In my case, the answer to the question ‘Where are you really from?’ is quite complicated. I wasn’t born in this country. If my naval officer father hadn’t made a special effort to register me as British before he retired, I might well be stateless. Some of my forebears weren’t born here either. I am rather wary of the sort of people who are interested in the subject, and I’m not about to give you all the details.
Nor would I take kindly to a complete stranger reaching out a hand to move my hair or clothing, especially so as to read my name-badge. Why not simply ask her name? Touching people without their permission is just rude. Anyway, I hate name-badges and resist attempts to make me wear them. They’re a step along the road to the society where we all wear barcodes stapled to our ears, like cattle.
So I can see why Ngozi Fulani, head of the charity Sistah Space, bridled when Lady Susan Hussey allegedly moved her hair, and allegedly said the things that have been reported. I say ‘allegedly’ because I’ve yet to hear any independent account of the exchange. This wouldn’t matter if it were a private dispute and had no outcome. But it has led to the public degradation of a prominent courtier, by the office of the actual Head of State, which is a real and damaging penalty.
So the good old Presumption of Innocence applies, not that anyone will care. As far as I know, the exchange was not recorded. Any recollection of it will be influenced by what was put on the internet. And if Lady Susan Hussey has an ounce of sense, she knows there’s not the slightest point in contesting the story.
PETER HITCHENS: The Palace has been praised for the swiftness of its ruthless response to the Hussey affair. I do not see why (Lady Susan Hussey is pictured in 2014)
I can see why Ngozi Fulani, head of the charity Sistah Space, bridled when Lady Susan Hussey allegedly moved her hair, and allegedly said the things that have been reported
The nation’s High Court of Opinion, Twitter, has reached its verdict and pronounced its sentence of cancellation. No defence allowed. Goodbye, Lady Susan, and thanks for all the curtseys.
Even so, I wish I could hear the defence, as the behaviour alleged is so stupid and clumsy it is distressing to think that such a person, generally praised and liked by those who have dealt with her, was capable of it. And then there is this question. Why and for what purpose was this disastrous conversation put out on the web? In Ms Fulani’s interview with Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4, she describes how she asked herself: ‘How do I handle this situation kindly and carefully?’
People who say that age has nothing to do with it should also note that Ms Fulani disagrees with them. She said: ‘In my culture we respect people that are elders.’ And I am very much with her there, especially now I’m old. It is amazing how many people in this country use ‘old’ as a term of scorn. Very well then. Does Ngozi Fulani think it was either kind or careful to go public with her account of the conversation? Did her behaviour show respect for elders? Couldn’t it have been dealt with privately? The King, I am absolutely sure, would have paid attention to any such complaint from a person he has known and encouraged for more than 20 years.
Two hard, grim issues arise from this dismal episode. The first is that public denunciation, the electronic show trial, has become an acceptable form of justice, against which there is no obvious defence. As Bill Clinton’s henchman James Carville pointed out: ‘While you’re explaining, you’re losing.’ It shouldn’t be so. The other thing is yet another reminder that the British Revolution has happened.
Nobody has actually guillotined the King, because he now has no power at all, not even the power to defend those close to him. It is easier to leave him where he is because it deludes people into thinking the country is still as it was.
But if he ever got in the way of the Left-wing project, Twitter and the BBC would tear him to shreds. The Palace has been praised for the swiftness of its ruthless response to the Hussey affair. I do not see why. Fear is a normal and often essential motivation in human life, and it is usually wise to heed it. But it is never praiseworthy.
A colleague was on his way to give blood when he received a text telling him his session was cancelled. This is plainly a severe staffing crisis.
Did Covid persuade many people, especially women, that slogging for wages that barely paid for childcare wasn’t worth it? There has been a very deep change in our attitude to work.
Among the BBC’s Christmas guest editors of its Today programme is Sir Jeremy Fleming, who heads the rather creepy eavesdropping agency GCHQ. Such bodies may be necessary, but I don’t see why their chiefs should be given airtime to make them look furry and nice.
Why not instead invite Julian Assange, under guard if required? Assange is still absurdly locked up in Belmarsh, and facing lifetimes in an American dungeon if we are weak enough to hand him over. He really does need a boost.
Don’t stop to think about yesterday…
For years, the obituaries in our grander newspapers have been dominated by the intensely moving life stories of men who fought on against impossible odds, when all around them were dead, who flew badly damaged aircraft safely home despite terrible injuries and loss of blood, or who turned the tide of battle with a crazy charge.
Then they went on to live ordinary, small, unnoticed lives. No more of that. On Thursday, The Times described the career of one of the new generation, now dying in their turn – the singer Christine McVie.
It noted, when describing Fleetwood Mac, the group she sang for, that ‘they travelled by private plane with special aides assigned to carry the band’s drugs’. Well, there, this is the world all that fighting and dying made possible.
The late Christine McVie, centre right, with her Fleetwood Mac bandmates
We’ve lost the culture war
Fresh from observing the correction (and in my view destruction) of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, I found myself in Cambridge, walking to an early breakfast after a debate on stupid wars on Thursday night (my side won).
And there I came across the hideous sight, left, of the once-elegant and austere Fitzwilliam Museum, its portico covered in what look like tatty posters and graffiti.
But no, this grunge is officially permitted, promoting an exhibition called Defaced!, which I am told is ‘the first of its kind to examine the interplay between money, power and dissent over the last 200 years – with a key strand of the show exploring the role of the individual in protesting for rights and representation’. So much for high culture.
It took us centuries to gather, guard and protect the treasures our museums now contain, and to achieve grace and beauty in our buildings. It has taken us about 50 years to start slithering back into chaos.
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