevent
French, Spanish, Danish and
other boats from fishing
illegally in UK waters.
HMS Forth, which is
undergoing sea trials, will
have a 30mm gun,
machineguns and a
helicopter when it enters
service next year. Four other
ships are being built at a cost
of £350m, with one going to
the Falklands.
The navy ships will be paid
for by the Marine
Management Organisation,
part of Gove’s Department
for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra), to
patrol coastal waters in a
contract worth millions of
The ships are part of a
policy to strengthen the postBrexit policing of UK waters
based on surveillance by
satellites and aircraft. It could
also include the use of longrange drones.
“Leaving the EU means we
will take back control of our
waters. Access will be subject
to negotiation, and will
support a thriving future for
our fishing sector,” said
Defra. “We are reviewing all
aspects of fishery
management, including
satellites, patrol vessels and
aerial surveillance.”
The Fishery Protection
Squadron is the oldest part of
the navy but recently has
shrunk to pitiful levels, with
just three ageing vessels in
British waters. This often
meant there were just one or
two on patrol to cover
80,000 square miles of
territorial waters. As a result,
the number of fishing vessels
boarded by the squadron fell
from 1,400 in 2011-12 to just
278 in 2016-17.
This year, Admiral Lord
West, a former first sea lord,
criticised this decline and
told the House of Lords that
post-Brexit Britain risked
becoming a laughing stock for
making rules it could not
Danish, French and
Spanish fishing vessel
operators have all said they
will challenge any attempt to
keep them out of UK waters,
which provide about a third
of the EU’s catch. French
fishermen are even said to
have threatened a blockade
of Channel ports if Brexit
blocks or restricts them from
UK waters.
Such restrictions are,
however, almost certain,
potentially causing a postBrexit embarrassment for
Gove if Britain is left helpless
— hence the new ships.
Jim Portus, chief executive
of the South West Fish
Producer Organisation,
welcomed the new vessels
but said deployment would
have to be intelligence-led.
“Yes, there are risks of port
blockades, especially by the
French. They do it so often.
But we already have
technology like satellites, plus
CCTV cameras on many
vessels. There will be 1,000
UK fishing vessels just itching
to report any illegal activity.”
Football minnows in
Wembley logo battle
Peter Evans
It is the sort of David versus
Goliath tussle that would
electrify the third round of
the FA Cup — a bitter legal
dispute has broken out
between the home of English
football and a tiny north
London club.
Wembley FC, which has a
gas fitter, lorry driver and
solicitor in its team, has been
told by the EU’s Intellectual
Property Office that it must
give up the trademark
registered for its club logo.
The ruling comes after a
complaint by Wembley
stadium, which is owned by
the Football Association (FA),
governing body of the game
in England. The stadium has a
capacity of 90,000, a far cry
from Wembley FC’s ground at
Vale Farm with its capacity of
In 2012 the club registered
the trademark, with a lion’s
head on a shield beneath the
word “Wembley”, to cover
branding on goods, such as
clothes and alcoholic drinks.
The FA, which failed to object
when the trademark was
filed, is now blocked from
selling certain Wembleybranded merchandise in
countries across Europe. It
was claimed that the club’s
logo used “Wembley” as its
distinctive feature.
The EU agency said the
“English-speaking part of the
public” could easily confuse
the club with the national
stadium and ruled in favour
of the FA. The club has
Brian Gumm, Wembley
FC’s chairman, said: “It’s like
David and Goliath and it’s
costing me money that I can
ill afford. They’ve not offered
us a penny for it and they just
want to come in and take it.
“I want to show you can’t
come in and railroad people
just because you are who you
are. I’m only doing it out of
The FA said: “We take the
enforcement of our
intellectual property
seriously and only take action
as a last resort when an
amicable resolution does not
seem possible.”
Miles says teabags
be replaced with tea leaves
Armitage said there was a threat
plastics in the marine environment — as highlighted by the David
Attenborough series Blue Planet II —
but also on land. “We don’t want
in our soil which can be eaten
by birds and small animals,” he added.
is no requirement under food
laws to disclose the amount of
plastic in each teabag, or even whether it
is present. Manufacturers say the bags
comply with all food safety laws and
Unilever, owner of PG Tips, Britain’s
most popular brand of tea, said its bags
were made of paper with a “small
amount of plastic” used for sealing. It
said the teabags were suitable for composting, but the company was “exploring
alternative sealing materials”.
Yorkshire Tea said: “Our teabag material contains around 25% polypropylene,
which we believe is typical for the
market. It’s a component of the material
that allows us to heat-seal the bag. We are
actively developing plant-based, fully
biodegradable alternatives.”
Tetley said the plastics in its teabags
would not break down in compost, but
“they are normally so small they
are not seen”. It said the use of thermoplastics helped ensure a sealed bag that
does not fall apart in water.
Twinings said its pyramid teabag range
contained no plastic and was fully biodegradable, but its heat-sealed bags used
polypropylene fibres.
Lindsay Miles, from Perth, Australia,
who runs Treading My Own Path, a website on sustainable living, has launched
an international campaign against
plastics in teabags. She said: “The best
zero-waste option is to make the switch
from teabags to tea leaves.”
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Lighthouse to guide Leeds out of cultural shade
A ‘quirky beacon’ is part
of the city’s plans to
illuminate its little known
artistic heritage and
become a winner in 2023
Nicholas Hellen Social Affairs Editor
Leeds may be stranded midway between
the North Sea and the Irish Sea but that
does not stop it wanting to build a lighthouse in the city centre. The red-andwhite striped tower will project light
shows onto the clouds — and, if all goes
well, guide in tourists when it becomes
European capital of culture 2023.
Cluny Macpherson, chief officer for
culture at Leeds city council, said:“There
is something quirky and amusing about
having a lighthouse in what is selfevidently a land-locked city. It is a signal
and suggests safety for travellers.”
For Leeds, it is an opportunity to claim
for itself a famous structure built by one
of its favourite sons. John Smeaton, canal
builder and civil engineer, constructed
the third Eddystone lighthouse off Cornwall, which was finished in 1759. It
remained in use until 1882 when it was
dismantled and rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe
in Devon, where it still stands. Leeds
wants a replica for a newly created park
in the centre of the city, where it will
eventually greet rail passengers on HS2,
due to arrive in the city in 2033, a decade
after the year of culture.
Discussing Leeds’s attempt to become
European capital of culture, Macpherson
said he would not be deterred by the
European Commission’s decision to cancel Britain’s turn to hold the event in 2023
because of Brexit — although the government is pressing it to reconsider. “There
is a great deal of energy and it is simply
not possible to push all that energy and
ideas back into a box now that the competition has apparently been cancelled.”
The Sunday Times is calling for one of
the five British contenders to be named
European capital of culture in defiance of
the commission’s decision. The paper
has previously reported on Nottingham’s
bid and will also be reporting on those of
Belfast, Dundee and Milton Keynes.
One Leeds proposal is for children
aged between 7 and 15 to choose stars for
a rock festival named I Predict a Riot after
the hit by local band Kaiser Chiefs.
Changes to the appearance of the city
are under way on 450 acres of the south
bank of the River Aire, including the site
of the former Tetley brewery. New public
spaces will provide settings for sculpture
exhibitions and commissions. Henry
Moore and Barbara Hepworth, born
about 10 miles from Leeds in Castleford
and Wakefield respectively, studied at the
city’s college of art, and local museums
and institutes hold significant collections
of their work. The city wants to use the
draw of a year-long celebration in 2023 to
build on this under the banner Yorkshire
Sculpture International.
The point of the contest is to help the
winners overcome difficulties, rather
than simply anoint Europe’s established
cultural powerhouses. According to one
academic analysis, Liverpool, the UK’s
previous holder of the title in 2008, used
its status to boost visitor numbers by a
Leeds wants
to build a
replica of the
lighthouse at
Plymouth Hoe,
designed by
one of its
favourite sons.
Far right, Ricky
Wilson of
Kaiser Chiefs
and the
Northern Ballet
There is a
and it is
to push
all that
back into
a box
third, to 9.7m, generate more than
£750m and shake off a dated image that
included associations with the Beatles
and social deprivation in the 1980s.
The Leeds bid is unusually frank about
its shortcomings. The city admits that it
“does not have a good track record on
public art and public realm. During the
1960s when Leeds was proud to call itself
the ‘Motorway City’, entire communities
were carved up by highways and motorway connections . . . Our reticence to
promote ourselves and to celebrate the
role of arts in society have left the city
nationally and internationally underrated and under the radar.”
How many people know that Leeds is
home to Opera North and Northern
Ballet and great stately homes such as
Harewood House, and hosted the Grand
Départ of the Tour de France in 2014? Or
that it gave us Alan Bennett, the playwright and actor, honed the talent of
Damien Hirst and is host to the Olympic
medal-winning triathletes, Alistair and
Jonathan Brownlee, who live and train in
the nearby village of Bramhope?
City residents speak more than 170
languages but as the bid puts it: “Our multitude of cultures live side-by-side but
don’t always meet . . . Leeds is a microcosm of Europe’s wider predicament — a
city of belonging but also of fear; of
racism and multiculturalism.”
The bid makes clear that its deeper
purpose is to forge a common culture.
Last year it voted narrowly in favour of
remaining in the EU. A little over a decade
ago, Muslims in Leeds came under scrutiny when it emerged that three of the
four men who carried out the London 7/7
suicide bombings, which killed 52 people
and injured hundreds, came from Leeds.
Macpherson said: “We can’t rip up
motorways but . . . we can make these
places great places to live.”
‘Sparkling scientist’ of
The Great Egg Race dies
Jonathan Leake
Science Editor
Heinz Wolff, the presenter of
BBC2’s long-running science
show The Great Egg Race and
the inspiration behind the
first British woman going into
space, has died of heart
failure, his family announced
Professor Wolff, 89, came
to Britain from Berlin with his
family as an 11-year-old Jewish
refugee on the day the
Second World War broke out.
His television career began
in 1966 on Panorama with
Richard Dimbleby, where he
produced a pill that could
measure temperature,
pressure and acidity in the
gut. It quickly became clear
that his trademark bow tie
and tufts of wiry hair above
his ears made him a natural
for television.
He became best known to
viewers from 1977-86 as
presenter of The Great Egg
Race, which encouraged
teams to invent useful objects
out of limited resources.
Among his colleagues he
was known for his penchant
for practical jokes, including
arriving at his 80th birthday
party on a scooter propelled
by fire extinguishers.
Colleague and friend Ian
Sutherland, who took over
directorship of the Brunel
Institute for Bioengineering
when Wolff retired, said:
Heinz Wolff had a penchant for practical jokes
“Heinz was a most inventive
and inspirational leader.
There was nothing he loved
more than having a team of
people around him devising
completely new ways of
doing things.”
Wolff ’s scientific research
included studying how
human beings could survive
in hostile environments and
culminated in his co-founding
of Project Juno. In 1991 it led
to Helen Sharman becoming
the first British astronaut and
the 15th woman in space
when she spent eight days on
Russia’s Mir space station.
Julia Buckingham,
vice-chancellor and president
of Brunel University London
where Wolff worked, said:
“Heinz’s remarkable intellect,
ideas and enthusiasm
combined to make him the
sparkling scientist we will so
fondly remember.”
He was married to Joan
Stephenson, a nurse, from
1953 until her death in 2014.
The couple had two sons and
four grandchildren.
Bollywood’s Pad Man tackles
taboo of feminine hygiene
Iram Ramzan
Everybody knows the
ingredients of a Bollywood
film: an escapist, romantic
storyline, fabulous dance
routines and a catchy song.
Occasionally the Indian
industry does something
more serious than glitter and
glamour, however. Next
month a film, which will also
be shown in UK cinemas, will
tackle one of India’s greatest
taboos: menstruation.
Pad Man is based on the
story of Arunachalam
Muruganantham, an
entrepreneur from southern
India who revolutionised
menstrual health for women
in rural areas. He invented a
machine that can be used to
make cheap sanitary pads.
The devices are now in 23 of
the 29 Indian states.
The cinema release comes
as a demonstration is being
planned in Parliament
Square, central London, on
Wednesday to call on the
government to provide free
feminine hygiene products.
The organiser, Amika George,
18, an A-level pupil from
north London, said she was
driven to action after hearing
distressing stories about girls
who go to school using
“horrible alternatives like
toilet paper, socks,
newspapers or even T-shirts”.
Nina Wadia, the actress
best known for her roles in
Goodness Gracious Me and
EastEnders, is an ambassador
for Binti, a British charity that
campaigns for dignity around
menstruation. She recalls
hearing stories of female
relatives when she was
growing up in India.
Akshay Kumar with Amy
Jackson in Singh is Bling
“Women went to a shed
outside and sat on an iron
block to replenish the iron
loss in the body. That’s what
they would do for five days a
month and until they finished
bleeding they weren’t
allowed back into the main
house,” she said.
“It’s the most ridiculous
thing I ever heard of.”
Women in many
developing countries use
unhygienic substitutes for
pads such as rags, sand,
sawdust, leaves and even ash.
Pad Man’s producer,
Twinkle Khanna, who is
married to the film’s star,
Akshay Kumar, talked about
the experience of her friends
when she was a teenager.
“At boarding school I knew
girls who didn’t want to go
back home for the holidays
because when they were on
their periods they were made
to sit in a separate room, or
their food was put on a plate
and left outside the house,”
Khanna said.
“They weren’t allowed to
interact with anyone else.”
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Rod Liddle
One mention of the word ‘white’ and
the snowflakes go into meltdown
was playing tennis with a Pakistani
friend on the courts of my
sixth-form college back in about
1977. We were wearing jeans and
lurid T-shirts. My mate was just
about the only ethnic minority kid
in our school, a quiet and diligent
boy who ponced too many
cigarettes off me, but was otherwise OK.
We’d knocked the ball about for
maybe three minutes when we saw the
thick games master stomping towards
us, a look of fury on his face. “Off, off!”
He screamed. “Get off the courts. You
should know the rule. Whites only on
the tennis courts.”
My friend looked aghast for two
seconds and then, like me, collapsed in
hysterics. Even back then that word —
white — carried with it a certain potency.
But only until you realised its other
meanings. That is, if you’re sentient, for
about two seconds.
I was reminded of this exchange last
week when snow threatened and
University College London (UCL) put out
a memo to students informing them that
it would still be open, adding:
“Dreaming of a white campus . . .? We
can’t guarantee snow, but we’ll try!” Oh,
the furore. Oh, the anguish and outrage.
My favourite response came from
some deranged undergraduate who
wrote: “You know who else dreamt of a
white campus? Adolf Hitler, that’s who!
Disgusting!” And then there was another
student, Kumail Jaffer, who demanded
an immediate retraction and apology,
pointing out that the college must be
unaware of the very real suffering and
oppression occasioned by people of
colour, etc, ad infinitum.
And what did UCL do? Oh, come on.
You know what it did. The cringing
apology began: “We chose our words
very poorly yesterday . . .” Yes, that’s
right, UCL. Continue to swaddle your
students in the nice, warm thermal
blankets of victimhood and stupidity.
Accede to their imbecilic objections, to
their inability to think.
Oxford University hasn’t given in yet,
l An important question at
this time of year. How does
Allah, pbuh, feel about
snowmen? This vexed issue
seemed to have been sorted
three years ago when the
prominent Saudi cleric
Mohammed Saleh
al-Munajjid ruled Allah did
not like snowmen one bit and
that it was forbidden to build
them. Indeed, Mo added that
it was “haram” (forbidden) to
build “any structure” out of
snow, which is perhaps one
reason why Islam has been
slow to penetrate the Inuit
However, a new video
aimed at British Muslims says
it is OK to build a snowman —
so long as you don’t give him
a head. It’s the head — carrot
for a nose etc — that’s the
real problem for Allah. I am
not sure if this means it is an
obligation for Muslims to
decapitate any snowmen
sporting a head. The video
doesn’t make that clear.
That’s right,
swaddle your
students in
the nice
blankets of
but I fear it will, some way down the line.
One of Christ Church’s eminences, Nigel
Biggar, professor of moral and pastoral
theology, has been talking about the
British Empire. Biggar accepted that
“atrocities” happened as a result of
colonialism, but that it was wrong to see
the empire as entirely negative in its
outcomes for the people of the country
colonised. That seems to me
incontestable. I could name you at least
25 countries I suspect would be an awful
lot better off now — for their people —
under imperial British control than they
are under their own leaders. Shall we
start with Zimbabwe? Somalia? Then
work our way through the Middle East
and head, tentatively, towards Pakistan?
Then there are the countries that
benefited more marginally from our
colonisation, such as India, which
gained perhaps less than it lost. But still
gained a little. And you might disagree
on the specifics, and you might be right.
But that’s the point: very little in history
has been unequivocally good or bad.
What Biggar is really challenging is
not the practical (or moral) worth of the
British Empire, but the very modern and
corrupting absolutism that closes down
debate, that shrieks with fury when it is
challenged, that insists there can be no
challenge. And that proceeds from this
bizarre, totalitarian viewpoint to insist
that not only was the empire wholly evil,
but that every misery that afflicts the
people who were once its subjects, no
matter how long ago, is the result of that
imperialism. When, patently, that isn’t
remotely the case. It is a deluding
narrative that reinforces the notion of a
spurious victimhood among people
who, if we’re honest, are not victims of
the empire at all. They are victims of
their leaders. If they are victims at all.
It is a sacred fact that, as a Turkish taxi
driver put it to me recently, Britain
invented slavery and was the only
country ever to practise slavery. Not
entirely true, that, is it? And yet that is,
by and large, the narrative of our times:
unchallenged, idiotic and deluding.
Embattled prime minister
Every day’s a jolly
day with Hamas
The Hamas calendar is filling up. Now
every Friday has been declared a Day of
Rage by the ineffably good-natured,
fun-lovin’ Palestinians. This is to
differentiate Fridays from all those other
days of the week such as Tuesday, the
Day of Mild Pique, and Thursday, the
Day for Stabbing Lots of Jewish Folk. My
worry is that there won’t be any room in
the week for the Day of Trying to Make
This Place Slightly Less Resemble the
Really Awful Bits of Somalia.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy
Corbyn has been wishing somewhat
sceptical Jewish people a happy
Hanukkah. This isn’t quite like wishing
Christians a happy Christmas. It implies
that you recognise the Jewish claim to
Jerusalem. Took you a while, Jezza, but
you got there in the end. Mazel tov.
It’s the last time
I lend my laptop
to Damian Green
Rita, Sue and Bob
too ghastly, darling
l Social engineers at the Advertising
Standards Authority are tackling
gender stereotypes in adverts. In
future no women will be seen at the
kitchen sink, or mopping a floor.
Instead it will be men doing these
tasks, until it becomes a stereotype
itself — much as is the mixed-race
family now compulsory in all adverts
(black man, white woman, never the
other way around). And so adverts will
display lives so alien from the way life
is that nobody will take any notice of
them. So, a good thing, overall.
Incidentally, we have voted that
John Lewis commercial the least liked
of this year’s big-money Christmas
ads. People genuinely hate this stuff.
Congratulations to the Royal Court
Theatre in London for deciding, after all,
not to cancel Andrea Dunbar’s hilarious
play Rita, Sue and Bob Too. They had
canned it because it “involves ghastly
northern, working-class people and the
squalid, disgusting lives they lead”.
That’s not actually what they said, just
what I assume they meant. The Royal
Court didn’t feel comfortable putting on
a play that involved “grooming” — two
16-year-old girls have an affair with an
older, married man. Like so many of the
middle-class elite, they were appalled
by how the lower orders live. But the
furore was too much for them and now
it’s back on. So I won’t have to
demonstrate outside the place and
throw bricks through their windows.
Happy endings.
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Russia, Yemen, Brexit . . .
beavers — leave it all to me
The foreign secretary is keen to show he is a serious politician who can solve diplomatic crises and save wildlife
Boris Johnson is full of beans, which says
much about his resilience and glass halffull approach to life. On Thursday he will
become the first British foreign secretary
to visit Moscow for five years, where he is
braced for sticky talks with his opposite
number, Sergey Lavrov.
Johnson’s last planned trip to Russia
was canned in the spring when Downing
Street and the White House deemed that
his brand of diplomacy would be unhelpful. Brexit, which he helped bring about,
is proceeding but not always in the direction he wanted.
Yet Johnson is a key player in government and a force in the Tory world
because he does not waste time licking
his wounds. The Moscow trip will be a
showcase for his Churchillian resolution
and optimism that a better world is
possible. He will deliver an uncompromising message to “my friend Sergey”
that Moscow must stop behaving like the
pariah of world politics. “Russia has not
been so hostile to the UK or to western
interests since the end of the Cold War,”
he says, citing a long charge sheet of invasions, killings and attempts to meddle in
western elections.
“In the Crimea, capturing a part of sovereign European territory from someone
else’s country and holding it for the first
time since 1945. Add their destabilising
activities in the western Balkans. We
literally have Russian fingerprints on an
assassination attempt in Montenegro.
Look at what they’re doing with cyberwarfare, with attempted disruption of
democratic processes in the UK.”
The foreign secretary says he has
“seen no evidence” that Russian meddling affected the outcome of the EU
referendum but adds: “There’s some
evidence that there has been Russian
trolling on Facebook.”
Johnson calls this falling out “a tragedy”, fondly recalling the times when his
childhood mistrust of Moscow morphed
into a belief, at the end of the Cold war
that relations might improve. “When I
was a kid, Russia was a very scary proposition. The idea of friendship with Russia
seemed to be absurd because Russia was
threatening us with nuclear warheads.”
With Johnson there is always a histori-
cal allusion: “I was reading Thucydides’
history of the Peloponnesian war. It was
obvious to me that Athens and its democracy, its openness, its culture and civilisation was the analogue of the United States
and the West. Russia for me was closed,
nasty, militaristic and antidemocratic –
like Sparta. There was an extraordinary
moment of hope and change when the
[Berlin] wall came down and suddenly
everything felt very different. It now feels
as if that was a total illusion.” But seeing
has not
been so
to the
UK since
the end
of the
going to
case for
It’s right
the glass half-full, Johnson is looking for
opportunities to work with the Russians,
pointing out that he shares their ancestry
— his mother is the granddaughter of a
Russian-Jewish palaeographer and he is
named after a Russian émigré. “I took the
precaution before I became foreign
secretary to station my antecedents
across the world,” he says.
“We have to be firm, we have to
beware but we have to engage. Together
we did defeat Nazism. We need to collaborate again to defeat Islamist terrorism.
“We need to talk to Russia about how
they see the endgame in Syria. They have
managed to maintain their client Bashar
al-Assad in power in Damascus but they
have not produced a political solution for
Syria. We are going to be pushing very
hard to understand how the Russians see
it and to see how we can get some
forward momentum there.”
Interviewing Johnson is always an
exercise in postmodern theatre, where
the principal actor breaks the fourth wall
to address the audience directly. When I
move him on to discuss Brexit I feign
regret, explaining that my editor will
expect me to ask him about this week’s
cabinet talks on the type of trade deal
that we are seeking. Johnson, as a barely
reformed hack, is all too familiar with this
tactic and gleefully announces: “I always
used to say that when I got to the question
I really wanted to ask!”
It is telling that, knowing the game,
Johnson decides to play it anyway, putting down a firm marker on why Britain’s
“end state” deal with Brussels must allow
the UK to diverge from EU laws once we
have left, rather than stay in the state of
permanent close alignment that Philip
Hammond and other remain-supporting
ministers would prefer. This is the principal faultline in today’s cabinet.
“The prime minister has done a fantastic job moving us forward in the negotiations,” he explains, getting the loyalty bit
out of the way. “What we need to do is
something new and ambitious, which
allows zero tariffs and frictionless trade
but still gives us that important freedom
to decide our own regulatory framework,
our own laws and do things in a distinctive way in the future.”
It is an argument that Johnson expects
to win. He points out that even Hammond has suggested that Britain should
become a tech hub, with regulations
more suited to innovation than the EU:
“It was very notable in the budget speech
that the chancellor majored on the idea
of future regulatory divergence. Philip
can see that we have a very original economy, very different from other European
countries — tech sectors, bioscience,
bulk data, this is a very innovative place
to be. We may in future wish to regulate it
in a different way from the way that
Brussels does.”
Johnson acknowledges that going our
own way could lead to “trading consequences” with tariffs and other barriers
imposed by Brussels but the foreign
£50m extra for
terror policing
Tim Shipman Political Editor
Ministers are to plough an
extra £50m into
counter-terrorist policing
after the Home Office asked
for more money to deal with
the “fast-changing” threat to
Philip Hammond, the
chancellor, has struck a deal
with Amber Rudd, the home
secretary, to raise the Home
Office budget from £707m to
£757m next year.
The rise follows warnings
from police and security
services of a step change in
the threat from Islamist
terrorism this year. MI5 said
recently that the security
services have managed to
thwart nine terrorist attacks
on home soil since March.
The Tories were criticised by
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour
leader, in the general election
this summer for cutting the
number of police officers on
Britain’s streets.
Senior government
sources said the new money
was the result of an effective
campaign of quiet lobbying
by Rudd, contrasted with a
noisy public campaign calling
on Hammond to spare the
Ministry of Defence from cuts
which has been running since
Gavin Williamson became
defence secretary last month.
“It’s amazing what can be
achieved if you make a good
case in private,” one official
said. “Gavin might want to
think about that.”
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
The government lost its
first Brexit vote last week
— what was that about?
Eleven Tories voted with a
coalition of opposition
forces to demand a
meaningful vote on the
final Brexit deal.
Why did they do that?
That’s the £50bn question.
They say they want
parliament to have the
final say on the future
relationship between the
UK and the EU. “Remain”
supporters say MPs could
vote down the deal and
force the government to
negotiate again. Some
Brexiteers fear the rebels
are trying to block Brexit.
Might the rebellion
Some of the rebels have
received death threats and
been threatened with
deselection. Politically,
there is a danger that a vote
might actually help hardline
Brexiteers. The alternative
to whatever deal Theresa
May thrashes out could be
no deal at all, resulting in
World Trade Organisation
rules with tariffs. This is
precisely what some
leavers want — so the
rebels may turn out to be
turkeys voting for
Could Brexit be delayed?
Technically, the length of
the Brexit talks was set
when the government
triggered article 50 in
March. It could apply for
an extension when the
two-year time limit expires
but has said it will not
do so. Anyway, all 27 EU
member states would
have to agree.
“sufficient progress” on the
exit bill, the issue of the Irish
border and citizens’ rights
to justify the start of talks on
a future trade deal between
Britain and Brussels. They
even applauded May for
her resilience in sticking to
the task.
What happens now?
The prime minister has to
get her cabinet to agree a
united position on what
the final deal should look
like. Her most important
Brexit “war cabinet” will
meet tomorrow, with the
full cabinet convening
on Tuesday.
What are the divisions?
Brexiteers Boris Johnson,
Michael Gove, David Davis
and defence secretary
Gavin Williamson (a
temperamental leaver who
backed “remain” out of
loyalty to David Cameron)
all want Britain to have the
ability to ditch EU
regulations they don’t like.
Such as?
Gove wants to get Britain
out of the Common
Fisheries Policy. Others
would like to see the
working time directive
ditched, which limits the
working week to 48 hours.
All departments have been
asked to draw up lists of
issues where Britain should
remain closely aligned with
Don’t the rebels want to
change the date as well?
They were threatening
another rebellion this week.
Ministers have written
Brexit day — March 29, 2019
— on the face of the bill. The
rebels planned to remove it.
Could the government
lose again?
Sir Oliver Letwin, a former
cabinet minister, has tabled
a new amendment that
would see the Brexit date
stay on the face of the bill
but allow for the possibility
it might be changed — even
though this remains
vanishingly unlikely. The
compromise seems to have
satisfied ministers and the
rebels, led by the former
attorney-general Dominic
Phase one of the Brexit
talks finished last week
— what happened?
The 27 EU leaders agreed
Britain had achieved
secretary says Britain should grin and
bear that while making the case for global
free trade.
“We need to raise our eyes to the
horizon and ask ourselves in 10, 20, 30
years time: is the world really going to be
a series of mutually competitive trade
blocs or are we going to be working in a
system where there is freedom and free
trade between countries, businesses,
between individuals . . . in accordance
with global standards? That is a very
exciting future.”
This is the kind of sweeping, upbeat
vision that the prime minister appears
uncomfortable proposing. Johnson
makes clear that he is prepared to fill the
vacuum. Three months after his last
4,200-word screed on Brexit, he is working on a new intervention.
“The big project I have in mind — I’m
going to write the liberal case for Brexit
and why it’s the right thing to do for
people who believe in freedom, people
who want government to be close to the
people. I haven’t had time to do enough
on the positive reasons for doing this.”
This is news that will tighten buttocks
in Downing Street. It is also much further
than his aides were expecting him to go.
Johnson strays back on message,
demanding an end to the sniping against
the 11 Tory MPs who helped defeat the
government on the Brexit withdrawal bill
last week. He does not want to see them
deselected and denounces death threats
issued against some.
“That is absolutely obscene and it goes
without saying that that should not
happen. All they want to do is achieve the
Voters name terms
for immigrants
‘What we need
with Brexit is to
do something
new and
ambitious,’ says
Which factors are
most important when
admitting immigrants?
Whether they have
a criminal record
best result for their constituents. That’s
entirely right. These are friends of mine.
These are honourable people. They are
voting with their conscience.”
Johnson’s career may be defined by
Brexit but 2018 will also give him the
chance to show that he is a serious politician who can deliver on other crises.
“Number one on the list” is helping to
deliver a breakthrough in Yemen, where
a Saudi-led blockade has created a “truly
appalling humanitarian catastrophe”. He
says: “People want Britain to step up to
the plate.”
At a Commonwealth summit that Britain is hosting in April, Johnson will be
pushing for an international commitment to give all girls 12 years of education.
“Female education is the Swiss army
knife, the universal spanner that tackles
many other problems,” he explains passionately. “It tackles poverty, it tackles social
exclusion, it helps to tackle gender inequality and the dangers of radicalisation.”
Johnson has also taken a leaf out of
Michael Gove’s book and is also enthusing about animals. He is hosting a conference on the illegal wildlife trade in
October. I ask if he is trying to emulate
Gove by saving the beaver worldwide.
“It’s not just the beaver, passionate
though I am about it,” he grins, the blood
draining from his aides’ faces. Johnson
chuckles and recovers the situation:
“Since 1970 the world has lost 58% of its
fish, mammals, birds and reptiles. We
want to make a lot of progress next year.”
Whether his own stock rises or falls,
Johnson will keep moving forward — not
always in the direction decreed by No 10.
Brussels chocs or
Brexmas jumper?
the EU and others where we
should diverge.
Who wants to stay close?
A group of ministers who
supported “remain”, led by
Philip Hammond, the
chancellor, and including
home secretary Amber
Rudd and business
secretary Greg Clark.
What does May think?
In her Florence speech,
the prime minister said
Britain needed the ability
to diverge but it remains
unclear how much she
wants the UK to exploit its
Editorial, page 22
Defence firms told to hire
veterans to secure deals
Tim Shipman
British voters are open to
unskilled migrants coming to
the UK to work — as long as
they are filling a need, speak
English and do not have a
criminal record, according to
a new poll.
The ICM survey of 4,000
voters for the Open Europe
think tank undermines the
claim that Brexit was fuelled
by racism and bigotry.
It found that fewer than
10% of voters care about the
ethnic or religious
background of immigrants or
their sexuality respectively.
By contrast, 84.2% of
respondents would be
concerned by a criminal
record, 73.2% by whether
new arrivals have a job to
come to and 69.3% by the
need for migrants to fill a UK
skills shortage. More than
half (53.5%) want immigrants
to be able to speak “fluent
Ministers will publish a
white paper outlining the
government’s plans for a new
post-Brexit immigration
regime in late January. They
have already won the right to
run criminal record checks
on EU migrants.
Henry Newman, director
of Open Europe, said:
“Contrary to what some have
suggested, public attitudes
towards immigration — and
indeed Brexit — were not
fuelled by racism or
Whether they have a
specific job offer in the UK
Whether their job is in an area
where the UK has a skills shortage
Whether they speak
fluent English
What their race or
ethnic background is
Whether they are from a
Christian background
What their
sexuality is
Source: ICM for Open Europe
Mary O’Connor
Choosing the right Christmas
present can be a chore, but a
Ted Heath scatter cushion
could be the ideal gift for the
political superfan.
Cushions bearing a portrait
of the former prime minister
are available from the
Conservative Party’s online
shop at £35 each.
There are also coasters,
postcards and tote bags
emblazoned with his face and
the title of the party’s 1966
election manifesto: “Action
not words.” Other Tory
trinkets include Margaret
Thatcher mugs and vintage
campaign posters.
Meanwhile, the perfect gift
for the budding Corbynista
could be an unofficial Jeremy
Corbyn 2018 annual, which
includes a game of “pin the
beard on the Jeremy”.
Labour’s official shop
offers less choice than its
Tory counterpart, unless
“Hope” Christmas cards and
“Labour voter on board”
badges take your fancy.
Despite calls last week
from Justin Welby, the
Archbishop of Canterbury,
for a Brexit “ceasefire” over
the festive period, rivalries
look set to continue under the
tree with EU-themed gifts on
sale. The products on offer
include “I Love Brussels”
chocolates in the shape of
sprouts and “Merry Brexmas”
Tim Shipman
Defence companies seeking
work from the government
will have to publish details of
how many military veterans
they employ under plans to
improve the status of former
members of the armed
Government departments
would also publish details of
the veterans they employ
under plans drawn up by
Tobias Ellwood, the defence
minister responsible for
Ministers announced last
week that Britain’s 2.5m
veterans would be given their
own identity card in the form
of a special driving licence
stamped with a large “V”,
which will be introduced next
year. It will give them easy
access to priority healthcare
and housing plus discount
In America, companies
that fulfil defence contracts
have to meet a rule that at
least 7.5% of their employees
are people who have served,
or are reservists.
Such quotas are illegal
under EU law and the
government will not set a
limit here yet, but, at a
meeting of the ministerial
veterans board last month,
Ellwood proposed a system to
publicise the number of
He told The Sunday Times:
“I’m now looking at ways
government can do more to
help vets leverage their
transferable skills from the
armed forces environment to
civilian life and also kill the
perception that those
departing the armed forces
are likely to be ‘mad, bad or
“The reality is, compared
with the general population,
those departing the forces are
mentally and physically
healthier across the board
and have much to offer.
“I encourage any
organisation to pause to think
what a vet could bring to your
“The transferable skills
they take into civilian life are
phenomenal. They are
natural leaders and can work
in a team.”
Troubled Zuma’s last dance
With corruption charges hanging
over him, the South African
leader must hope his party picks
a forgiving successor, writes
Ivan Fallon in Cape Town
he formal proceedings of the
54th national conference of
the African National Congress, arguably the most
important in the 105-year history of South Africa’s ruling
party, finally got under way
hours behind schedule yesterday in the Nasrec Expo
centre, located on what used
to be one of the world’s richest gold reefs
southwest of Johannesburg.
More than 5,000 delegates, elected
after exhaustive and sometimes irregular
branch meetings across the country, made
the journey by bus and train to elect their
leaders for the next five years. Top of their
voting list is Jacob Zuma’s successor as
president of a party that is racked by corruption, division and controversy and is in
danger of losing its seemingly impregnable majority in the next general election,
due in 2019.
The race for the top job,
which under ANC rule has
become synonymous
with head of state,
is between the
president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and a
medical doctor who studied in Britain.
Zuma has thrown the full weight of his
office and legendary political skills
behind her, presumably in the hope of a
state pardon if some of the 783 charges of
corruption and fraud that stand against
him stick, as they well might. His last desperate effort to swing votes her way was a
promise of free higher education for
poor and working-class students, which
left his finance minister, Malusi Gigaba,
in shock over the potential cost.
Despite all the procedural hitches,
party officials were still predicting that
the ANC will have a new president by the
end of today. Who that will be is less
clear: this one is too close to call.
Ramaphosa entered the conference
ahead on points, on paper at least, with
about 500 more delegates pledged to
vote for him. But pledges count for little
in ANC politics. Delegates can change
their minds on the floor or in the privacy
of the ballot box and past experience
suggests many of them will.
Only hours before the conference
opened the rand hit a three-month high
after courts in Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg barred 50 or so (precise
numbers are impossible to pin down)
Dlamini-Zuma supporters for irregularities in branch voting, and party
officials disqualified another
200 yesterday morning.
clearly hoping for
a Ramaphosa victory. If he wins today
they are expected to surge.
Those who did make it had to go
through tight security and also discovered that the party’s deputy secretarygeneral, Jessie Duarte, had imposed
some new rules. “People under the influence of alcohol are not allowed to vote,”
she announced and warned of “sporadic
breathalyser tests” at the conference.
Duarte is also trying to stamp out
another tradition of ANC conferences:
the brown envelope. “People are being
approached with loads of money,” Ramaphosa told a radio station, “some of it
000 and 100,000 rand
between 50,000
,730] per delegate.” That is
[£2,865 and £5,730]
e on last time. “Five years
a steep increase
ago there wass probably about R50m
wn envelope money doing
[£2.9m] of brown
aid an observer. “This time
the rounds,” said
ce that.”
it’s at least twice
ir envelopes at past meetTo earn their
ings, delegates have secretly used mobile
otograph their completed
phones to photograph
ballot papers in the voting booth. This
year Duarte hass forbidden the phones.
Behind the scenes the mood in the
re and angry, with deep
party is sombre
issures threatening to tear
divisions and fissures
icularly if Dlamini-Zuma
it apart, particularly
rs of Zuma rule and the
wins. Ten years
n of the “state capture”
spreading stain
scandal (see panel,
right) have done
enormous damage
both to the party
and to South Africa
where growth has ground to a halt, half
the population lives in poverty, unemployment is among the highest in the
world (at an effective 35% including
those who have given up even trying to
find work) and 6m unemployed young
people will probably never get jobs.
“The present leadership has failed us,”
said the former finance minister Pravin
Gordhan, who was sacked by Zuma in
March for his uncompromising opposition to the brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh
Gupta, the president’s cronies.
Gordhan calculates that the Guptas,
with Zuma’s support, have “stolen” —
and he emphasises that word — more
than R100bn from the public, largely
through inflated fees and one-sided
contracts with state-owned enterprises
whose managements, also Zuma
appointees, share in the spoils.
Zuma’s hopes of serving the remaining
18 months of his term as state president
have diminished dramatically after he
lost three court battles in seven days, one
of which opened the way for the national
prosecuting authority to indict him on
outstanding charges of corruption.
On Thursday came the potential body
blow: in the most serious of a long line of
legal decisions that have gone against
him, the High Court in Pretoria ordered
Zuma to set up
p a
of South Africans think
that Jacob Zuma should
resign, according to an
Ipsos poll released in
May 2017
Presidential election 2014
African National
Economic Freedom
Branches in
favour of Cyril
Municipal election 2016
African National
for Nkosazana
More than
Delegates at the
54th ANC national
105 years old
Banned from 1960 to 1990
In power since 1994
A simple
ruin, or a
chance to
ost South
Africans have
spent the past
three or four
months in a
state of
as the race for
the leadership
of Nelson
Mandela’s once-revered
African National Congress
(ANC) has approached. Today
the moment has arrived.
Only two results are possible:
one will tip the country into
further decay, poverty,
division and corruption; the
other will merely stop the rot
and, only in the longer run,
possibly fix it.
The rot-stopper would be
Cyril Ramaphosa — lawyer,
pioneering union leader
under apartheid, currently
deputy president of the
country and the party and
architect of South Africa’s
highly regarded constitution.
He is a wealthy
businessman and an
accomplished diplomat
who played an active role in
the Irish peace process.
Critically, he has a rapport
with local and international
capital that could help
kickstart new investment
in South Africa’s toppling
Although he has
collected the most votes
of individual ANC branch
members, that might
not be enough to see
off his rival, Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma. To
understand her
prospects, you have
to understand the
predicament of her former
husband — Jacob Zuma.
Since South Africa became
a democracy in 1994, the ANC
has always
head of state,
powers of
If Zuma cannot
control his
as party
leader now,
he will lose
all protection
when, as the
requires, his final
term as head of state
ends with a general
election in the middle
of 2019.
And, boy, does he
need protection. Zuma
has presided over an
unprecedented rise in
unemployment and
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
as rivals vie for ANC crown
judicial inquiry, chaired by an independent judge, into allegations of state capture against himself and his son Duduzane and into their relationship with the
Gupta brothers.
The implications of this are enormous.
For more than a year Zuma has been
trying to bury a report by the former
public protector Thuli Madonsela which
showed that state capture and the influence of the Guptas penetrate deep into
the government machine.
Madonsela, who had earlier ruled that
Zuma should repay some of the R250m of
state money that he had spent on upgrading his sprawling homestead in his native
KwaZulu-Natal, had recommended the
independent inquiry into her findings.
Last week she wept when she heard that
the court had granted her wish.
Zuma may be down but he is far from
out, however. At the end of a week that
would have shaken even the most hardened politician, he appeared in a jolly
mood at a gala dinner on Friday night,
delivering a speech that was masterly.
Barely literate, he struggles with prepared speeches but has a remarkable
rapport with his own supporters and had
the audience eating out of his
hand. Yesterday he was back to
his old wooden self as he rambled
through his two-hour opening address.
He has built a career extracting himself
from tight spots and may do it again. Ten
years ago this weekend he defeated
Thabo Mbeki, who had sacked him as his
deputy when details emerged of his
involvement with a convicted fraudster.
If he had lost, he would almost certainly
have followed the fraudster to prison. But
he won and his legal team dragged out
criminal proceedings long enough for
him to use his executive powers to get the
charges dropped — at least temporarily.
Now he is back in the same position
again, with the same charges reinstated
and with much the same options: either
engineer a win for his ex-wife and hope
she will protect the father of her children,
or lose and go to jail.
Former intelligence minister Ronnie
Kasrils, who served under Nelson Mandela and Mbeki and was a comrade-inarms of Zuma’s in the resistance years,
warns against underestimating him.
Zuma is “so desperate” to stay out of
prison, Kasrils said, that “he could use
any range of methods, including martial
law. It’s all about saving his own skin.”
Probably unfairly,
a Dlamini-Zuma victory this weekend will be
seen as another five years of business as usual. Her speeches emphasise
her commitment to “radical economic
transformation”, by which she means the
forced transfer of land and wealth from
white to black hands, with or without
proper compensation — a policy Zuma
also espoused.
Ramaphosa, on the other hand, represents a huge shift from the Zuma regime,
promising to implement a well-thoughtout economic plan aimed at job creation,
training and improving competitiveness,
all of which sound good but are hard to
implement in South Africa’s sclerotic
economy. But, at least as far as business
and much-needed international investors are concerned, his head — and his
heart — are in the right place.
Like Zuma, he has been here before
although in a very different sense. In the
build-up to the 1994 election he was one
of two potential candidates in line to
succeed Mandela as state president. But
Mandela, after consulting senior ANC
officials — including Zuma — chose Mbeki.
“I made a mistake,” Mandela admitted
three years into his presidency. “I should
have insisted on Cyril.”
Deeply disappointed, Ramaphosa left
politics to enter the business world
where his organisational skills, easy
charm and wide range of contacts made
him a favoured black empowerment
partner for Anglo American, then South
Africa’s biggest mining house and conglomerate, and other big concerns.
Within a few years he had put together
a fortune once valued by Forbes at
$450m, but friends say he always saw it as
a stepping stone to what he really wanted
to do: to become president.
“State capture” in South
African terminology is a
reference to how the
Indian-born Gupta family
exploited their influence
over the Zuma governm
to win lucrative contrac
from state-owned
companies for their
business interests, which
include mining, computers
and media companies,
writes Ivan Fallon.
They employ the
president’s son, Duduzane,
and at least half a dozen
government ministers a
closely associated with
them, as well as chairmen,
chief executives and board
directors of parastate
organisations whom they
have helped to appoint
In the past year, several
(now former) ministers have
vealed how the Gupt
with Zuma not even present,
offered them cabinet roles
in return for being awarded
profitable mining licences or
franchises. The deputy
finance minister, Mcebisi
Jonas, has revealed how he
was invited to the Gupta
mansion in Johannesburg
and offered the job of
finance minister along with
a bribe of 600m rand (more
than £34m) in return for
giving the Guptas special
treatment in the future.
He turned them down,
but the hapless David van
Rooyen, a junior minister
with no financial
experience, accepted the
job, provoking a full-scale
financial crisis and run on
the rand. He lasted three
days before Zuma was
forced to remove him.
The depth of Gupta
control over cabinet
ministers and parastatal
chief executives and board
members was revealed
earlier this year when a
whistleblower leaked
hundreds of gigabytes of
documents and emails —
known as the #GuptaLeaks
— to a team of investigative
journalists, which has been
mining them ever since.
They listed hundreds of
deals in which the Guptas
were involved, the most
lucrative of which was their
role in an order from
Transnet, South Africa’s
state-owned freight
operator, for 359 new
locomotives from China
South Rail, a rolling-stock
manufacturer. The deal went
through a Hong Kong-based
company called Tequesta,
owned by the Guptas.
The contract records that
“Tequesta shall be entitled
to an advisory fee of 21%”
which, on a contract worth
18.1bn rand, came to 3.8bn
rand. None of Tequesta’s
staff knew the first thing
about locomotives, but the
contract acknowledged that
“the project would not have
materialised without the
active efforts of Tequesta”.
There are hundreds of
other such deals, some of
them involving blue-chip
names, including the
German software group SAP
and the accountants KPMG
(which has since sacked its
senior South African staff).
Appalled by the tide of
adverse publicity, the
Guptas hired the PR firm Bell
Pottinger, which painted
them as the victims of
“white monopoly capital”
(and possibly the CIA and
MI6). As a result, a storm of
criticism engulfed the
company, its clients
deserted it and it went into
The big South African
banks closed all Gupta
accounts more than a year
ago but Lord Hain, the
former anti-apartheid
activist and Labour minister,
is pursuing the Guptas’
possible use of HSBC,
Standard Chartered and
other British banks to extract
their money from South
The final question is: what
happens to Zuma? The
assumption is — a great
deal. Once he steps down,
the gloves will be off and a
tide of charges and
allegations could well engulf
him. That is when he might
need the Dubai house that
the emails suggest the
Guptas have bought for his
Editorial, page 22
£6bn-£12bn £15m
(roughly 5% of GDP)
The amount Zuma is
claimed to have ‘looted’
from the state
counts of corruption
that Zuma is faced with
Zuma is
desperate to
stay out of
prison. It’s all
about saving
his own skin
unemployment rate
amount of state funds Zuma
used to upgrade his private
property, a move ruled
unconstitutional in 2016
number of emails
in #GuptaLeaks
the bribe allegedly
offered to deputy finance
minister Mcebisi Jonas
by the Guptas
The ANC has
no strategy to
help people
out of shacks
and into jobs
and houses
South Africans living
in poverty in 2015 out of
a total population of 56.5m
Labour force
participation rate
Demographic breakdown 2017
The worst income
inequality in the world
Gini coefficient:
0.68 in 2015
South Africa’s GDP 1994-2016
500 $bn
Jacob Zuma
8.8% 8%
Worse, by his
direct hand,
corruption has
deepened and
widened since
he came into
office in 2009.
friends and
cronies, notably
the Gupta family
who arrived in
the country at
the dawn of
Zuma has
the state.
Or, rather,
the Guptas
have captured
the state, simply by capturing
the president.
Zuma has always been a
kept man. Even for the first
few months of his
presidency he took a
second salary from a
businessman in Durban.
He has stayed out of jail
through infinite legal
delaying tactics but is
rapidly running out of road.
For Zuma, his former
wife simply has to win. His
calculation long ago was that
she would protect him from
prosecution, or at least
prison, if she succeeded him.
She probably would too, if
the courts let her get away
with it. Dlamini-Zuma is an
old ANC hand and she has
been in every cabinet since
Mandela made her his
first minister of
health. A medical
doctor with a
degree from Bristol
University, she is diplomatic
in private while parading as
an old and decidedly
d ed revolutionary in
public. It is typical of much
of the ANC establishment.
Britain is the despised
coloniser; China the bright
shining hope for humanity.
People say she would not
be a clone of her ex and that
is probably true. She is more
efficient. Meetings will start
on time but there is little
guarantee the decisions they
make will be any better than
they are now. During her
campaign she has merely
echoed Zuma’s policy
positions from energy (more
nuclear, preferably Russian)
to land (expropriation
without compensation).
The problem is that she is a
bureaucrat, not a leader, and
she will struggle to hold at
bay the powerful men and
women of Zuma’s circle with
whom he will surround her.
The Guptas greatly look
forward to her leadership of
the party.
Dlamini-Zuma will also be
comfortable stoking racial
animosities. Last week she
told an audience near
g that
“whites have been stealing
ever since their arrival in this
country. They stole our land.
Who are they to talk about
looting?” She meant the
looting of the state by Zuma.
If she was elected, she
promised, “I will take these
white people on a bus to
show them the suffering of
shack dwellers.”
If she does win, her main
problem is that neither she
nor the ANC has any realistic
economic strategy to get
those people out of shacks
and into houses and jobs.
The national debt has
doubled under Zuma’s
presidency and the country’s
sovereign debt has been
two of
downgraded to junk by tw
the world’s top three rati
agencies. Servicing debt is the
fastest-growing item in th
national budget.
Dlamini-Zuma has no
answer to any of this. She
disparages the only sector
that can help — big, large
still white-owned compa
with money to invest — an
she probably looks to Ch
and Russia for relief.
That has been the big
Zuma pivot — from West to
East. But it is looking sha
The big emerging econom
known as Brics, a club South
Africa squeaked into in 2
is more or less moribund
and the Chinese have bee
irritated, anyway,
anyway at the
way Zuma’s politics have
affected their investments in
the country.
Nonetheless, Dlamini-
Black South Africans
(Official figure)
Zuma could easily win the
leadership vote this weekend.
I would be most relieved if I
am wrong but at ANC
conferences like this, chaos
and corruption rule. Money is
changing hands as delegates
are approached to change
their mandated vote.
Certainly, she is the
candidate the opposition
most wants to see win. She
will be easier to beat in 2019
than Ramaphosa. In fact, to
help her prospects in the
general election it might well
be that she does her best to
persuade her former
husband to step down as
head of state sooner rather
than later. To win in 2019, she
will have to do things that
directly threaten him.
The crisis in South Africa’s
northern neighbour,
Zimbabwe, last month would
have made Zuma profoundly
Sources: Ipsos, SSA, BBC, World Bank
uncomfortable. For a deeply
unpopular head of state who
is trying to ensure that a
former wife replaces him, the
last thing he needed was the
toppling of another, Robert
Mugabe, for trying to install
his wife, Grace, as his
As in South Africa, the
tensions in Zimbabwe were
entirely confined to the ruling
party and the succession
battle inside it.
Zuma has a very strong
hold on key elements of the
state. Unlike in Zimbabwe,
however, the military is not
one of them. Neither, really,
are the police. But the
intelligence and prosecution
services are both in his hands
— and to regain public trust
and win an election in 2019,
the ANC is going to have to set
both free.
Zuma has often warned
that life outside the ANC is
cold and hard. That will not
deter the Ramaphosa camp,
if not the man himself, from
spinning off into a new party
if Dlamini-Zuma wins the
ANC presidency. She would
mean more Zuma and they
have had enough. And a split
would kill the rump ANC’s
chances in 2019. If
Ramaphosa wins the party
presidency, the betting is that
Dlamini-Zuma would be
prepared to serve as his
deputy as part of a strategy
for 2019.
So this is a watershed for
South African politics,
arguably the biggest moment
since Nelson Mandela walked
out of prison.
Peter Bruce is a former editor
and now columnist for the
Tiso Blackstar media group
in Johannesburg
He ain’t heavy, he’s my persecuted buddy
A Rohingya boy of 15 fled
over 50 hills to a refugee
camp, carrying a disabled
friend and finding his
beheaded father en route.
Now you can help them
Bangladesh to dump
‘terrorist’ Rohingya
on cyclone-risk island
Christina Lamb
Christina Lamb
Jamtoli camp, Bangladesh
Christmas Appeal
In a flimsy plastic shelter Gura Miah, 15,
sits cross-legged on the muddy ground
between a severely disabled boy called
Anwar Sadiq and a football. They are so
precious to him that he carried both for
two weeks through the Burmese jungle.
He kept going even when soldiers beheaded his father.
Most of the 655,000 Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh over the
past three months have shocking tales.
But few have a story as humbling as that
of these two boys and the football.
Anwar, 12, has a smile that lights up
anyone who meets him. He also has
cerebral palsy. His legs are matchstick
thin and twisted and he cannot walk.
When the Burmese military attacked
their village, Washila Para, and torched
the hut where Anwar lived with his
mother, he had no chance of escape without help. Gura Miah did not think twice.
Leaving everything behind apart from
his beloved football, a present from his
mother, he tied Anwar on his back with a
sling and then ran from their burning village, where soldiers were shooting young
men and gang-raping women.
The two boys have always been close.
“We’re buddies,” smiled Anwar. Although three years younger, he is also
Gura’s uncle. His mother, Laila Begum,
who looks older than her 48 years, is
Gura’s grandmother. Gura’s mother, who
died five years ago, was Laila’s daughter.
“If you had seen what Gura Miah did
you would not believe it,” said Laila last
week. “He saved my son’s life. My grandson saved my son. Now I am praying to
Allah to help them both.”
The family decided to flee Burma
when they heard in September about
nearby villages in Rakhine state being
burnt. The pattern was the same everywhere. “First the military began abducting men from the village, saying it was for
labour, then they don’t come back,” said
Gura Miah. “Then they abduct the girls
and rape them.”
The family were preparing to go when
soldiers arrived in lorries and began a
rampage of killing and beating, then set-
Gura Miah, 15, left, with Anwar Sadiq, 12, in the Jamtoli camp in Bangladesh after their trek from Burma, menaced by troops and Buddhist mobs
ting fire to the huts. The boys fled with
Gura Miah’s father, two brothers, three
cousins and grandmother, as well as
those villagers who could get out.
“No one helped,” shrugged Gura Miah.
“Everyone had their own problems.”
He could not leave behind his football,
although it was awkward to hold. “I love
football,” he said. “In our village we had a
TV hall that you could buy tickets for and
once I watched a big tournament with
teams from lots of different countries.”
For the next 10 days Gura Miah
tramped through jungle and over more
than 50 hills, swallowing painkillers to be
able to bear the load. Often he had to run
to dodge Burmese soldiers and Buddhist
lynch mobs. On the way they had to cross
three military camps at night.
“Sometimes Anwar felt so heavy I
thought I couldn’t do it and it was tricky
as his legs are long and crooked and kept
catching the bush,” he said. Anwar’s legs
were soon cut and swollen and he was
uncomfortable bumping against Gura
Miah’s back, yet he did not complain.
Carrying Anwar slowed Gura Miah
down. At one point he and a small group
ended up separated from the rest. “There
were too many people and the path was
narrow,” he said.
After a few days the boys ran out of
their meagre supplies and had to beg
from other fleeing villagers. They drank
water from streams. On the way they
came across corpses and what Gura Miah
describes as “pieces of humans, rotting
flesh”. Then they came across something
even more unspeakable.
With shaking hands, Gura Miah passes
over his phone to show a picture so
gruesome it is hard to look at. A body lies
in a pool of blood, the head on the ground
a short distance away. His own father,
slaughtered by Burmese soldiers.
It happened on the fifth day. “My
father was in front and I was behind
because of carrying Anwar, so I never saw
what happened,” said Gura Miah.
“Then I saw my father lying in blood,
his head away from his body and also one
hand almost severed. I cried. It was difficult to approach the body. We couldn’t
even stop to bury him as Chakmas [the
Buddhist mobs] were robbing the belongings of the dead and they would have
attacked us.”
When they reached the barbed wire of
the border they waited for four days
before being placed in a section for the
extremely vulnerable at Jamtoli, a
smaller camp near the huge Kutupalong
refugee camp. There they were provided
with a shelter by Save the Children,
which The Sunday Times has again chosen for its Christmas appeal this year.
After the boys’ incredible journey,
they need help. Kevin Watkins, chief
executive of Save the Children, said:
“Gura Miah is a real-life hero who has
risen to horrific challenges. He’s also just
a boy. He may have lost part of his
childhood but he need not lose it all. We
can help children like him to overcome
was so
heavy, it
His legs
are long
and kept
delivery kits to help
two women give
birth safely
a month’s
food for a
family off
25 pairs of
sandals to
feet in a
a month’s nutritious peanut
paste for four severely
a month’s
tablets to protect
10 families from
Bangladesh has drawn up
plans to dump 100,000
Rohingya refugees on a floodprone island far from shore,
claiming they are a terrorist
The plan has been
condemned by aid workers
who say the island is
uninhabitable and did not
even exist until 11 years ago,
and fear it is a device to
frighten people into going
back to Burma.
Already one of the world’s
most overcrowded countries,
Bangladesh has been
struggling to cope with the
influx of 655,000 refugees
since late August.
Most are crammed in the
so-called mega-camp of
Kutupalong, now the world’s
largest refugee camp.
“It’s like creating a
Manchester in three months
on a very small amount of
land,” said Mohammad Abul
Kalam, the Bangladeshi
government’s commissioner
for refugee relief and
repatriation. “The strain on
the local population is huge.
Given the challenges, [the
island is] not bad, though a
little far.”
The UN and aid agencies
have been calling for more
land to extend the camp as
well as to house 16,000 still
trapped in no-man’s-lands
between Burma and
But the Bangladeshi
military has argued camps on
the mainland are a security
risk. “Camps like this of
vulnerable people are easy
prey for extremists and may
already harbour terrorists,”
said a senior military officer.
“Putting them on an island
will separate them from our
The government has
approved a $280m (£210m)
plan to relocate 100,000
their trauma, heal their wounds and start
rebuilding their lives. With the support of
Sunday Times readers we will make that
The boys’ shelter is black plastic over
bamboo poles, which keeps out the rain
but is small. Inside are two UNHCR mats
to sit on, a bucket, a few blankets and
clothes. The only light is a solar lamp. It is
hot during the day and cold at night. “I
would like a warm jacket,” said Anwar.
As for Gura Miah, he says he would like
to go to school but is embarrassed to ask
because he has never been so cannot
read or write. In Burma, like many
Rohingyas, his only education was going
to the local madrasah and learning to
recite the Koran. “I’d like to go [to school]
but I’m shy because the other children
are much younger than me,” he said.
Instead he tries to supplement the aid
rations through day labour — doing construction jobs for 300 Bangladeshi taka
(less than £3) a day. His shoulders still
ache from carrying Anwar. When not
working he goes to collect aid and to buy
additional food from the camp market.
What about football? Not in this overcrowded camp. “There is no football
field,” he shrugged. “There is no space.”
Please accept my gift of: £23
people to a remote island
called Bhashan Char in the
Bay of Bengal, about 20 miles
from the mainland.
Mustafa Kamal, planning
minister, said the project
would be complete by 2019.
Dutch technical experts have
been brought in to advise on
how to use low-lying land.
But UN officials have called
it “uninhabitable”, arguing it
could disappear in the
coming cyclone season and
the surrounding sea is a
major trafficking route.
“We and other
humanitarian agencies are
not keen on this idea,” said
Sultana Begum, Oxfam policy
manager. “[The island]
would be hard to get aid to.”
Last month Bangladesh
and Burma signed a deal to
start returning Rohingya next
month, to reduce pressure on
camps. Some have likened it
to sending victims back to a
crime scene.
A new report by Médecins
Sans Frontières estimates at
least 6,700 Rohingya were
slaughtered by Burmese
military in the first month
alone, including 730 children
under the age of five. Earlier
this month the UK foreign
affairs select committee
called it “ethnic cleansing”.
An Oxfam study published
tomorrow finds that despite
the inadequacies of the
camps, Rohingya said they
would not return without
guarantees of security and
equal rights and some would
rather die than go back.
“We interviewed 200
refugees and the
overwhelming feeling from
everyone was they are not
ready,” said Sultana Begum.
“They have only just arrived
and are deeply traumatised,
having been raped, knifed
and seen loved ones killed. I
had women saying they
would rather commit suicide
than go back.”
Thanks to the generosity of readers, our
Christmas Appeal for Save the Children
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has been boosted by a £250,000 gift
from an anonymous donor moved by
the plight of the Rohingya people and
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The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Democrats seize
on sex as way to
topple Trump
Far right
to share
power in
Bojan Pancevski
The president’s opponents are tapping into the national
anger at sexual misconduct to ramp up pressure on him
Toby Harnden
Democrats are preparing for an all-out
assault on President Donald Trump over
his past dealings with women, betting
that the wave of national outrage over
sexual misconduct will help to eject him
from the White House.
Last week’s astonishing setback for
Republicans in Alabama, when female
voters turned out in droves to defeat a
Republican candidate accused of sexual
offences against teenagers, has convinced
Democrats that the #MeToo movement
marks a sea change in American politics.
Some Democrats fear the party will
overplay its hand and that pushing for
Trump to resign or be impeached is no
substitute for an economic message that
will woo back voters who defected to the
Republicans in 2016.
Others say that special counsel Robert
Mueller’s investigation into high-level
collusion between the Trump campaign
and Russia might not yield any proof and
that the president is much more vulnerable on the sexual front in the wake of the
Harvey Weinstein scandal.
After initially standing by Senator Al
Franken and Congressman John Conyers
— prominent Democrats accused of a
string of sexual assaults — party leaders
changed tack and forced the two to
resign. “We sacrificed two knights to
clear a way through to get the king,”
explained a senior Democratic strategist.
“With Franken and Conyers out, we
can make this about Trump. He survived
in 2016 but the environment is different
now. Voters won’t tolerate this stuff.”
In a series of co-ordinated moves, Democrats have ramped up the pressure on
Trump, who was accused of sexual impropriety by at least 19 women last year after
Imagine what
would happen if
Trump was
accused of rape
Clinton with Monica Lewinsky: some
Democrats are now disowning him
the release of the infamous Access Hollywood
video in which he bragged about sexual assault.
Last Monday three women who had
previously accused Trump of sexual offences
appeared together on NBC television to request
Congress to investigate his behaviour. Eight
Democratic senators then called on Trump to
resign and more than 100 members of the
House of Representatives demanded that its
committee on oversight and government
reform launch an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Democratic strategist said the party
expected other women would come forward:
“The game-changer will be more accusations,
especially if they’re recent. Imagine what would
happen if Trump was accused of rape.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a
long-time campaigner on gender issues who is
almost certain to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, is leading the
charge. She angered some Democrats recently
by saying Bill Clinton should have resigned as
president over the Monica Lewinsky scandal
two decades ago. But the Democratic strategist
said this was a canny move: “Hillary Clinton lost
in 2016. The Clintons are done in politics for
now. Disowning Bill is another way of clearing
the route to Trump on these issues.”
Trump himself criticised Gillibrand last week
after she called on him to step down. He
tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand . . . someone who would come to my
office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not
so long ago (and would do anything for them), is
now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very
disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”
The “would do anything” jibe was viewed as a
sexual slur. It was too much for USA Today, the
staid newspaper of middle America, which
responded with a blistering editorial: “With his
latest tweet, clearly implying that a United
States senator would trade sexual favours for
campaign cash, President Trump has shown he
is not fit for office.
Donald Trump and the actress Megan Mullally sing during an American Idol spoof
at the 2005 Emmy awards. She said later she regretted having helped him win it
“A president who would all but call
Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean
the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential
Library or to shine the shoes of George W
Democrats are emboldened by the
defeat of Roy Moore, the controversial
Republican candidate, in Alabama, which
left his party with a 51-49 majority. Trump
had won Alabama by 27 points in 2016, but
his effusive backing for Moore could not
prevent the loss.
The president’s approval rating nationally has slumped to a new low of 32% — and
to 24% among women. Recent results in
Virginia and New Jersey indicate that
swings among suburban voters could lead
to a wipeout for Republicans in next
November’s mid-term elections.
Some Republicans believe Moore’s
defeat in Alabama was a blessing in disguise
because it deprived Democrats of a juicy
target on Capitol Hill and could marginalise
the influence of such figures as Steve Bannon, the Trump confidant who had backed
Moore because of his anti-establishment
Niall Ferguson, page 23
Austria has become western
Europe’s only country with a
far-right party in government
after the world’s youngest
leader, Sebastian Kurz, 31,
agreed a coalition with the
controversial Freedom Party
(FPO) yesterday. The FPO, set
up by a former SS officer after
the Second World War, was
last in government from 2000
to 2005, resulting in
European Union sanctions.
Kurz, chairman of the
centre-right Austrian People’s
Party (OVP), will be sworn in
as chancellor tomorrow after
President Alexander Van der
Bellen gave the coalition the
green light yesterday.
The FPO leader HeinzChristian Strache will be
vice-chancellor and FPO
politicians will run key
ministries such as interior,
foreign affairs and defence.
Strache, 48, had been a
member of an alleged
far-right paramilitary
organisation in his youth.
The OVP won the general
election on October 15, while
the FPO came third with 26%
after an anti-migration, antiIslam, Eurosceptic campaign.
Van der Bellen said he had
reminded both parties that
“basic liberal values” must be
their “compass” and it was in
Austria’s interest to remain
“in the centre of a strong EU”.
Critics raised concerns that
the FPO, which traditionally
takes a pro-Kremlin line and
has ties to President Vladimir
Putin’s party, will be in
charge of security and
defence, including the secret
service. Mario Kunasek, the
designated defence minister,
has written articles for
far-right publications.
Sources close to the
coalition talks said the FPO
had toned down its earlier
demands for referendums on
key issues and also dropped
its Eurosceptic rhetoric.
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
The Tory circular firing squad
needs to take aim at Corbyn
he government is ending the
year in better shape than it
might have hoped. Theresa
reached its low point at the Tory
conference in October, when a
lost voice and a disintegrating
backdrop appeared to speak of a
government in deep disarray. The year
ends with a deal done to move the Brexit
talks to the next and crucial phase of trade
negotiations and with the prime minister
winning back the support of most of her
party — and even the grudging admiration
of fellow European Union leaders.
Yet the Tories, for all that things are
beginning to look up — and that they are
neck-and-neck in the polls with Labour —
seem determined to make life harder for
themselves than they need to. You would
say they were addicted to fighting like
ferrets in a sack, except even ferrets
probably know when it is sensible to call a
Last week’s House of Commons vote,
which inserted into the EU Withdrawal
Bill a final parliamentary say on the deal,
was an unforced error. A more experienced chief whip would have avoided it.
The concessions that could have headed it
off came too late. Yet the call by one Tory
MP, Nadine Dorries, for the 11 rebels who
helped to defeat the government to be
deselected — a call taken up by overexcited types on social media which has
seen pressure put on at least one MP from
her constituency party — conveyed the
impression of a party never happier than
when at each other’s throats.
The anger directed at the rebels was
both mystifying and misplaced. Better to
laugh at them. Like Gina Miller, who successfully challenged the government over
its proposed use of prerogative powers to
invoke article 50, only to see parliament
vote overwhelmingly for it to be invoked,
the rebels have rebelled in pursuit of a
vote that will only leave them between a
rock and a much harder place. Either MPs
will vote for Mrs May’s deal or there will be
no deal. Indeed, if some of the harder
Brexiteers in the House of Commons
think the prime minister has conceded
too much to secure a deal, as some are
already hinting, it is entirely possible that
they will be the ones to take advantage of
the rebel amendment, preferring the
no-deal option.
That is for later. For now, the Tories
need to calm down. An intervention by
Sir Oliver Letwin on the vexed question of
putting the withdrawal date on the face of
the bill seems likely to avoid another
Commons showdown this week. But the
wounds are still open.
A House divided against itself cannot
stand and a party that spends its time setting up circular firing squads will be the
one to suffer. Mrs May has said she does
not intend to give a running commentary
on the Brexit negotiations but if the next
year is to be spent in a running battle
among Tories as the details emerge, the
only beneficiary will be Jeremy Corbyn.
Talk of deselection is particularly
inappropriate for the Tories, given the
campaign of cleansing under way in Mr
Corbyn’s party. Those who do not agree
with the leader are increasingly persona
non grata. Moderate Labour councillors
are being forced out by the pro-Corbyn
Momentum pressure group. Increasingly
there is no place — and no future — for
moderates in Labour. The party of Harold
Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Neil Kinnock, Tony
Blair and Gordon Brown is being hijacked
by the far left.
Most voters, many of whom supported
Labour in June because its leader had a
better popular touch than the prime minister, are unaware of this or of the dangers
a Corbyn government would bring. The
Tories need to be doing much more to
make such voters aware. But while they
are busy fighting among themselves, they
will struggle to achieve anything else.
Corrupt and failing — this is
South Africa’s last chance
This is an important moment for South
Africa. Two decades ago the rainbow
nation was a beacon of hope to the world,
a country that was successfully emerging
from the apartheid years under Nelson
Mandela, who was revered throughout
the world for his magnanimity in victory.
Now the message South Africa conveys
to the world is a very different one. Under
President Jacob Zuma, the country has
become a watchword for corruption on a
vast scale, a failing state hand in hand with
a failing economy. The Gupta scandal,
known as “state capture”, under which
the billionaire family accumulated huge
wealth and influence because of its close
links to the Zuma family, has claimed
several scalps. It has not, however, yet
done for Mr Zuma himself, who sits atop
this mountain of corruption.
His time, nonetheless, is drawing to a
close which is why the African National
Congress’s five-yearly leadership conference, which should decide today on a
successor to Mr Zuma as party leader, is
important. Although the ANC, which has
ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid, is under growing pressure from
other parties, it is still in effect choosing
the next president to take over when Mr
Zuma’s term expires in 2019.
It is a straightforward choice between
Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s deputy
president, who has positioned himself
as the anti-corruption candidate, and
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s
ex-wife and his political protégée. A
victory for her, as Mr Zuma can clearly
see, would be best for him. The chances of
the 783 counts of corruption faced by Mr
Zuma advancing any further would be
severely diminished.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma is making airy promises of a radical economic transformation
for a country that has failed to convert its
huge potential into prosperity. She is also
the continuity candidate and after the
Zuma years the last thing South Africa
needs is continuity. Like the recent fall of
Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, whom
South Africa had helped to sustain in
power, today’s election needs to mark the
beginning of the end of the Zuma years.
Mr Ramaphosa, imprisoned during the
apartheid years, is by no means perfect
although the former trade unionist was
Mr Mandela’s preferred choice to succeed
him nearly 20 years ago. His political
programme centres on education, jobs
and eradicating poverty but he became a
rich man, legally, in the post-apartheid
era. Critics say that he has not, until now,
spoken out loudly against the ruling
party’s descent into misrule. He, however, offers the better chance of taking a
failing country away from the corrosive
corruption that has sent it backwards. The
ANC has one last chance to redeem itself.
Sleeping with the fishes
We seem obsessed not so much with how
to live, but how to die. Or rather, how to
dispose of our bodies afterwards.
The latest idea being proposed in the
West Midlands is “water cremation” in
which your loved one is, in effect, flushed
down the drain. This may seem drastic,
but why not? It is eco-friendly, you can
keep the powdered bones to scatter and it
is no worse than a Tibetan sky burial
where the corpse is left for the vultures.
Body disposal has been testing human
ingenuity for millennia and it is difficult to
say what is right or wrong, although the
alleged gangland practice of propping up
motorway flyovers with dead rivals is
probably unacceptable.
Yet even in these high-tech days of
sending ashes into space, our favourite
tale is still the one told by Keith Richards,
the Rolling Stones guitarist, of inadvertently snorting his father’s ashes. He later
denied it, but the very idea makes water
cremation seem a lot more appealing.
Dominic Lawson
Nowadays only one sort
of victim gets justice
Alleged sexual assaults are prosecuted on flimsy evidence; thugs get off lightly
ometimes an event is at one and
the same time shocking and
unsurprising. Take the case of Liam
Allan, a 22-year-old criminology
student, whose trial for multiple
rapes of a former girlfriend was
abandoned last week by the
prosecution after evidence emerged
that these were in fact consensual acts.
Allan had insisted all along that his accuser
had sent countless text messages that would
confirm this and that her claims were a form
of revenge after he had ended their
relationship. But although the police had
possession of her phone, they insisted it
contained no relevant evidence. For the two
years in which this matter slowly ground
towards the courts — and indeed until a new
lawyer took on the case at the trial’s outset
— they didn’t even bother to “interrogate” the
claimant’s phone.
No wonder the judge was outraged and
called for an inquiry. It should encompass
more than this scandalous episode. Allan’s
solicitor, Simone Meerabux, told the BBC this
was just one of a number of similar cases of
claimed sexual assault in which “the evidence
is very weak [against the accused] but yet
they are charged”. She added that the
“pendulum has swung too far”.
As Angela Rafferty, the chairwoman of the
Criminal Bar Association, said yesterday:
“The theory that everyone who reports a
sex offence must be a ‘victim’ may
unconsciously bias the police and [Crown
Prosecution Service] against giving complaints
the impartial in-depth scrutiny that is essential
to avoid the injustice that so nearly befell Mr
Allan.” I’d only take issue with the word “may”.
So we get cases such as the prosecution of
a teacher called Simon Warr, brought to trial
(again, after two years of purgatory on bail)
for allegedly fondling a pupil’s genitals after
PE classes he’d taken decades earlier. Warr’s
lawyer rapidly demolished the case, by
summoning former teachers who pointed out
he had never taken PE classes, for his accuser
or anyone else. Remarkably — or perhaps not
so remarkably — the police had not even
bothered to check this basic fact. The jury
took barely three-quarters of an hour to find
Warr not guilty.
If convicted, he would almost certainly
have been given a custodial sentence. Yet this
doesn’t on the whole apply to other such
odious crimes as violence against the person
and even arson. A report last week for the
Civitas think tank — Who Goes to Prison? —
shed much-needed light on this murky area
of public policy and demolishes the persistent
belief that we have a “lock-’em-up” penal
policy. Analysing all sentencing carried out
last year, the report showed that only a third
of those convicted of crimes of violence
received a custodial sentence. Just 11% of those
convicted of violence against the person for
the first time receive a custodial sentence
and only 7% of those convicted of “criminal
damage and arson”.
Even those repeatedly convicted of violent
acts can escape imprisonment: for example,
Yasmin Thomas, an estate agent who was given
80 hours’ community service as punishment
for attacking a man she didn’t know with a
broken glass. Shards had to be removed from
the victim’s eye. Thomas had 17 previous
convictions in what the trial judge referred
to as “a breathtaking record of violence”. Yet
still he didn’t send her to prison.
In the same week a couple of years ago, a
91-year-old man, Marcus Marcussen, was given
nine years’ imprisonment for sexual offences
conducted between 1957 and 1978, while two
23-year-old men, Corey Savory and Thomas
Vernon, were allowed to walk free from a court
after being convicted of a “ferocious and
unprovoked attack” on an engineer called
Daniel Pierre. How must Pierre, who was
permanently scarred by their brutality, have
felt when his attackers “whooped with delight”
as they left the court with a suspended
sentence of eight months?
And who presented the greater danger to the
public: those young thugs or the 91-year-old
Marcussen? I’m not arguing that this historic
offender should also have walked out of the
court a free man. That would have been
unbearable for the adults he had abused when
they were 14-year-old boys. But there does
seem to be a peculiar dichotomy in which
absolutely anyone who claims to be have
experienced abuse — no matter how long ago
Only a third of those
convicted of violent
crimes were jailed
— is automatically believed and categorised
as a victim, while those who bear the visible
scars of recent violent physical assault arouse
much less sympathy on the part of the police
and the justice system.
Another example: two years ago an 18-yearold called Angus Gallagher stopped to help his
fellow Scot, Brian Ramsay, to his feet. Ramsay’s
reaction was not to thank him, but to beat his
helper to a pulp: Gallagher sustained 13
fractures to his skull, as well as three broken
fingers and fractured ribs. Ramsay was given a
sentence of 18 months — which in fact meant
just nine months, as those convicted of all but
the most heinous offences are paroled after
serving half their sentence.
Now, you might think, at least they will be
under strict supervision on release. Wrong.
A friend who used to be a prison doctor once
remarked to me: “What is it about probation
that would actually stop people committing
crimes? Going to see a probation officer for
15 minutes once every two weeks?” A report
last week from the chief inspector of probation
showed that released criminals now don’t have
even that level of invigilation. In her annual
review, Dame Glenys Stacey complained that
tens of thousands of paroled criminals “are
supervised by telephone calls every six weeks
or so from junior staff overseeing 200 cases
or more. I find it inexplicable.” She also
wondered how the staff could even know they
were talking to the right person on the phone.
The absurd innovation of abandoning
face-to-face contact with recently released
prisoners, including those who have a record
of violence, owes much to the squeeze on the
budgets of the Ministry of Justice and the Home
Office. But this makes it all the more ridiculous
that ever-increasing sums are directed towards
investigations of alleged “historical abuse”, of
which the bizarre and self-indulgent police
pursuit of the late Sir Edward Heath was only
the most recent example.
As the former lord chief justice Lord Woolf
observed of such exercises as the independent
inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, which
has already got through three chairwomen to
no obvious public benefit: “They are sucking
huge amounts of resources from the justice
system . . . The question is, where are the
It is a good question. It is one that should be
addressed to the police as well as to the
politicians. The former could begin by
behaving less like the latter.
Sarah Baxter
Hark! the herald lefties sing.
Glory to the peacenik king
An obscure award for Jeremy Corbyn betrays his views on British security
hat a difference a year makes.
Last Christmas the Labour Party
was hovering around the 30%
mark in the opinion polls —
and that was an exciting
improvement on previous
months. Only 16% of voters
thought Jeremy Corbyn would
make the best prime minister. After the June
general election, however, the Labour leader
was boasting offstage at Glastonbury that he
could be prime minister by Christmas. Given
his astonishing surge in popularity, I expect
there is a roaring festive trade in “Oh Jeremy
Corbyn!” red scarves, colour-my-leader
picture books and amusing novelty jumpers
with you-know-who as Santa.
This year’s Labour Christmas card is
described as a “snowflake” design, although I
don’t suppose it is aimed at emotionally fragile
millennials. Nevertheless, there is anxiety in
some quarters that, despite the energetic
singing of The Red Flag in the division lobbies
after the government’s Brexit defeat last week,
the gates of Downing Street have not yet been
stormed. Barring a seasonal miracle, Corbyn
will not be prime minister by Christmas — or
by next Christmas, if he continues to lag
behind Theresa May as best leader.
The only possible explanation for true
devotees is that the dreaded MSM (mainstream
media) is not sufficiently admiring of the great
man. They are particularly furious that the
BBC and national newspapers failed to
mention that Corbyn was awarded an
international peace prize in Geneva this
month. If Chris Williamson, the Corbynista
MP for Derby North is to be believed, the
organisation that hands out the award is so
“prestigious” it may have inspired the Nobel
peace prize. There was, he insisted, a “media
blackout” of this impressive triumph.
The permanently outraged far-left social
media site Skwawkbox kicked off the
controversy by noting that while Corbyn was
in Geneva giving a “statesmanlike” speech to
the United Nations , he also picked up the
Sean MacBride peace prize, named after a
former IRA chief of staff in the 1930s and
founding member of Amnesty International
who is credited with keeping his country out
of Nato when he was Ireland’s foreign minister.
I can’t say I had heard of the International
Peace Bureau before, but it not only gave the
“landmark” award to Corbyn but also split it
three ways with the veteran American linguist
and activist Noam Chomsky and a Japanese
anti-airbase protest group. You get the picture.
Corbyn was actually awarded the honour
in September but even his most ardent
cheerleaders failed to notice back then. Still,
once they awoke to the fact, they piled on the
indignation. Williamson was particularly huffy
that newspapers had run pictures of the prime
minister placing a silver shoe on top of a
Christmas tree and the Duke and Duchess of
Cambridge receiving gold Blue Peter badges for
their mental health campaigning, but had
determinedly ignored Corbyn’s prize for
peace-mongering. Instead, Williamson told
the BBC’s Daily Politics show, the media would
rather talk about Corbyn’s “alleged” support
for Hamas, the militant Palestinian group he
invited as “friends” to parliament in 2009.
In this season of goodwill, Corbyn wished
the Jewish community a very happy Hanukkah
last week, so let’s leave aside the rampant
anti-semitism within his Labour Party just this
once. I’m surprised to find myself in agreement
with Skwawkbox and all the aggrieved
far-leftists: we don’t hear enough about
Corbyn’s peacenik credentials.
The issues he truly
cares about involve
disarming the West
The fact is, it is internationalism of the most
left-wing, anti-western kind that animates the
Labour leader. Corbyn doesn’t have much to
say about Brexit — he leaves that to Sir Keir
Starmer — or about the economy, which is
John McDonnell’s job (the Bank of England we
just learnt, may move to Birmingham). He is
much happier talking about refugees than our
social care crisis.
The Geneva award was presented to Corbyn
for his “sustained and powerful political work”
on behalf of the Stop the War movement and
the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. These
are the issues the Labour leader truly cares
about, but only insofar as they disarm the
West. His admiration of the late caudillo
socialists Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez is well
documented. And — surprise! — RT, the
propaganda television channel of the Russian
state, and the Iranian-backed station Press TV
joined Skwawkbox in condemning the British
media for failing to congratulate Corbyn for his
magnificent international prize.
A current host on RT and a former presenter
on Press TV, George Galloway is seeking to
rejoin Labour after he was expelled in 2003.
His application, senior Labour sources say,
may be approved in the new year if his local
party and the national executive agree. Since
his views on “peace” are remarkably similar to
those of Corbyn, the only reason for refusing
him membership would be that voters would
not like it. If Galloway fails to be readmitted, we
can take it Labour would rather keep Corbyn’s
internationalism under wraps. And if he is
allowed back, we will know exactly what
Corbyn’s new model Labour stands for.
In its breathless congratulations to Corbyn
for his award, Skwawkbox fawned: “Let’s hope
it’s not long before similar recognition at the
ballot box sweeps him and his transformed
Labour Party into Downing Street.” I’d put it
another way. The more we hear about Corbyn’s
achievements on behalf of international peace,
the less likely we are to put the security of
Britain in his hands.
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
An Isa is nice, but
Bermuda is nicer
It is always good in difficult times to
have the benefit of sound financial
advice. The lucky voters in North
Herefordshire can be grateful, then,
for their Conservative MP, Bill Wiggin,
who is managing director of an outfit
called Emerging Asset Management,
based in Bermuda.
In a robust defence of his offshore
interests, Wiggin lambasts his local
newspaper, the Hereford Times, for
bringing the matter to the attention of
its readers.
“My earnings are diligently
recorded and fully taxed. The way to
avoid tax is to use an Isa, which I
encourage all of my constituents to
take advantage of.” So you have to go to
Bermuda to get an Isa. Who knew?
Health bosses drain
the festive spirit
“We didn’t dare breathe until
she took her first breath”
Dean Wilkins, father of baby Vanellope, whose life
was saved by surgeons after she was born with her
heart outside her chest
“There’s a new risk to our
way of life”
A Russian attack on undersea fibre-optic cables
would devastate Britain’s trade and internet,
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach warns
“It will need a good thaw”
The Great British Bake Off’s Prue Leith raises
eyebrows for advising home cooks to stuff and
freeze their Christmas turkey in advance
“Absolutely, I think he will
come. It hasn’t been
officially announced but
I hope he does”
So that’s a definite maybe from Woody Johnson,
US ambassador to the UK, on whether President
Donald Trump will visit Britain
“I don’t tweet or buzz or
bing or whatever”
Maya Hawke, 19-year-old star of the BBC’s
Little Women, prefers her communication to be
done the old-fashioned way
Niall Ferguson
Next in the Trump saga:
laughter turns to tears
’Tis the season to be jolly — but not if
you are Public Health England (PHE).
According to its arch critic, the
Taxpayers’ Alliance, more than £40m
has been spent lecturing us all on what
we can eat, drink and do in our leisure
time, and now the alliance has come
up with a Christmas menu that would
meet all PHE’s pious advice.
Atticus perused the disappointing
menu and could find little cheer
except that portions of sprouts and
broccoli (which no one actually eats)
are tiny. The problem area is the drink.
A quarter-glass of champagne? The
same for port and brandy? No, no.
That won’t do. Make mine a double.
A farcical election loss for the Republicans puts his agenda in peril
ach of us decides, at some point in
our lives, which dramatic genre we
inhabit. Is your life a tragedy? A
comedy? As an academic, I aspire to
live my life as a rather exalted BBC
documentary, but somehow it
always gravitates back to sitcom.
I have friends who shoot for
Hollywood costume drama but inevitably
wind up in low-budget soap opera.
Some American presidencies have been
authentic tragedies: certainly John F
Kennedy’s. Indeed it would take an
Aeschylus to do full justice to the Kennedy
family’s version of The Oresteia. Other
presidencies have been more comic:
Aristophanes would have enjoyed Bill
Clinton’s tenure, not least because Clinton
had the genially bawdy personality that the
Athenian playwright liked to give his heroes.
With good reason, Henry Kissinger quoted
Shakespeare at Richard Nixon’s funeral, for
Nixon’s self-destruction was an authentically
Shakespearean tragedy. But what will
Donald Trump’s presidency turn out to be?
If you believe the prophets of US tyranny, it
is already a tragedy — a ghastly combination
of Coriolanus, Macbeth and Richard III. I’ll
take the other side. This, my friends, is a
comedy. It may even be a full-blown farce.
Last week’s special election in Alabama
verged on slapstick. Having failed to prevent
Roy Moore from becoming the Republican
candidate for the Senate seat vacated by
attorney-general Jeff Sessions, Trump also
failed to get Moore elected — in a state that is
about the reddest of the red. In the month
before the vote, a succession of women came
forward to accuse Moore of having sexually
assaulted or at least harassed them when
they were in their teens. One was just 14 at
the time. Yet Trump, urged on by his former
chief strategist Steve Bannon, backed Moore.
The high point of the comedy for me was
Moore’s cowboy-style arrival at his polling
station on horseback, but there were other
sublime scenes: the moment his wife cited
as evidence of their enlightened outlook the
fact that one of their lawyers “is a Jew”; or
when a supporter admitted that he and
Moore had once visited a brothel while
serving in Vietnam, though of course they
had not tarried once they realised the girls
were “young . . . probably very young”.
Earlier this year I suggested that the
half-life of populism might be as short as
12 months. As we approach the anniversary
of Trump’s inauguration as president next
month, I realise I should have said 11.
True, the US economy continues its
extraordinarily prolonged post-financialcrisis expansion. Growth for this last quarter
of the year is estimated by the Atlanta
Federal Reserve to be 3.3%; the New York
Fed says almost 4%. As Trump reminds his
Twitter followers on a weekly basis, the
stock market is at a “Record High”, up by
more than a quarter since his election. We
are close to full employment.
The economists can bicker about how
much or little of this can be attributed to the
Trump administration in a year when global
growth has been so buoyant. They can also
bicker about how many Americans are
feeling the benefit when the lion’s share of
income growth is concentrated at the very
top of the social heap. But this is definitely
not the economic disaster predicted by some
of them a year ago. (Let’s not forget the
Nobel laureate Paul Krugman’s prophecy on
election night that the stock market would
“never” recover from a Trump victory,
which was wrong by 11am the next morning.)
The only debate worth having is whether
or not this recovery can be sustained all the
way to 2020 now the Federal Reserve is
raising interest rates and ending the
large-scale bond purchases (“quantitative
easing”) that were its most creative response
to the financial crisis. My guess is that Trump
gets one more good year but that 2019-20
will be a different story.
The point is that, as far as his own
popularity is concerned, these economic
indicators seem irrelevant. Trump’s average
approval rating at the time of his
inauguration in January was 44%, roughly
tied with his disapproval number. Today he
is down to 37% approval, against 58%
disapproval. It is worth repeating that no
president of the modern era started his
first year so unpopular and none saw his
approval rating fall so far in the subsequent
months. The argument grows increasingly
plausible that no one is doing more to
restore the health and vitality of American
liberalism than Trump.
Now consider the contribution to his
demise that has been made by his own
party in Congress. A year ago the House
Speaker Paul Ryan was giving stirring
speeches in Washington about all the great
things Republicans were going to do now
My guess is he gets
one more good year
but 2019-20 will be
a different story
they had achieved unified government. They
would repeal Obamacare. They would pass
comprehensive tax reform. They would
slash burdensome regulation.
Well, it’s now December and Obamacare
is still with us, while comprehensive tax
reform is a deformed monstrosity of a bill
that, in essence, cuts the corporate tax rate,
reduces personal income tax for higher
earners, shrinks certain welfare
programmes and nevertheless increases
the deficit by at least $1 trillion (£750bn)
over the next 10 years. Probably the
corporate tax cut will boost growth
somewhat. But this is shaping up to be a
political disaster. In one recent poll by
Marist, 52% of respondents said they
expected the bill to hurt them, versus 30%
who thought it would help them. Fully
60% said the wealthy would be the bill’s
principal beneficiaries, against 21% who said
the middle class would benefit most.
Obamacare was unpopular when it
was first introduced; this is worse. The
probability is therefore rising that the
Democrats will win back the House next
November. It is also becoming imaginable
that they could take back control of the
Senate, where Trump’s majority is now
51-49, owing to the debacle in Alabama. At
this rate, the Dems will be drafting articles
of impeachment this time next year.
Meanwhile, special counsel Robert
Mueller presses ahead with his inquiry into
the alleged collusion between the Trump
campaign and the Russian government. I am
not certain if there is a smoking gun that
Mueller will find. But I am increasingly sure
Trump is going to try to shut down the
inquiry by firing Mueller as he fired the
former FBI director James Comey. When that
moment comes, we shall discover whether
the founding fathers succeeded in devising a
constitution that could not be overthrown,
no matter how unscrupulous the president,
or whether these are indeed the last days of
the republic.
“If it weren’t all so tragic,” my friend
Andrew Sullivan wrote last week, “we’d be
laughing our asses off.” I think he is probably
right that it’s too early for laughter, but
abroad they are already chortling. “You are
interesting guys,” President Vladimir Putin
apostrophised American lawmakers last
week, in one of his interminable press
conferences. “Are you normal at all?” I heard
the same kind of thing in Beijing earlier
this month.
Comedy or tragedy? Perhaps, in this case,
it depends on where you sit in the theatre.
Niall Ferguson’s new book is The Square and
the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the
Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane)
l When international diplomacy is
carried out on social media, it is
somewhat reassuring to hear that
some people have yet to succumb.
Asked whether there had been any
contact between the No 10 Twitter
account and Donald Trump’s, Theresa
May snapped: “None.”
It’s a special relationship, but not
that special.
l World exclusive alert! Atticus has
detected early stirrings in the next US
presidential election. The country
singer Dolly Parton is urging her fellow
Americans to “all pray for the
president, whoever the president may
be”. She also offers to “try to add as
much joy and light and sunshine” to
their lives as she possibly can.
If that isn’t a clear indication that
she has set her sights on the White
House, I don’t know what is.
l Deep in the Atticus vaults, a cutting
from 2001 has resurfaced. It records
how scientists were claiming that
within 15 years “many low-level [ski]
resorts could have no snow at all” due
to climate change. What do we find
now? “Big snow in the UK and the Alps
leads to ‘unprecedented’ jump in ski
holiday sales”, gloats the skiing
Maybe Michael Gove was right in
suggesting that we really have had
enough of experts.
l It is a whole new take on the idea of
a “coffee table book”. The rather
wonderful portrait photographer
Annie Leibovitz’s new publication,
The Power and the Glory, is such a
weighty tome that the publisher,
Taschen, is chucking in a free table to
put it on. All for just £2,000. That’s the
Christmas presents taken care of then.
l Last week the health secretary,
Jeremy Hunt, broke new personal
ground on social media with a
Facebook Live session. He tweeted
beforehand: “About to do my first
Facebook live session: all are welcome,
trolls and fans alike.”
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Adam Boulton
It’s forever jam tomorrow for leavers,
as May cooks up her softest Brexit
he Brexit vote has taken Britain
through the looking glass.Those
who were once rebellious
“bastards” are now loyalist
gamekeepers. Kenneth Clarke
says he stands for what he stood
for 50 years ago, but he and
other Conservative MPs and
former ministers are branded “selfconsumed malcontents”.
These betrayers deserve deselection
as candidates, according to honourable
friends such as Nadine Dorries, who
used to court a similar fate for herself,
while Jeremy Corbyn has morphed from
unelectable to the increasing “possibility
of a Marxist in No 10”.
The transformations only began with
the referendum vote, but the shapeshifting continues. Theresa May was the
safe pair of hands who could unite the
nation. Then she wasn’t, as she tried to
set the majority against “citizens of
nowhere”. At least she promised
strength and stability. But then the
voters denied her both those.
A few weeks ago, well-briefed German
newspapers presented an unflattering
portrait of a “deeply despondent” prime
minister after her latest meeting with the
European Commission president, JeanClaude Juncker. But last week at the
Brussels summit May was love-bombed
by her counterparts and sent home with
polite applause.
The prime minister says she is on
course to “deliver Brexit” with
“ambition, creativity and
perseverance”. But she has just been
defeated in the Commons for the first
time, on European withdrawal.
The UK said it will honour its phase
one commitments on the divorce bill,
citizens’ rights and the Irish border. May
also promises to leave the single market
and the customs union. Two sets of
commitments that no one knows how to
Brasher European leaders are saying
confidently that May is guiding Britain
towards a “soft Brexit”, which will mean
a high level of alignment between the EU
and the UK continuing indefinitely. They
are cheered by her “offers” to go on
participating in such schemes as nuclear
and aviation safety and the Erasmus
student exchange.
But they are not sure how loudly they
should trumpet soft Brexit. Some think it
would not be helpful to May’s efforts to
manage her MPs and party. Others, such
as Malta’s prime minister, Joseph
Muscat, want May to take on the Brexit
hardliners sooner rather than later.
That confrontation could come as
soon as tomorrow, when the prime
minister reports back on the summit.
Hardcore leavers could decide to make a
stand over the terms of the transition.
The EU refuses to adopt May’s
euphemism of “implementation
period”. Whatever it’s called, the EU
ruled that it will be negotiated next,
between now and the next formal
summit on March 22, 2018. Only once
this is agreed will the EU move on to
what it calls “the framework for the
future relationship” and British
politicians rather more optimistically
term “trade talks”.
After May went home, the other
leaders considered the UK proposal for
“a transition period of around two
years”. Their guidelines dictate that it
will take place under their rules. “All
existing union regulatory, budgetary,
supervisory, judiciary and enforcement
instruments and structures will also
apply, including the competence of the
Court of Justice of the European Union.
As the UK will continue to participate in
the customs union and the single market
(with all four freedoms) during the
transition, it will have to continue to
comply with EU trade policy.”
Britain will have to obey their rules
and pay for them, but without a seat at
the table where they are made.
Continued compliance with the single
market will also further postpone the
day when the UK can strike its own trade
deals around the world. Even when
“independence day” arrives, the former
Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern
suggests that the UK’s best starting point
The traitors and
mutineers of last
week could turn
out to be the
saviours of the
would be to sign up to the dozens of
“perfectly good” trade agreements the
EU has in place.
The transition plan contradicts
Conservative MPs and MEPs, who still
maintain that the UK will leave the
single market and customs union on
Brexit day. It will also bitterly disappoint
angry voters protesting that they voted
to leave and why can’t we just get on
with it?
Today they have no champion. After
18 years as a member of the European
parliament and 10 years as party leader,
Ukip’s Nigel Farage now says he despises
career politicians and has transformed
himself into a radio host. He complains
Role models
Bleach’s harrowing account
made me reflect on my own
experience of setting up
St Benedict’s unofficial
football team during my son’s
time there (he was taught by
Peter Allott, who was later
convicted of having indecent
images of children on his
school computer). Staff at the
rugby-playing school made it
clear that football was not a
sport they encouraged. Their
chief concern was that
professional footballers were
poor role models for the boys.
Mark Glanville, London W11
Misusing authority
I was reminded of my years at
a Methodist boarding school
during the 1960s. I was aware
the things that happened to
me were not quite right, but
believed this was the way our
school life was meant to be. I
was about 10 when it started,
so how would I have known
that these men in authority
should not have behaved like
this? I never told my parents.
Jeremy Francis
Elmsett, Suffolk
Corporal punishment
A monk with a hair-trigger
temper and smelling of
drink? It sounds just like
the thugs I was taught by in
another Catholic organisation
famous for its schools. I was
Simon Bates, radio DJ, 71
Dynamo, magician, 35
Charlotte Edwards,
cricketer, 38
Pope Francis, 81
Bernard Hill, actor (Lord of
the Rings), 73
Rian Johnson, film director
(Star Wars: The Last Jedi), 44
Milla Jovovich, actress (The
Fifth Element), 42
Dominic Lawson, Sunday
Times columnist, 61
Manny Pacquiao, boxer and
politician, 39
Paula Radcliffe, athlete, 44
Tommy Steele, singer, 81
Dame Jacqueline Wilson,
children’s author, 72
Ray Wilson, footballer, 83
Richard Brooks reports
that the author Maggie Gee
and I have “resumed
hostilities” over a
disagreement we had about
the merits of Martin Amis’s
novel London Fields when
we were judges of the Booker
prize in 1989, an episode that
I describe in my forthcoming
memoir, Writer’s Luck
(“London Battlefields: Amis
Booker failure row reignites”,
News, last week).
One of the memoir’s
narrative threads is the great
influence the Booker prize
had on the reception of
literary fiction in the 1980s,
Joining forces to
help the lonely
The Jo Cox Commission
on Loneliness likens the
problem to a chronic illness
(“Loneliness leads to early
death, Jo Cox study finds”,
News, last week). This is
sadly true. As a former chief
executive of Marie Curie
Cancer Care and the founder
of HelpForce, a new
organisation seeking to
double the number of
volunteers supporting the
NHS, I have seen the positive
impact of volunteering on
people’s wellbeing.
Our interview with Alexander
Newley (“Dad was a star — but
he was also a paedophile”,
News Review, November 26)
contained serious errors. He
did not say that his father,
Anthony Newley, “was a
paedophile” but that his
father’s film Can Heironymus
Merkin Ever Forget Mercy
Humppe and Find True
Happiness? is “essentially a
confession of paedophilia”.
He stated that he did not
think that his father had
slept with underage girls.
We apologise to Mr Newley,
his family and our readers.
Our report “Corbyn secured
salary for convicted IRA
terrorist” (News, May 28)
said the Irish in Islington
Project was raided by police
in 1984 and that one of its
employees, Michael Maguire,
was detained under
antiterrorism laws. Dr
Maguire has asked us to
clarify he was arrested at
home, the project’s office was
not actually raided and he
was released without charge.
We are happy to do so.
Complaints about inaccuracies
in The Sunday Times should be
addressed to complaints@ or
Complaints, The Sunday
Times, 1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF. The
Independent Press Standards
Organisation (Ipso) will
examine formal complaints
about the editorial content
of UK newspapers and
magazines. Please go to our
website for full details of how
to lodge a complaint.
The Jay inquiry into child sexual abuse is looking at Catholic schools including Ampleforth
caned across the fingers
when I was seven years old.
John Austin
Crowborough, East Sussex
Inaction stations
I overheard a group of
policemen discussing a
children’s home in Glasgow
in the 1970s and they said that
if you had not been abused
before you went in, you
definitely had by the time you
came out of there. They all
knew but nothing was done.
Jane Graham, Glasgow
Bullying nuns
I was at a Catholic girls’
boarding school for six
miserable years. There was
no overt sexual abuse, but
bullying and unkindness
by the nuns.
Lesley Bennett
Luckington, Wiltshire
The Lord’s work
Never mind the Pope altering
the Lord’s Prayer, he should
be sorting out the priesthood.
Peggy Webb
Blyth, Northumberland
Paula Radcliffe is 44 today
Rush to judgment
on Amis quarrel
amendment and opening the door to
mandatory parliamentary scrutiny of
the final deal did her no harm last week.
Instead European leaders rushed to
comfort her. For all their admiration for
British democracy, they warned that
there will be no negotiating with MPs if
they reject the deal agreed by the
leaders. The only exit then would be a
hard Brexit.
Failing to get March 29, 2019, into law
this week would allow the prime
minister to say to the Brexiteers in her
party: “Look, I tried but we’ve got to face
the reality of where we are.” May is a
sphinx of few words who has evaded
being held to account with terse riddles
such as “Brexit means Brexit”. If Brexit
can be equated to jam tomorrow, she is
not so different from the White Queen
who told Alice: “The rule is, jam
tomorrow and jam yesterday — but never
jam today.”
In this looking-glass war, in which
nothing is what it seems, the traitors and
mutineers denounced last week could
turn out to be the saviours of the
Brexiteers. As best as we can tell from
the external signs, May is edging towards
the softest Brexit she can get away with.
If they really want to break free from
Europe and take back control, the
simplest way to get there would be to
vote her deal down in parliament.
The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF
Email: Fax: 020 7782 5454
Catholic school abuse in plain sight for years
Long before the appalling
cruelty inflicted on
Stephen Bleach in the 1970s,
the abuse at St Benedict’s
School in Ealing, west
London, was widely known
but no one did anything
about it (“The monks who
stole my childhood”,
News Review, last week).
In the 1950s I went to a
grammar school in Wembley
and we all heard stories about
savage beatings by the monks
and were familiar enough
with the Marquis de Sade to
recognise sexual perversion
masquerading as discipline.
We were thankful we weren’t
Catholics. It diminished
organised religion, and
Catholicism in particular, in
my young eyes.
Michael Cole
Woodbridge, Suffolk
of slippage, and notes that the leading
Westminster Brexiteers are avoiding the
issue of immigration, which was the
motivating force for many “leave”
voters, but he shows no enthusiasm to
return to the campaigning fray.
Conservative Brexiteers in the
Commons seem ready to let the
transition phase slip by for fear of largescale economic disruption, provided
that it is of limited duration and the UK is
guaranteed to be out when it finishes.
Face-saving sops could include
withdrawing early from the common
fisheries policy (CFP). This is a
particularly sore point with Michael
Gove, who claims the CFP drove his
father out of business. In his current
loyal mode, the environment secretary
is making a token stand on this relatively
marginal issue, though not to the point
of threatening resignation.
There is a fiercer fight under way over
the largely symbolic matter of placing
the date of Brexit on the face of the
withdrawal bill. May says she has no
plans to withdraw the government
amendment, even though parliamentary
headcounters say its defeat is more
certain than the narrow majority won
last week by Dominic Grieve.
Stepping through the Brexit looking
glass, defeat on the date might not be as
bad for the prime minister as it seems.
The disappointment of losing Grieve’s
decided the political damage
from appearing idiotic is less
than if they are published?
Melanie Cherriman
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
and I describe several
controversial judgments
made in that period in
some detail.
Naturally I drew on my
experience of being chairman
of the judges in 1989 to
describe the process by
which London Fields
was eventually excluded
from the shortlist.
Possibly I exaggerated by
a few minutes the length of
Gee’s speech against this
book at the crucial meeting,
but everything else in my
account is based on facts
I recorded at the time.
Readers of the memoir
may draw their own
conclusions from it.
David Lodge
Edgbaston, Birmingham
Sleepwalking to
Brexit disaster
One 77-year-old volunteer
from North Tyneside General
Hospital, who drives patients
and visitors with mobility
needs around in an electric
buggy, says he enjoys putting
people at ease. Volunteering
is also key to strengthening
relationships in communities.
HelpForce would welcome
the chance to work with the
Jo Cox Commission to help
address a huge social issue
and reduce loneliness in a
really purposeful way.
Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett
founder and chairman of
HelpForce, and chairman
of Chelsea and Westminster
NHS Foundation Trust
Global action on
Burma gem trade
that need to regulate or even
ban the trade in such items.
Robert Blunden, by email
Blood diamonds from Sierra
Leone, gold from African
countries run by despots,
poached ivory and now these
gemstones from Burma
(“Taint of Burma’s genocide
gems”, News, last week). All
these precious treasures are
sourced to meet the avarice of
the few. Good for Cartier that
it no longer buys rubies and
sapphires from Burma amid
a backlash over the Rohingya
crisis, but it is the various
markets — and possibly
democratic governments —
Solo effort
A jeweller can do something
about state genocide while
the UN and world powers
twiddle their thumbs. Odd.
David Harris, by email
With inflation at 3.1%, sterling
falling and consumer debt at
a record high, when will our
politicians wake up to the fact
that Brexit is damaging our
economy and the wellbeing
of ordinary people? We need
to deal with real issues: the
NHS, the care crisis and
education. We cannot go on
like this much longer.
Roy Harrison
Prestbury, Cheshire
Burying bad news
Am I alone in suspecting the
much vaunted sectoral
analyses do exist, but contain
such bad news the Brexiteers
United approach
Having read “A United States
of Europe was always their
plan. It’s worth any sum to
avoid that” (Comment, last
week), I find myself asking:
what is there to be fearful
about in a United States of
Europe? I think it a wonderful
vision. Imagine the hate and
chaos that would ensue if
America fragmented to 50
autonomous “countries”.
People who bang on about
the horrors of a federal EU are
exactly the same ones who
recoil at the thought of the
Broken border promises
Christina Lamb’s report on
the 14-year-old Rohingya
refugee Amina highlights the
sharp edges of our bordered
world (“Orphaned, afraid,
but I’ll save my siblings”,
Christmas Appeal, last week).
But we need to go back
“United” Kingdom reverting
to four separate countries.
Fraser White
Bunbury, Cheshire
Options clause
Rod Liddle claims the
“remain” campaign was
“serially deluded or serially
lying” about the EU’s plans
for closer political union.
Putting aside the fact that the
UK successfully pushed back
against federalism (and
would have continued to do
so had we voted to stay in the
EU), the bottom line is it had
the right to opt out from
further convergence — as we
did from the euro — so we
would not have been part of
a closer union anyway.
Rob Sprackling, London W4
further: the region’s borders
are a product of British rule
and our failure to fulfil a
promise during the war
with Japan of independent
statehood for the Rohingya
By supporting your appeal,
we can at least try to make
some small amends for this
legacy of colonialism.
Joseph Jennings
Newcastle University
Papal fallibility
Perhaps the Pope should
be sent to Burma again
to give them another jolly
good talking-to.
Edward Evans, Brighton
Pope Paul III officially
excommunicates Henry VIII
Chemist and inventor Sir
Humphry Davy born
Novelist Ford Madox Ford
Orville and Wilbur Wright
make the first sustained
flight of a powered,
heavier-than-air craft
Mathematical physicist and
engineer Lord Kelvin dies
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson,
the first woman in Britain to
qualify as a doctor, dies
Crime writer Dorothy L
Sayers dies
An IRA car bomb outside
Harrods kills six
First episode of The
Simpsons broadcast
Tunisian street vendor
Mohamed Bouazizi sets
himself on fire — a catalyst
for the Arab Spring
North Korean dictator
Kim Jong-il dies
What’s the catch?
The decision-making process
is flawed when it comes to
discussion of a sea fishing ban
(“Only fishing ban can save
sea bass”, News, last week).
The statistics supplied to the
EU by the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs do not include data
from boats of less than 33ft.
Having been an angler for
more than 50 years, I have
had my catch checked only
once. Until we have an
enforced system of catch
regulation, the arguments
will continue.
Ian Harrison
Worthing, West Sussex
Safe seat
It was interesting to read that
a simple mechanical device
to deter car theft is becoming
popular again (“Humble
steering locks thwart hi-tech
car thieves”, News, last
week). Here is another cheap
idea: stop the thief sitting in
the driving seat in the first
place. Fold the seatback
forward and secure it with
a key-operated or coded
locking mechanism.
Michael McCloy
St Agnes, Cornwall
Call of duty
The Driver and Vehicle
Licensing Agency is quick to
tax high-emission 4x4s but
after a few flakes of snow,
Jeep owners are being urged
to help get people to hospital
(“Gales and snow lower
odds of white Christmas”,
News, last week).
Ed Dowling
New Buckenham, Norfolk
Causing offence
I was disappointed to see
India Knight joining the
ranks of the rather too easily
offended (“Thoroughly
modern Meghan”, News
Review, December 3). Knight
is living in one of the most
diverse and tolerant
countries in the world. Most
of us try very hard not to
offend but with so many
potential booby-traps to be
aware of, it can be easier to
avoid mentioning race
Duncan Cumberlidge
Hexham, Northumberland
Racial tensions
Further to last week’s letters
about racism in the UK, when
I taught in a multicultural
school in the 1960s I was
surprised to find racial
tensions between pupils
from the Caribbean and
others from Africa. I have
no idea if this still exists.
Stewart Reuben
Twickenham, London
Trunk call
Some people have been a
little unkind to Ottery St Mary
in relation to its maligned
Christmas tree (“If trees and
pressies leave you cold, let
Jean-Claude Jumper warm
your cockles”, News Review,
last week). The first written
reference to Christmas trees
in England came in a letter
written by the poet Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, who was
born in the town in 1772. I
invite your readers to come
and visit us.
Grenville Gilbert
Ottery St Mary, Devon
Letters should arrive by
midday on Thursday and
include the full address and
a daytime and an evening
phone number. Please quote
date, section and page
number. We may edit letters,
which must be exclusive to
The Sunday Times
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Santa, the tree, the gifts, the date of Christ’s birth: we know the festive story inside
out, right? Wrong. Judith Flanders reveals the true origins of our celebrations
Isabel Hardman
uses exercise and
her house plants
to help keep
depression at bay
December 25 was already a
significant date for another
form of worship. The most
widely practised religion in
the Roman empire was
known as Mithraism, after the
god Mithras, who reputedly
slayed a sacred bull,
probably in a spring fertility
The birth of Mithras was
also marked at the winter
solstice, when he is said to
have emerged from his
birthplace in a cave,
witnessed by two
In 380 Christianity
became the established
religion in Rome. Christmas
— and some of the stories
surrounding it — may owe
its key date to a merging
of Christian and pagan
ne of the more tedious
phrases that people use
to describe someone
with a serious illness
is “she’s a real fighter”.
It sounds like a compliment
but, really, it suggests
diseases such as cancer can
be overcome if only you’ve
got enough spirit. I have
known plenty of spirited
people who fought their
illnesses and died. And yet,
rather awkwardly, I find
myself describing my own
struggle with serious mental
health problems in exactly
those terms.
I’ve been on
antidepressants for a year
and a half now, and have had
about five months off work.
Now I am back at my desk
in the House of Commons,
I tell my colleagues there is
nothing I am prouder of than
1213 1531
By the reign of King John,
courtly Christmas feasts had
become mind-bogglingly
elaborate. On Christmas Day
1213 the king’s household and
guests consumed 27
hogsheads of wine, 400 head
of pork, 3,000 fowl, 15,000
herring, 10,000 eels, 100lb of
almonds, 2lb of spices and
66lb of pepper.
Edward III later tried to
curb excess, passing laws
restricting the meals on
seven of the holiday’s 12 days
to two courses, with a limit
of two kinds of meat
per course.
The English Civil War was
unkind to Christmas. The
reformers saw Christmas, of
which there was no mention
in the Bible, as a mark of
the antichrist. In 1643 Oliver
Cromwell’s parliament sat on
December 25 to make sure
everyone understood this
was to be a working day like
any other.
By 1645 it was decreed
that: “Festival days,
vulgarly called Holy days,
having no Warrant in the
Word of God, are not to be
The English ban did not
survive long after Cromwell’s
death, but apart from
1660-90 the Scottish kirk’s
ban continued until 1958,
when Christmas became an
official holiday in Scotland
for the first time in a quarter
of a millennium.
In the 16th century a growing
number of ardent English
Protestants began to
condemn the secular holiday.
In Scotland in 1561 the
newly reformed kirk declared
all of Christmas a nasty
popish invention and banned
the holidays entirely.
By the turn of the century
in Scotland, carol singing,
playing football, making
music and dancing were all
banned as profane.
By the 11th century in France,
a star was hung over church
altars for an Epiphany play
that was incorporated into
the mass, and the story of the
Magi, of Herod and the
Massacre of the Innocents
was acted out. In the 12th
century, English churches
also staged these plays.
Another form of theatre
originated with Francis of
Assisi, who in 1223 produced
a replica of a stable, with a
manger, an ox and an ass
(although his animals were
real, not yet models).
One 16th-century historian
claimed that in previous
centuries every parish had a
great pole serving as a
maypole in the summer,
decorated with holly and ivy
in the winter. This was not a
Christmas tree as we know it
but it might be considered a
precursor. An association
between trees and Christmas
was emerging, especially in
Germany, and by 1531 there
was a new fashion, with
Strasbourg markets selling
trees for people to erect
indoors, although these were
apparently not yet decorated.
The first decorated indoor
tree we know of appeared in
1605, again in Strasbourg.
Adorned with paper roses,
apples, wafers, gilded sweets
and sugar ornaments, it was
what, a few years later, would
be given a new name — a
Weihnachtsbaum, or
Christmas tree.
The Venerable Bede claimed
in about 730 that ancient
Britons referred to December
and January as Yule, probably
derived from a Norse word,
“jul”, which originally meant
festivities. The word
Christmas, or rather
Cristesmæsse — Christ’s mass
— replaced Yule in the British
Isles some time after the 9th
The use of Christmas
gradually became standard,
and Yule returned only in the
19th century, with the
rekindling of the love
for ancient traditions.
The earliest evidence we have
for a celebration of Christ’s
birth is when Julius I,
Bishop of Rome (337–352),
decreed that Christ’s nativity
was to be observed on
December 25. Why then?
According to biblical
scholars’ calculations,
based on the gospels and
other church writings,
April 17, May 29 and
September 15 are all more
likely dates for the birth of
If Mary gave birth in
December, why were the
sheep still in the fields in the
winter months when they
should have been taken in to
the villages for warmth? The
choice of December 25 seems
instead to have been tied to
the winter solstice, the
shortest day of the year.
history of Christmas might
sound like a fairly simple
undertaking. From nativity,
to church, to family, to commerce — a story of high
beginnings, a cosy, warm
middle and the chill of cold
cash at the end. That is how
the story is often told. But is
it the real story? For the holiday piles legend upon legend.
Santa Claus was created in Holland, or
maybe his red suit was invented by the
Coca-Cola Company. Queen Victoria’s
husband, Prince Albert, brought German
Christmas trees to Britain. The Roman
Saturnalia was the origin of Christmas
Day, or maybe it was the feast of Woden.
Except, of course, that none of these
things is true.
The two most common assumptions
about the holiday are, first, that it was
religious in origin and, second, that the
traditions of each speaker’s own country
embody the real Christmas, the ones that
others only palely imitate.
The British, and in particular the
English, think their mince pies and plum
puddings, their trees, their ghost stories
and Charles Dickens readings, their
domesticity and child-centred festivities,
to be the very essence of the holiday. In
America, birthplace of Santa Claus and of
Christmas stockings, of giant outdoor
trees, turkeys and eggnog, Christmas is,
just as obviously, American, and the rest
of the world participates in its customs
only by imitation.
And yet even while we consider “our”
Christmas customs to be the true ones, in
reality we don’t adhere to “our” customs,
but to an amalgam of traditions drawn
primarily from the Anglo-American
world and German-speaking lands.
These were then shaken up, mixed
together with a couple of centuries of
newspapers, magazines and books, not
to mention 100 years of radio, film and
television, to end up not with one culture’s Christmas but with something
entirely new: a holiday that is recognised
across the globe but comes from
nowhere in particular.
Here is the story of some of those traditions. You may not know them as well as
you think.
Christmas quickly regained
its popularity, although many
continued to fear that the
holiday seduced the
population “to Drunkenness,
Gluttony, & unlawful Gaming,
Wantonness, Uncleanness,
Lasciviousness, Cursing,
Swearing” and, ultimately,
“all to idleness”.
The playwright William
Davenant, sometimes said to
have been Shakespeare’s
godson, had a character claim
in one of his plays that more
children were “begot i’ the
Christmas Holydaies” than at
any other time of the year,
“when the Spirit of
Mince-Pie Raignes in the
blood”. One 1675 carol
booklet looked forward to
Christmas “so we’l be higly
pigly one with another”.
Last Saturday
I needed to go
to hospital.
Now I am
back working
my fight against insanity. It
does jar a little, but I cannot
think of any other way to
describe what post-traumatic
stress disorder feels like.
The only way I can
reconcile myself to the fact I
may actually be one of those
cheesy “fighters” is that I’m
not so much proud of myself
for recovering — partly
because I still often have
relapses — but that I admire
my growing ability to deal
with the symptoms of my
This fight has felt
uncomfortable at times
because a lot of it involves the
sort of ideas and phrases that
a grouchy political journalist
called Hardman finds deeply
off-putting. When I first
learnt about “self-care” I felt
rather queasy. It sounded like
a day at the spa, or the kind
of thing championed by
people who arrive at dinner
parties and announce they
now have five self-diagnosed
food intolerances.
But self-care is one of the
most important factors in
managing illness. I prefer to
see it as physiotherapy for the
Isabel Hardman says looking after her plants helps her focus on the natural world and put bad thoughts out of her mind
In 1767 a group of London
bakers placed advertisements
stating that they would not be
giving traditional Christmas
tips to their customers’
servants on the grounds that,
if the “lower ranks . . .
wallow[ed] in wealth during
the Holydays”, as they put it,
they would spend it all on
alcohol. To celebrate
Christmas, said one
newspaper, was to celebrate
“Rioting and Drunkenness”.
This was probably not far
from reality. Joseph Banks,
the naturalist on Captain
Cook’s first voyage,
recorded that the
Endeavour’s crew kept
Christmas “in the old
fashioned way”: “all hands
were as Drunk as our
forefathers used to be upon
the like occasion”.
Just pressing
my hand
against the
bark of a
plane tree is a
strange relief
comes in on the Tube doesn’t
stop at how sweaty I am.
I have a higher threshold for
stress, which is handy when
covering Brexit, and feel
more awake all day long.
I have also made the
deeply unjournalistic
decision to cut out caffeine,
because the highs and lows
between espressos were
stealing precious energy
needed to fight insanity, and
my worst thoughts seemed
to strike up their noisy
tune around 3pm, when
caffeine addicts get their
afternoon slump.
The second important part
of my routine is mindfulness.
To a grumpy hack, it sounds
like an awful bit in a yoga
class when the instructor
talks about the spaces in
your togetherness, and I find
myself instead wondering
1820S 1843
The poet Samuel Taylor
Coleridge visited Germany in
1798 and in 1809 wrote an
essay describing the local
Christmas tradition of
decorating homes with
boughs from trees. It was
reprinted by The Times in
1834 and, 14 years later, a
table-top tree appeared in
an engraving of Queen
Victoria and Albert
celebrating Christmas at
Windsor Castle.
That single image
cemented the Christmas tree
in the popular British
consciousness, so much so
that by 1861, the year of
Albert’s death, it was firmly
believed that this German
prince had transplanted the
custom to England with him
when he married.
if I have locked my front door.
I tried to use mindfulness
apps, but hated sitting in
silence. It seemed merely
a quick way to let in bad
thoughts. It was only when
a botanist told me he does
his mindfulness while out
looking for wildflowers that
I began to realise what the
whole thing was about and
how it could help me.
Mindfulness teaches you
to avoid disappearing into a
swamp of things you are
dreading, or events you’d
rather forget. Given some of
the worst parts of my illness
have involved flashbacks to
horrendous events, I do need
a bit of training in focusing on
the present moment. So now
I take a 15-minute walk in the
middle of the day, and try to
notice as much around me
as possible.
By the end of the 19th century
Santa was, according to one
American magazine, “our
biggest captain of industry”.
As early as the 1820s, St
Nicholas was being used to
sell jewellery in one New York
newspaper advertisement.
As the image of Santa
spread, shops began to
share a fairly homogeneous
image: a fat bearded older
man carrying a sack,
travelling in a sleigh pulled
by reindeer.
The development of
department stores in many
big cities — New York,
London, Berlin — produced a
new Christmas tradition, that
of going to see the Christmas
windows. In England the
word “Christmas” had come
to mean decorative greenery;
by the 1890s in America, it
meant to go shopping for
It is nigh-on
to sink into a
while cycling
in London
mind. When you have a back
injury you take painkillers,
but you’re also prescribed
daily physio to regain your
mobility. My mental exercises
are as important as the
medicines I take and my
weekly therapy sessions.
So much of my physio
for the mind takes place
outdoors. Exercise releases
endorphins and helps me
sleep. It is nigh-on impossible
to sink into a depression
about something while
cycling through London, for
instance, because you can
give only a tiny wing of your
mind to your internal
problems. The rest of it is
focused on what is going on
around you. So I cycle 20
miles a day to and from work.
The difference between
the Isabel who arrives at work
on her bike and the one who
he image most of us have of Santa
today was influenced most profoundly by an advertising campaign
by Coca-Cola that ran from 1931 to
1964, and again in the 1980s and
1990s. His red coat had started appearing
in the 1830s but it was the Coke ads that
spread the quintessential Santa across
the globe: a white-bearded man wearing
a red jacket trimmed with white fur,
belted across a substantial belly,
red trousers and black boots
and, frequently, a red
pointed cap with white
fur trim.
Rudolph, too, was
a commercial innovation; the rednosed reindeer, pictured, arrived in our
Christmas consciousness in 1939 courtesy
of a department store
copywriter named Robert
May. By this time, the secular
Christmas song had also become
as important in the American market as
carols had been in the 19th century.
By the 21st century Christmas was celebrated by many who shared none of its
traditions, who were not even nominally
Christian. Magazines, books, film and
television have transmitted the formula
to places where the meaning of the symbols matters little.
Their reproduction alone — the Santas,
the trees, carols, presents — instead signifies acculturation to a generic western
world, to modernity. Christmas has
The earliest Christmas
presents were upward gifts of
obligation — to a sovereign
from the nobles; to a
landowner from the tenants.
By the end of the 18th century
a downward tradition was
emerging — from employers
to their workers (in the form
of bonuses or tips) and most
importantly, for the first time,
from parents to children.
One of the first
advertisements in Britain to
promote a Christmas gift was
printed in 1728: a necklace
for a baby. By 1743 an
anthology of stories, jokes
and other light fare was
advertised with the subtitle
“A Christmas-box for gay
Gallants and good
Companions”. The most
common Christmas gift for
children became books, with
toys not far behind.
Many Swiss came from
their country’s Germanspeaking regions, a fact of
potential interest to Santa
Claus historians when we
remember that two of the
Swiss-German, or
Schweizerdeutsch, dialect
names for St Nicholas were
Samichlaus and Santi-Chlaus,
both of which sound far
closer to Santa Claus than
Sint Nicolaas does. So Santa
may have been Swiss before
he became American.
Adapted from Christmas: A Biography
by Judith Flanders published by
Picador (£14.99)
Early mentions of giftwrapping are rare. The
arrival of the wrapped
present in the middle of the
19th century was partly a
matter of decorative taste,
but also a pragmatic
response to the sticky
residues left by gas lighting
and coal fires — hence the
great Victorian cavalcade
of containerisation: glass
jars, cases, covers, bags
and more.
Wrapping a gift was a way
of protecting it from grease
and soot. Advancing
technology then introduced
a new element. Brilliantly
coloured printed papers
became more easily available
as chromolithography, a
method of colour printing,
became less expensive.
Wrapping not only made
cheap gifts appear more
lavish; the process became
easier in the 1930s with the
vall of
of Sellotape.
1850S 11891
It is in the works of Charless
Dickens that Christmas first
meets the modern world. His
1843 novel A Christmas Carol
permitted a new way of
thinking about the holiday.
No longer did it have to be the
Christmas of Olde England,
where the squire was in his
manor house and all was
right with the world.
Now it could be a
Christmas where working
people travelled home by
public transport from
counting houses and offices,
where charity was the remit
of the rising middle classes,
not of the gentry taking care
of their own tenants.
Following Dickens’s lead,
Christmas pursuits such ass
cooking the turkey, playing
games, drinking toasts or
buying a toy for your child
became the quasi-religiouss
observances of the new
middle-class domesticity
Even on grey, built-up
London streets there are
entrepreneurial plants such
as wall lettuce and gallant
soldier that have made their
homes in the tiniest cracks
in the pavement. Or street
trees such as the ginkgo,
which saw the dinosaurs and
now watches over politicians.
I don’t just look, either.
Just pressing my hand against
the bark of the plane trees by
parliament, or patting a patch
of moss, is a strange relief. I
feel silly writing this because
I am the sort of person who
doesn’t even like emotional
moments, let alone treehugging, but I suppose of all
the senses, touch is the one
most able to take you away
from your thoughts.
The discipline of forcing
myself to get outside, even
when all I want to do is turn
assimilated traditions from half a dozen
cultures and countries, and therefore
appears endlessly flexible.
It is these contrasts and these changes
that make Christmas what it is: a holiday
that shape-shifts, that transforms itself,
to become what we — what our cultures —
need it to be at any given time. It allows us
an illusion of stability, of long-established
communities, a way to believe in an
imagined past, when it was safe
for children to play in the
street, when no one
locked their doors and
everybody knew their
neighbours, all the
while unconsciously
omitting the less
desirable parts of
those times.
For while Christmas
has transformed itself
over the centuries, from
a time for the nobility to
display their wealth to their
dependants, to a time for adults
to enjoy what little extra they could
gather, to a festival primarily for and
about children — from elite to mass, from
adult to child, from public to family —
while the holiday has altered, it has survived, it has thrived, because, ultimately,
Christmas is not what is, or even what has
been, but what we hope for.
© Judith Flanders 2017
poem in the New York
Spectator in 1810 about the
“good holy man” St Nicholas
“whom we Sancte Claus
name”. But it might be
another immigrant group
that was responsible for the
link between St Nicholas and
Santa. Switzerland, too, had
seen a mass migration to the
New World: as many as
25,000 Swiss headed for
North Carolina, Pennsylvania
and New York in the 18th
century alone.
In one popular version of the
legend, Dutch emigrants
sailed for New Amsterdam,
later to become New York,
taking with them the story of
St Nicholas, the patron saint
of sailors and children. The
Dutch version of the saint’s
name, Sint Nicolaas, was
rendered by the city’s
English-speaking population
as Sinterklaas, then
corrupted in the late 18th
century to Santa Claus.
Another version refers to a
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
myself off for the day, has
made a great difference.
But I have also devised a way
of using my large collection
of house plants as my
mindfulness exercise for
dark winter evenings.
The methodical process of
misting my philodendrons
and orchids, and of checking
on the strange activities of
my carnivorous plants, again
trains me to focus on the
wonder of the natural world.
That training helps me
fight bad thoughts for the rest
of the day. As with physical
recovery, you need to build
up mental muscle. I was
recently poleaxed by three
pieces of upsetting news
about three different people
whom I love dearly. A healthy
person would have struggled
to cope, but I had no spare
mental capacity and ended
Christmas trees lit by candles
presented a frightening fire
risk. A lit tree was never a
safe tree, and many
households lit their candles
only once, on Christmas Eve,
prudently keeping to hand
water and a stick with a
sponge on the end.
It was America that
produced the first
commercial string of electric
tree lights. In 1891 a tree with
electric lights was put up in
the children’s ward of a New
York hospital. Later a
department store brochure
assured customers: “The
lamps are all lighted at once
by the turning of a switch,
will burn as long as desired
without attention, and can be
readily extinguished.”
up unable to string sentences
together. But because I have
built up that mental muscle,
I have been able to work out
how to survive.
Last Saturday I was so
worried about my safety that
I needed to go to hospital.
This weekend I am back
working and have perfect
clarity of mind. Previously I
would have been unable to
bounce back so quickly.
So perhaps, really, the fight
I should be proudest of is the
one against my own grumpy
instincts when it comes to
really important practices
such as physio for the mind
or, if you will, self-care. They
might sound hippie-ish, but
they have saved my life — and
will do so again.
Isabel Hardman is assistant
editor of The Spectator
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
‘Zac Goldsmith,
Jacob Rees-Mogg,
I fancy them all,’
she giggles.
‘Jacob’s a sex god’
The I’m a Celebrity winner Georgia
Toffolo tells Laura Pullman her
next challenge is to make the party
she joined in her teens cool
eorgia “Toff ” Toffolo, the
newly crowned queen of I’m
a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of
Here!, greets me with a professional handshake. But I’ve
gone in for the posh girls’
air kiss. How embarrassing.
always happens. Even before
I did the jungle, people would touch me
in shops and stuff. I don’t mind, I quite
like it,” she says, plopping onto the sofa
in her London home. It’s this happygo-lucky attitude — plus her grit at
completing the vilest “bushtucker trials”
— that persuaded 71% of viewers who
voted to pick Toff, 23, as the winner of the
ITV programme.
Having landed back in Blighty only
hours before our interview, she’s still in a
fug of astonishment: “People are coming
up to me in Waitrose and saying, ‘We’re
so proud of you.’ I’m completely overwhelmed.”
Before entering the Australian
“jungle” last month, Toff — famous for
appearing on the champagne-andsquabbles reality TV show Made in
Chelsea — was among the least recognisable celebrities taking part. She assumed
that viewers would write her off as a
“blonde airhead who doesn’t do anything and doesn’t know anything”.
All the initial excitement surrounded
another blond: Stanley “dad of Boris”
Johnson. But then he transpired to be far
less buffoonish than his eldest son and,
instead, Toff shone from the off.
As a proud Tory and Boris fan, she in
turn took an immediate shine to Stanley,
77: “The minute I met him I loved him. He
has the demeanour of no one I’ve ever
met before; such kindness.” He taught
her about environmental issues; she
taught him about “the Instagram, the
selfies, the YouTube” (Stanley adds the
definite article).
One journalist, I tell Toff, has described her as “Boris in a bikini”: blonde,
opinionated and intelligent. “Amazing.
That’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever
heard. We’ve got to show that to Stanley.
He’ll die,” she guffaws.
Forget spiders and snakes, the first
challenge in the jungle is determining
who the other “celebrities” actually are.
(The contestants are kept hidden from
each other until entering.) “Imagine
Stanley turning up; he must have
thought: who on earth are these people? I
knew a few. Then, on the sly, you try and
work it out. Mortifying,” she says.
Similarly excruciating was when the
champion boxer Amir Khan, who was
allegedly paid a £300,000 fee, asked his
camp mates whether there had ever been
a female UK prime minister. “I died,” Toff
“That was just the tip of the iceberg.
He walks around in a constant state of
bewilderment. He’d never heard of a
gecko. At this point we’d been in the
jungle for two weeks and there were
geckos everywhere, in sleeping bags,
under your pillows.”
Ah, yes. The critters and creepycrawlies. Tough Toff, as she got dubbed,
endured a number of watch-throughyour-fingers trials, including being
trapped in a coffin of snakes and drinking
blended pigs’ testicles.
Was anything tasty? “The witchetty
grubs were OK and the pig’s brain was not
so bad.” She lost nearly 9lb (4kg) during
the three-week stint. At one point she felt
so weak she struggled to lift her arms up
to plait her hair. Now, hiding away from
paparazzi in her rented one-bed flat
(“cosy” in estate agents’ language) off the
King’s Road in west London, she scoffs
some Victoria sponge.
She pooh-poohs that she was paid
£13,000 to appear. Anyway, the rumour
mill suggests the jungle queen could now
earn £5m through advertising deals,
television work and so on.
What about her love of politics? She
has been a member of the Conservative
Party since she was a teenager. Might she
try to become an MP? “Oh my God, no.
I’m nowhere near intelligent enough. It
would be a dream in about 25 years.”
That’s too modest — Toff is clearly
bright, savvy and determined. One of
her jungle highlights was scolding the
boys for assuming superiority on the
Georgia Toffolo, crowned queen of
the jungle last week, is in line to earn
millions through advertising deals
and media work
Might she try to
become an MP?
‘Oh my God, no. It
would be a dream
in about 25 years’
challenges. “Yes, I am quite small but it
doesn’t mean to say I am less mighty,” she
had declared, as women cheered from
their sofas at home. Does she consider
herself a feminist? “I didn’t before this
experience. But now people are saying I
am, which is really flattering. I always had
those views, though I’d never used the
word ‘feminist’.”
It comes as no surprise that Toff and
her best friend ran the Conservative
campaign for her boarding school’s 2010
mock election. “We got in touch with
CCHQ [Conservative Campaign Headquarters] and they sent us lots of stuff. We
hung up huge posters on the main road
and got in so much trouble. Anyway, we
obviously won by a landslide and so did
Dave [Cameron]. I’ve just loved politics
ever since.”
Which politicians does she admire?
“The standard: Zac Goldsmith, Jacob
Rees-Mogg. I fancy them all,” she giggles.
“Jacob’s a sex god.”
I beg to differ and Toff eulogises:
“Come on! The human mind can be sexy.
He’s so clever, I just love him.” Would he
be a good next Tory leader? “Yesssss,” she
half cheers. Wouldn’t he alienate the
public with his nanny-and-Bentley reputation? “I don’t want to think that’s true
because I don’t think people should be
judged for their background.”
When talking about politics Toff ’s
naturally high-wattage energy creeps up
further still. She argues that the MSP
Kezia Dugdale, a fellow I’m a Celeb contestant, should be let off the naughty step
for taking part: “She did them proud.
Sometimes politics can become snobby
and archaic and I think Labour has done
very well in not being like that recently.”
Although she got fed up with the
Jeremy Corbyn mania at Glastonbury this
year, she has grudging admiration for his
PR machine. The Conservatives are missing a trick in not reaching out to her, she
says, pointing out that she has long been a
vocal supporter: “I’ve got 1.5m followers
on Instagram. Yes, I might have blonde
hair, go to the pub a lot and be on a reality
show, but this is the way the world is
going. Perhaps it’s time for them to
embrace that.
“I’m put in this box where I apparently
shouldn’t be talking about politics. Why
not? Let’s try and make it cool. Voter
apathy, particularly among young
people, stems from politics being completely unrelatable.”
The film Legally Blonde, where Reese
Witherspoon, a beautiful, bright ditz,
transforms herself into a Harvard-trained
lawyer, springs to mind. (Although Toff
dropped out of a law degree after television work took over.)
What she lacks in political precision
she makes up for in good old-fashioned
passion and she is hardly claiming to be a
Govian expert: “I just know what I think
and want people to talk to. Agree with me
or disagree with me, it doesn’t matter as
long as you’re engaging. I cannot stand it
when people say ‘you Tory scum’ and
that’s it. Fine, call me that but say why.
Let’s talk about it.”
With jetlag kicking in hard, we dodge
soft Brexit, sex scandals and the Westminster attack in March, in which Toff
was caught up. Instead, we move on to
dissecting the life of a socialite.
The cast — past and present — of Made
in Chelsea, including Pippa Middleton’s
brother-in-law, Spencer Matthews, are
notorious for their hard partying. How
hard does Toff hit the tiles? “It fluctuates.
I love a cheeky night at 151 [a King’s Road
club]. I get a bottle of apple sours and
dance to some really shit music. I don’t
like anything pretentious where you have
to queue up and wear heels.”
Over the past four years the show has
taken her to Ibiza, Vienna, Los Angeles
and France. But it’s not all jolly jaunts:
“I’ve been dumped quite a few times on
camera. It’s mortifying. Then you relive it
when they’ve edited it and you know a
million people are watching.”
What’s her type of man? “I fancy
middle-aged politicians, but I’ve never
been with one,” she says, immediately
arousing suspicion. She dismisses stories
of her partying with Greg Hands, the
Chelsea and Fulham MP. But it seems he’s
in the Zac and Jacob category.
Besides the television work, Toff also
does “bits and bobs” as an editorial
assistant for The Lady magazine and has
previously worked for a right-leaning
think tank. Then there is her role as an
“influencer” — essentially promoting
products to her increasing fan base:
“Social media is an enormous part of my
livelihood. I pay my rent with my Instagram. And along with that it becomes an
obsession.” Having had a break from her
phone in the jungle, though, she is determined to cut down on screen time.
Aware of how young and vulnerable
some of her followers are, she’s also open
about her insecurities online, including
her confidence-crushing skin troubles.
We touch on how the bullying she
experienced years ago still upsets her
and how Christmas Day isn’t much fun
when you’re an only child with divorced
parents. But, Toff being Toff, she puts a
positive spin on it and that endearing grin
returns. Besides, sod the jetlag, it’s time
for her to hit the “Sloaney Pony” (a local
pub) for a carols singalong. After we have
air-kissed each other goodbye with lots of
“darh-lings”, I wander down the King’s
Road utterly taken by Toff.
It’s a taboo topic
but requiring us
all to opt out of
organ donation
rather than opt in
will save lives,
writes Adam Kay
he job of a doctor
doesn’t get much worse
than sitting a bereaved
relative down and
saying: “We did
everything we could.” But if
your patient was one of the
500 people who die every
year in this country waiting
for an organ transplant,
your fingers are always
slightly crossed behind
your back.
While as an individual
Collected pieces by the late educationist and Sunday
Times journalist, Chris Woodhead
University of Buckingham Press, £14.99
doctor you almost certainly
did your utmost, you know in
your heart that, as a health
service, you failed them.
Organ donation is a
sensitive subject, practically
as taboo as death itself; no
one wants to think about it
too much. It’s because most
of us like to kid ourselves that
we’ll buck the trend and live
for ever.
Or perhaps we don’t want
to be reminded of the fleeting
nature of our lives — lives
frittered away at work, asleep
or on hold to Santander. But
we must think about it and we
must talk about it: patients
are dying every day because
of the lack of an organ donor,
and stacked behind them are
6,500 more people on the
waiting list.
The system so far has
relied on performative
benevolence, by way of
carrying a donor card and
having a frank chat with your
relatives so they know your
wishes. It’s clear that this is
far from good enough — too
few people sign up, and
even fewer have the
The opt-out concept, or
“presumed consent”, hopes
to overcome this. Much like
the morning tea-round at the
office, you’re in until you say
And so I find myself in the
rather unusual position of
agreeing with Jeremy Hunt.
I’ve made no secret in the
past about my feelings for the
health secretary — but, to give
the wretched man his due, a
stopped clock is occasionally
right, and he’s stumbled
onto a winner. He has just
launched a public
consultation into changing
the law on organ donation in
England to follow Wales’s
new system of presumed
I was on the consultation
website ready to share my
opinion within seconds of it
beginning, and all the
questions seemed very
sensible. There was the
opportunity to discuss who
should be excluded from an
opt-out system — for
example, children and
visitors to the country.
There was a question
about what negative effects
this change might have on
certain religious groups or
ethnic backgrounds; again, a
reasonable discussion point.
For me, the most interesting
question was whether
families should be allowed to
make the final decision if
someone dies and has not
opted out of organ donation.
I considered the options
1) Always — if someone had
not “opted out”, their family
should always be asked to
make the final decision.
2) Sometimes — there are
some circumstances where
someone’s family should
make the final decision.
3) No — if someone had not
“opted out” then donation
should always go ahead.
The clever money would
The rate of organ donation in England is half that of Spain
go on the government
introducing option 1, in line
with much of the rest of the
world that has introduced an
opt-out system. I ticked
option 3, but I suspect I’m in
a minority.
This is one of the biggest
issues in organ donation
today. In the opt-in system we
have, relatives consent only
60% of the time — if families
respected the wishes of their
loved ones nearer 100% of
the time there would be no
deaths due to patients waiting
for organ transplants, and the
waiting lists would tumble
in length.
In Wales, transplant rates
have stayed much the same
since the change in the law
two years ago — it’s slightly
difficult to draw any
conclusions from this as the
numbers involved are small
(and indeed Spain, which
tops the transplantation
league table, saw no increase
for a number of years after its
switch to an opt-out system)
but Wales has seen the
number of families giving
permission for their loved
ones’ organs to be used after
death rising by 20%.
It shows that if the issue is
discussed openly, with new
norms applied, it can filter
down to those making the
hardest decision of all.
There will always be
barriers standing in the way
of organ donation, but it’s
clear it isn’t just about the
patient’s wishes: it’s about
better communication, both
within families and between
them and the NHS staff
working to save lives.
To normalise the idea of
organ donation we must
invest in it, and promote it.
Spain puts a lot of its success
in organ donation down to
making the topic part of the
national conversation, and a
routine consideration
whenever a patient dies.
Today, Spain has 43.4
organ donors per million of
population, compared with
21.1 per million in England.
While governments may
deal in statistics such as this,
doctors deal with individuals.
However brief our time with
patients, we have a
relationship of some kind;
these people share with us
their greatest fears, or try to
hide them, and for a few
moments we truly
understand them.
To watch someone who
desperately needs a
transplant stare down the
barrel of a gun as you tell
them their organ function has
further deteriorated is
crushing. Every emotion is
played out on their face, no
matter how resilient they
think they’ve become.
Partner that with the guilt
felt by many patients that one
life has had to end so theirs
can begin anew, and you have
a highly charged situation
that places strains and
stresses that, quite possibly,
could be neutralised with an
opt-out system and a clearer
commitment to reinforcing
the benefits of organ
donation to all.
I have seen both sides of
this process first-hand. As a
house officer, I lost a patient
to the waiting list: I knew how
many sugars she took in her
tea (always too many, but you
could forgive her in the face
of an NHS cuppa), her
favourite TV show and, more
importantly, just how
frightened she was.
Watching her fade away
through lack of something
that could have been more
easily available will stay with
me. I’ve witnessed the joy
organ donation can bring too
— a friend’s father is alive
thanks to the kindness of a
dead stranger and the charity
of their family. He’s able to
overeat and lose fantastically
at Monopoly with his children
this Christmas, and hopefully
for many more to come.
This new law could have
wonderful implications. We
need to take the hit, have
faith in human nature, and
make it count.
This Is Going to Hurt: Secret
Diaries of a Junior Doctor
by Adam Kay is published
by Picador (£16.99)
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Deaths from fentanyl, an opioid that can
be fatal even to the touch, have risen by
540% in America. Now it is appearing here,
write Josh Glancy and Tony Allen-Mills
hen Darcel Clark took
over as district attorney for the Bronx last
year she was given a
warning by her colleagues: watch out for
fentanyl. She quickly
obscure painkiller had
eclipsed more familiar
drugs such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The opiate known as “drop dead”
is a scourge of our time, ravaging
communities and filling cemeteries on
both sides of the Atlantic. Clark calls it her
biggest problem. “It’s just lethal,” she
says. “You can’t even touch it.”
Wherever you look, fentanyl is taking
lives. In the United States it caused more
than 20,000 deaths last year. Last week,
during a period of 24 hours, nine people
died of fentanyl overdoses in Vancouver.
In Britain, Hannah Bickers of the National
Crime Agency (NCA) said the prescription opioid had been linked to 102 deaths
since mid-December last year.
Fentanyl, up to 100 times stronger
than heroin, is known to dealers in the
Bronx — a hub for the drug — as “murder
8” or “poison”. Such is its potency that
two states, Nebraska and Nevada, are
preparing to use the drug in executions.
A post-mortem examination on the
rock star Prince last year found the
57-year-old had died from an accidental
overdose of the drug. Arizona police also
blamed fentanyl for the death last month
of Lil Peep, a rapper whose real name was
Gustav Ahr.
The drug is killing heroin addicts
who underestimate its strength and is
destroying middle-class families where
teenagers have become hooked on painkillers. “Everyone is vulnerable to this,”
says Clark.
Fentanyl, originally developed for
patients recovering from surgery, is most
commonly mixed with heroin, supposedly to provide a euphoric “high”.
But its side-effects include nausea, confusion, constipation, cardiac arrest,
unconsciousness, coma and death.
Two recent seizures of the drug by law
enforcement agencies in the Bronx
demonstrate the scale of the problem.
This month 16 people were charged with
drug offences including possession of
12kg of fentanyl, enough to provide 6m
fatal doses. In September 63kg of the
drug was seized, enough to provide 32m
lethal doses.
In Britain it was not until a year ago
that the drug started appearing in the
heroin street markets in northeast
England. Police became worried by a
jump in heroin-related deaths and
toxicology tests began to detect fentanyl
as an “additional substance” in heroin
victims. “Some of these deaths have
shown signs of being very sudden, potentially indicating an immediate and fatal
overdose,” an NCA report said in April.
British victims included Robert Fraser,
an 18-year-old from Deal, Kent, who may
not have known that the white powder
drug he had bought on the internet
contained fentanyl.
Bickers said the rise in UK fatalities had
recently “gone down”, at least partly
because people had become more aware
of the dangers associated with the drug.
But the extent of the threat remains
uncertain, with coroners and police
agencies still re-examining samples from
overdose cases that were not previously
screened for fentanyl.
In the Fordham Manor district of the
Bronx, residents were shocked when a
local recycling collection site became an
“open-air” drug market. Addicts who
make a few dollars by selling recycled
cans would hand over their takings
straight to the dealers waiting outside.
One addict who was caught on camera
at the site thought he was buying heroin,
a drug whose effects he was used to.
Instead, he was given heroin laced with
fentanyl. He collapsed immediately after
snorting it.
That man was resuscitated and survived, but the Bronx saw 308 deaths from
overdoses last year, more than double
the 128 who died in 2010. The victims
turn up in public lavatories and parks,
cold blue bodies sent to sudden death by
tiny granules of powder that can be fatal
— even to touch.
“It’s just killing people, killing our
communities,” says Clark.
These grim figures have been replicated across America, where deaths from
fentanyl have risen 540% in three years.
The epidemic is being driven by drug
gangs who have spotted a lucrative new
opportunity. Many US deaths have
occurred in affluent northeastern states
such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where Bronx gangs such as the
A sheriff tends to fentanyl victims in
Ohio. The woman survived but the
man died. The drug claimed more
than 20,000 lives in America last year
Video: how the opioid crisis
has gripped America
Go to or our apps
This newspaper’s exposure of a corruption scandal in
London is just the tip of the iceberg, says Rohan Silva.
Outmoded development laws allow crime to thrive
xactly seven years ago today, on
December 17, 2010, a young man
named Mohamed Bouazizi set
himself on fire outside a
government building in Tunisia,
kicking off the Arab Spring that turned
the geopolitics of the region on its head.
In the aftermath of the turmoil, the
influential economist Hernando De Soto
interviewed Bouazizi’s family — and the
families of the dozens of other people
who killed themselves in similar ways in
countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt.
De Soto wanted to find out why these
young men and women had committed
violent acts of self-immolation — and he
concluded that every case had the same
root cause: “Desperation over property.”
According to De Soto, the absence
of enforceable property rights in Tunisia
— and across the Arab world — meant
people were at constant risk of their
property being confiscated by the
government, and made it almost
impossible to escape poverty and build
a better life for their families.
Here in the UK, we tend to think
property rights are a developing-world
issue — with our long history of land
registration and ownership, it’s easy to
assume everything is hunky-dory.
If only. Last weekend this newspaper
published a damning exposé of
corruption in east London, with a £2m
bribe sought from a developer in
exchange for the promise of permission
to build a skyscraper, Alpha Square.
Off the back of this exemplary
journalism, the National Crime Agency
is investigating the incident. Hopefully
the bent politicians and officials will be
brought to justice.
But the depressing truth is that
corruption is endemic in Britain’s
bureaucratic planning system. In every
corner of the country, you can find
stories of bribery, with local councillors
and officials rigging the planning process
for their own gain.
Doncaster, Enfield, Greater
Manchester, East Devon — these are just
a handful of the local authorities where
corrupt practices have been discovered
in planning departments. In other
words, the corruption is systemic
and it’s caused by the inadequacy of
Britain’s property rights.
To understand why, we need to look
back to 1947, when post-war socialist
planning was all the rage, industries
were being nationalised and the state
was steadily gaining control of the
“commanding heights” of the economy.
That year, the Town and Country
Planning Act was introduced, giving the
government the power to determine the
direction of property development. This
piece of legislation is the basis of today’s
planning system — and it took land
development rights away from property
owners and gave them to the planning
authorities. It was another form of
nationalisation, in other words.
Ever since, when you buy a piece of
land in the UK you receive its property
title, but you have absolutely no idea
what you’re allowed to build on it —
that’s up to planning officials in the
local council.
Given that the value of a property can
increase by tens — or even hundreds — of
millions of pounds depending on what
An artist’s impression of Alpha Square,
the development at the heart of the
£2m bribe scandal in east London
the planners decide, the incentive for
corruption among low-paid officials
and councillors is overwhelming.
Unfortunately, the lack of clear
property rights doesn’t only lead to
corruption. It also slows down every
aspect of the development process,
creating a boon for expensive planning
consultants and lawyers.
All this bureaucracy helps explain
why too few houses have been built
over many decades, with monumental
social and economic consequences.
As Mark Littlewood of the Institute
of Economic Affairs has pointed out,
our outmoded planning system has
artificially inflated property prices in
the UK by as much as 41%, adding more
than £3,000 to the average family’s
annual rent or mortgage payments.
What’s more, our post-war planning
system stifles innovation. Developers
have to play it safe, putting forward
generic projects designed to get through
the bureaucracy, rather than delivering
what consumers want.
As the architect Lord Rogers has
asked, why should bureaucrats get to
decide on aesthetics? It’s a recipe for
the kind of soulless grey buildings you
now find in every British city.
Corrupt practices. Market failure.
Lack of innovation. These are just some
of the consequences of our broken
planning system — the last vestige of
socialist command-and-control we have
left in the UK. (Until Jeremy Corbyn gets
elected, anyway.)
It doesn’t have to be like this. In US
cities, when you buy a piece of land, it
comes with property rights that tell you
what you’re allowed to build on it and
how much extra space you can add.
This is known as “by-right” planning
permission — because you don’t need
a bureaucratic process to tell you what
you can do. You apply for planning
permission only if you want to build
more than you’re entitled to.
Now is the time to bring this approach
to this country and clamp down on
corruption. By strengthening the UK’s
framework of property rights and
dismantling the failed post-war planning
system, we can cut red tape and stamp
out bribery.
Thanks to this newspaper’s exposure
of corrupt practices, change is surely
coming. You might even call it a
British Spring.
Rohan Silva is a former adviser to David
Cameron and co-founder of Second Home
“Eden Boys” and “Miami Ave”, usually
rivals, drive up from New York together
to sell their poisonous wares. These local
dealers are the sharp end of a global
supply chain: some of Mexico’s biggest
drug cartels are making fentanyl using
chemicals imported from China, then
smuggling it into America.
Ioan Grillo, the author of Gangster
Warlords, a book about the Latin American drug trade, estimates that $5,000 of
investment in fentanyl can potentially be
turned into $1m of street sales. The
markup is four times higher than for
unadulterated cocaine.
“These are people who see oppor-
We’re trying to tell
people this is not a
traditional bag of
dope. This stuff
can kill you fast
tunity,” Grillo says. “They adapt quickly,
from marijuana to heroin, to cocaine,
crystal meth and now fentanyl. They are
sharp businessmen who study and
understand drug consumption.”
Law enforcement faces a struggle not
just to cut off the supply of fentanyl but
also to educate would-be users about
how lethal it is. “We’re trying to let
people know this is not your oldfashioned heroin, your traditional bag of
dope,” says Clark.
“This stuff can kill you fast. It’s a real
crisis, just like we had with crack in the
1980s and 1990s. And it could get worse.”
This picture of life in Yamal, Siberia, was commended in the Travel Photographer of the Year awards. It was taken by Alexey Suloev
Life in brief
Born: April 20, 1953
The traditional Christmas morning
service at the Church of St Mary
Magdalene on the royal Sandringham
estate is certain to attract more tabloid
scrutiny than usual this year, because
the Queen has chosen to break with
stuffy precedent and invite Meghan
Markle, the first fiancée to attend, for the
plum pudding.
Expect a new wave of “Meghan
Educated: London Oratory
mania”, warned The Sun, as the younger
royals follow the tradition of walking the
half-mile to their pews. A Kensington
Palace spokesman told the paper:
“You can expect to see the Duke and
Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry
and Ms Markle at Sandringham on
Christmas Day.” But will the famously
laid-back California actress enjoy the
formalities as a guest of Her Majesty?
The Daily Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle
came up with a list of etiquette tips to
help make sure she does.
She must pack a tiara for Christmas
Eve, four outfits for Christmas Day “plus
reserves to avoid possible clashes with
the Queen or Camilla”.
Guests must be prompt for meals and
drinks; conveniently, timetables are left
in their bedrooms, he explained. After
the meal, guests watch the Queen’s
broadcast and stand for the national
anthem. And be advised: “When HM
returns, no one must mention her
broadcast — unless she does first.”
After an ordeal like that, it will be little
wonder if Meghan books a flight straight
back to La La Land.
He’s my dad — and my mum
There was much consternation at the
Daily Mirror, which ran a headline
announcing: “I had a baby as a woman
. . . and now I’ve given birth as a man.” It
added: “World first for a transgender
parent.” Kaci Sullivan, 30, gave birth to
Phoenix, who was conceived with
partner Steven, 27. Sullivan, from
Wisconsin, gave birth as a woman to son
Grayson five years ago but then decided
to transition to being a man. The new
child was conceived during a break from
taking male hormones.
Unhelpfully, the proud parents
declined to give the sex of their new
arrival, making the task of the subeditors all the harder.
A clearly confused Mirror columnist,
Alison Phillips, commented: “What a
confusing world little Phoenix has been
born into . . . And you thought your
family was complicated!”
On one’s
guest list:
Markle will
Day with the
Headline of the week
With Britain expecting temperatures as
low as -15C last Tuesday, the Daily Mirror
dug out the overused formula of finding
somewhere warmer to provide its frontpage story — headed “Colder than
Moscow”. Thankfully, for the full story
inside, it redeemed itself with a headline
that was icicle-sharp: “From Russia . . .
with gloves”.
Career: called to the bar —
Middle Temple — in 1977; MP
for Harlow 1983-97, serving
on the health and heritage
select committees, in the
Northern Ireland Office and
the Department of the
Environment; political editor
of Punch; now in Goldsmith
Chambers, specialising in
murder, drug importations and
serious sexual offences
Personal life: married Alison
Mansfield in 1977. They have
two children, Lawrence
and Francesca
The pinnacle of Jerry Hayes’s political
career was becoming a ministerial bagcarrier in the Northern Ireland Office.
Early on, the Essex MP made the
mistake of falling foul of Margaret
Thatcher, who among other things
disliked his beard and yellow ties.
Thereafter it was back and forth
between the back benches and the bars
for the man that Betty Boothroyd, then
the Speaker, said would make a very
pretty French maid. “I wish I had his
curls,” she quipped.
Last week, however, Hayes, 64,
finally became a hero. Now a
prosecuting barrister, he revealed how
police had sat on evidence that proved a
22-year-old man’s innocence in a
rape trial. Hayes, who was
parachuted into the
case at the last
minute, ordered
police to hand over
telephone records
they had held back.
“This was a
massive, massive
miscarriage of
justice, which thank
heavens was
avoided,” he said.
No doubt the
Rumpole will be celebrating with a
drink at El Vino or at his beloved Savile
Club. As the Harlow MP from 1983 to
1997, he was well known for propping
up the now defunct Annie’s Bar at the
Palace of Westminster and being a
prime source of gossip.
Hayes fell out with Thatcher thanks
to a rebellion over NHS prescription
charges — something he described as “a
disastrous plot to try to humanise
Thatcher”. As the revolt unravelled,
Nicholas Ridley, then transport
secretary, poured Hayes a whisky and
told him: “Dear boy, in politics you
must shoot to kill, never to wound. A
wounded animal is unpredictable and
Hayes, an affable publicity tart,
appeared frequently on television quiz
shows and, on leaving parliament,
wrote a political column for Punch
magazine. In his wonderfully indiscreet
autobiography, An Unexpected MP, he
claimed that he joined the Young
Conservatives only for “a shag”.
These days he is known for his
flamboyance in court. He once juggled
in front of the jury, dropped the balls
and declared: “That, ladies and
gentlemen, is how easily the case falls
His distinctive looks still attract
attention. At a restaurant recently he
was given a free bottle of fizz by a waiter
who declared himself a fan and added:
“I particularly liked you in Gladiator.”
They thought he was Sir Derek Jacobi.
At least that’s better than his old
problem — being mistaken for the DJ
and comedian Kenny Everett.
It turns out that being pals with
George Clooney involves more than
gut-twisting jealousy over his perfect
jawline and heavenly wife. It’s been
revealed that the film star once gave
$1m each to his 14 best friends.
Rande Gerber, married to Cindy
Crawford, said the gift was made at a
dinner in 2013 where each guest was
given a suitcase. Clooney said a few
words about how much his friends
meant to him and they opened the
cases to find them stuffed with $20
An act of astonishing generosity
but even in Hollywood perhaps a
slightly vulgar gesture?
Unusually, the hottest subject on social
media last week was not idle gossip but
an actual work of fiction. Cat Person, a
short story published in The New Yorker,
catapulted its 36-year-old author, Kristen
Roupenian, to fame. In the tale, a 20year-old student called Margot goes on a
miserable date with an older man. When
they kiss, she is appalled by his “lunging
motion”, and things only get worse in
the bedroom. Some praised the story for
its unflinching depiction of casual sex;
others aligned it with the #MeToo
Asked in an interview if she liked cats,
Roupenian replied: “They’re a little
creepy, but I like things that are creepy.”
Peter Kay caused consternation last
week when he cancelled his stand-up
tour because of “unforeseen family
circumstances”. The UK and Ireland
tour, his first in eight years, had been
scheduled to start in April. The 44-yearold comedian, best known for his role in
the sitcom Phoenix Nights, said he was
“very sorry” for letting down his fans.
The cancellation provoked all the
normal reactions: a slew of sympathetic
messages posted on social media by
devotees, and some less
kind swipes from
crestfallen fans.
One saw the
cancellation as part of a
larger, more
sinister story,
tweeting bitterly:
“Peter Kay
announcing his
cancelling all
the shows
within the
space of
2 weeks sums
up how 2017
has been.”
Children’s TV presenter whose career
came unstitched after Naked Jungle
For television viewers of a certain age,
Keith Chegwin, who has died aged 60,
will be remembered for his puppyish
enthusiasm on Multi-Coloured Swap
Shop and Cheggers Plays Pop, as well as
for his catchphrase: “Wey hey!”
The low point came in 2000 when
Chegwin presented Naked Jungle, in
which contestants negotiated an assault
course without clothes. It seemed like
the final stop on the road to career ruin.
“My only regret was dropping my pants
for Channel 5. A lot of people said they
wouldn’t use me again,” he admitted.
Chegwin married Swap Shop’s Maggie
Philbin, but his drinking took over and
he became a joke figure: “People would
call out, ‘You all right, Cheggers?’ Then I
would count five, four, three, two, one —
and they’d shout, ‘Plonker!’”
The Times
US soldier held captive for 39 years
after defecting to North Korea in 1965
It was a decision inspired by alcohol,
depression and stupidity. In 1965, US
army sergeant Charles Jenkins slipped
across the demilitarised zone from
South Korea and defected to the North.
Jenkins, who has died aged 77, was not
seen again by anyone in the free world
until 2004, when he was allowed to join
his wife in Japan. They had met in
captivity after she was kidnapped by
North Korea to teach its spies.
He told of starring in propaganda
films and of enduring beatings, hunger
and the forced removal of a testicle. “I
was not thinking clearly,” he admitted in
his memoir The Reluctant Communist.
The Independent
The Sunday Times December 17, 2017
Jeremy Clarkson
The girls, the gambling, the gin — I’ve
gone galloping mad for horse racing
hen you watch horse
racing on the television
you’re told by
hieroglyphics on the
screen and by the
commentator that the
action is coming from the
3.20 at Lingfield. But is it?
Because Pontefract and Lingfield and
Wetherby? Only a very small number,
of very small people, would be able to
tell the difference.
I’ve thought for a long time that when
colour television was invented, a horse
race was filmed and they just use the
same footage over and over again.
Because can you tell Graphic
Decapitation from Tell-Tale Skidmark?
Of course not. Claiming that horses are
all different is like saying ants have
recognisable faces. They’re all just milk
bottles. Identical.
And there’s more. We are expected to
believe that a television cameraman or
cameraman woman spends years being
an assistant. He or she humps tripods up
and down hills, drives vans through the
night and learns about all the latest
breakthroughs in digital technology so
that one day they can sit in the mist, on
top of a Citroën, filming a sport being
watched by only half a dozen red-nosed
drunks in betting shops in the north.
Think about it. Every single horse
race is filmed, apparently. That means
at least six sound recordists and six
cameramen at four different courses,
six days a week. If that were really
happening, there would be no crews left
for anyone else. David Attenborough
would have had to film his nature
programmes on a cameraphone.
This Friday you will not be able to
watch Fleetwood Town play Gillingham
on the television, but you will — we are
told — be able to watch the action from
Uttoxeter and Wolverhampton. And that
makes no sense. Because in horse racing
there never is any action. It’s just meat
running about. As a sporting spectacle,
it’s even more dreary than Formula One.
Of course, it works if you have some
money on Womble Boy and it’s leading
by a nose with a furlong to go. But if you
are betting on a race in Wolverhampton,
on a Friday evening, then you are a
friendless drunk and you should get
some help. What’s weird, though, is that
horse racing does work extremely well
if you watch it live.
I went to Newbury the other day and
had lunch in the royal box with various
owners who were competing with one
another to see who had the fastest pet.
I’d like to say this was all rather tragic,
but the truth is that I have a shoot and
I’ve been known to just fire my gun
repeatedly into the air so people who
run neighbouring shoots think:
“Clarkson’s having a better day than me
so I’d better kill myself.”
It’s all part of growing up and being a
man and having an ego. Which is why, in
horse racing, people will spend millions
— lots of millions — on a horse with a fast
dad. Just so they can have a faster pet
than Sheikh Hakeem Makeem Dhakeem.
Or Mr O’Reilly from Kildare.
Outside the royal box, it was a scrum
of tweed and red noses and people
queuing for the cash machine. It was an
alloy of hope and drink and fur. And at
one point I was taken into the paddock
so people could take my picture.
After a little while, some horses were
brought out and somehow we were
expected to be able to tell which ones
stood a chance and which ones were
going to limp home last in the race after
the one they’d started. They all looked
exactly the same to me. So I picked one
that was running at 8-1 — I always do that,
even though it has never, ever worked
— and went off to give Honest John from
Liverpool some of my money. He took it
gratefully and gave me some banter and
a bit of paper, which I put in the bin
On TV, it’s even
more dreary than
Formula One. But if
you watch it live . . .
because it would never be worth
anything. And then the race began.
There’s no getting round the fact that
it’s all very brilliant. Fuelled by sloe gin
and whiskey and beer, people begin to
make noises that rise in volume to
become, in the final few moments,
like the sound of 4m startled geese. And
then it’s done and Jeremy Kyle is dancing
around because his pet has won and
no one hears the vet shoot the 8-1
outsider that fell over at the first fence.
All of this noise and excitement and
gunfire is infectious. And that’s before
we get to the summertime events such
as Royal Ascot or the Melbourne Cup in
Australia, where women decide that in
order to watch a horse running along,
they must not wear knickers and should
fall over in the paddock every five
I don’t know why they do this. I think
it’s because they have it in their minds
that horse racing is posh, which it is, of
course. But what makes it posh is that
you have the lords and the ladies and
the groundsmen and the dry stone
wallers and none of the idiots in
between. You and me? We are just there
to make a noise and fill the tills.
And it works. We go there, into the
olden days, and we have no idea what’s
going on. We place our bets for reasons
that make no sense, which gives us
something to cheer about when the race
happens, and then we have an egg
sandwich and some more sloe gin and
then another girl falls over and when
it’s all finished it’s cost us whatever we
chose to spend and that, for an exciting
day out, is not bad value.
When we get back we don’t feel
compelled to watch the highlights on
television because the sport’s not
important — and it wasn’t really televised
anyway. No. It’s because we could spend
a day dressing up and sounding like
geese and having a drink with our
friends. And there’s always a chance that
you could go home with a wallet so full
that it’s actually uncomfortable to sit on.
This, I’m told, is the most wonderful
feeling in the world, because winning
£50 is better than earning a hundred.
Thanks to tax, actually, it amounts to
the same thing.
“We’re dreadfully understaffed — try a stable!”
“Meghan’s stunt double will perform any difficult charades”
“How will I know who’s been naughty and nice?”
Buy prints or signed copies of Nick Newman’s cartoons from our Print Gallery at
6°C sh
8°C c
18 f
Los Angeles
22 s
27 sh
8 s
31 f
Mexico City
21 f
10 s
26 sh
4 s
2 sh
3 sh
24 f
2 f
New Delhi
24 s
20 f
New Orleans
24 th
-1 f
New York
2 f
4 f
-6 f
4 f
32 f
Buenos Aires
26 sh
7 f
25 f
3 f
3 f
Rio de Janeiro
32 f
Cape Town
24 f
10 f
25 sh
San Francisco
16 s
15 f
37 f
4 f
-3 s
25 f
28 f
11 dr
29 th
1 f
-2 f
15 f
27 f
27 f
Tel Aviv
23 s
1 c
16 sh
Hong Kong
17 f
9 f
16 sh
-4 f
11 f
28 sh
32 f
16 f
La Paz
17 f
3 c
30 th
3 f
23 f
1 f
12 s
Washington DC
8 f
Key c=cloud, dr=drizzle, ds=dust storm, f=fair, fg=fog, g=gales, h=hail,
m=mist, r=rain, sh=showers, sl=sleet, sn=snow, s=sun, th=thunder, w=windy
¬ After a cold and frosty
start it will be dry with long
sunny spells across Spain and
Portugal and the Balearics
¬ Rather chilly in Italy and
Sicily with sunny spells in the
north, but isolated showers in
southern areas
¬ A cold and rather cloudy
day in the Balkans with
showers turning wintry over
high ground. Brighter and
warmer in Greece and Turkey
¬ A dry, bright, but cold day
across the Low Countries and
France. In Germany and over
the Alps there will be isolated
wintry showers
¬ A cloudy and cold day in
the Baltic states, Poland and
Ukraine with a few snow
flurries in the morning
¬ Cold but dry in Scandinavia
at first before a band of rain,
sleet and snow spreads into
western Norway later
UK forecast
A warm front crossing the United
Kingdom will introduce milder air from
the west, but it will be a cloudy day
with a spell of rain for most areas. A wet
morning across Scotland and northern
England, followed by a drier afternoon
with bright spells. In central and eastern
England it will be a cold and foggy
morning, later cloud will build with
some light rain. It will feel milder than of
late in moderate southwesterly winds
London, SE England
After a foggy start, it will be largely dry
but cloudy. Light southwesterly winds.
Max 7C. Tonight, light rain. Min 3C
Midlands, E Anglia, E England
A foggy morning. Cloud and light rain
spreading eastwards in the afternoon.
Light to moderate southwesterly winds.
Max 7C. Tonight, overcast. Min 1C
Channel Is, SW and
Cent S England, S Wales
A cloudy day with patchy light rain at
times. Light southwesterly winds.
Max 10C. Tonight, overcast. Min 3C
N Wales, NW England, Isle of Man
A wet morning before rain gradually
eases in the afternoon. Light to
moderate southwesterly winds.
Max 10C. Tonight, clear spells. Min 0C
Cent N and NE England
A damp day with persistent light rain.
Moderate southwesterly winds. Max 7C.
Tonight, cold and frosty. Min -1C
A wet start but drier and brighter later.
Moderate westerly winds. Max 9C.
Tonight, clear spells, frosty. Min -1C
N Ireland, Republic of Ireland
Light and patchy rain at first, drier in the
afternoon. Light westerly winds.
Max 11C. Tonight, largely cloudy. Min 3C
Largely dry and
mild with bright or
sunny spells.
Max 12C
Light rain in the
far west, mild but
cloudy elsewhere.
Max 14C
Coldest by night
(Monday) -13.0C
(Sunday) 47.0mm
East Malling
(Tuesday) 6.8hr
Another mild day
with patchy rain in
the northwest.
Max 13C
Largely dry with
some bright or
sunny spells.
Max 11C
Remaining dry
with bright spells,
but chillier.
Max 9C
Constellations well up in the S tonight:
Pegasus at 17:00; Andromeda high at
19:00; Aries at 20:30; Taurus at 23:00;
Orion at midnight; Gemini at 01:30; Leo
at 05:00. Jupiter, near the double star
Zubenelgenubi in Libra, is conspicuous
in the SE before dawn. Mars, much
fainter, is above-right of Jupiter and left
of Spica in Virgo. The winter solstice
occurs on Thursday. Alan Pickup
Isobel Lang
Warmest by day
(Sunday) 10.7C
Chin up, Bing. It
could still happen
Moon phase
Sun sets/
lights on
Light rain in the
northwest, drier
Max 10C
Dreams of a white Christmas
are looking unlikely to come
true amid signs of milder
conditions over the next
few days. However, a week is
a long time in meteorology
and fluctuating temperatures
could yet deliver a surprise.
Last Sunday the UK was
brimming with extremes.
Thick snow fell across Wales
and the Midlands with more
than 13in at Sennybridge,
Powys. The frontal system
also swept heavy rain across
the south with 82mph winds
at the Needles, Isle of Wight.
Temperature contrasts were
staggering: Swanage, Dorset,
had a high of 10.7C while
Braemar, Aberdeenshire,
reached only -6.2C.
Last Monday the
French met office
named its first storm of
the season — Ana — and
this swept from
Biscay across
northern France,
clipping southeast England
with rain, snow and strong
Monday night was the
coldest of the winter as Ana
cleared and temperatures
plunged under starry skies.
Shawbury, Shropshire,
recorded -13C.
Today, after an icy and
possibly foggy start in eastern
areas, outbreaks of rain will
move in from the west.
It could turn heavy at times
but should clear by evening.
Expect a cold night in the
north, but it will be mild in
the south with drizzly rain.
Tomorrow may remain
drizzly, especially across
the southwest but other
areas should have a
fine bright day.
Winds from the
Atlantic will feed in
moister, milder air
for Tuesday. Fog
may be a problem
in the south.
Isobel Lang is a
Sky News forecaster
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The Sunday Times, newspaper
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