The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s Notes: Who benefits from Prince Charles shaking Gerry Adams’s hand?

Plus: it was the hunts wot won the election; and obituary battles

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

Who benefits from Prince Charles’s handshake with Gerry Adams? Not the victims of IRA violence, including the 18 soldiers who died at Warrenpoint on the same day as Lord Mountbatten was murdered. Not the moderate parties in Ireland, north or south, who never blew up anybody and so can get no kudos for pretending to be sorry about it afterwards. Only Adams (who was a senior IRA commander at the time of the killings) and Sinn Fein. His party has thus been relieved of current unpopularity in the Republic caused by long-running rape accusations, and is suddenly made to look good in the run-up to the centenary of the Easter Rising. I gather the bright idea to involve the royal family in this tasteless choreography came from our own Foreign Office. If they sought to build on the Queen’s wonderful visit in 2011, they made a category error. She healed wounds between Britain and Ireland. Making life easy for the IRA is not the same thing: indeed, it is the opposite.

It was the hunts wot won it. In these days when political parties have so few active members, the contribution of Vote OK, the pro-hunting group, was crucial to campaigning in numerous marginals. Near us in Hastings and Rye, it did much of the work needed for Amber Rudd to get back in and become Environment Secretary. The same applies to the new Chief Whip, Mark Harper, in the Forest of Dean. This is the third general election in which Vote OK has operated: its methods have become increasingly well-targeted. What it wants, of course, is a change in the Hunting Act, by repeal or possibly by amendment. Will the SNP follow its own principles, and refuse to vote on a measure that applies only to England and Wales? Even if they don’t, they would, in logic, vote for the amendment being canvassed, since it is very similar to the law they themselves helped introduce in Scotland. The Scottish measure — unlike the English one, which prescribes a maximum of two ‘dogs’ for ‘exempt hunting’ — permits a full pack to be used if hounds flush foxes on to guns. The other question is ‘What will David Cameron do?’ He has been very steady in his personal support of repeal. His manifesto promises a free vote. The foolish thing would be to permit the vote, but not actively support it, so that the measure falls. The outcome will depend on the ‘payroll vote’ (ministers and PPSs). Will they be told that this matters to the Prime Minister, or feel free to slide away? The Tory election victory ought to exorcise the idea that hunting is an issue which loses the party votes. It should also revive the rule, unfulfilled for a generation, that the party should reward its best supporters.

‘You know what I read first in the papers each morning?’ Norman Tebbit said to me many years ago. ‘The obituaries. Then I think, “Good, that bastard’s dead.’” Even if you are of a more forgiving disposition, obituaries are often the most informative and enjoyable read in a newspaper. I follow the competition closely. The battle is really between the Daily Telegraph and the Times. At one point, I thought the latter was gaining on the former, but now the Times is turning its obituaries into lengthy tributes rather than a cool mixture of fact and assessment. There is too much of the stuff you hear at memorial services. About Andrew Rosenfeld, a businessman who died this year, the ‘pull quote’ highlighting the piece said, ‘He preferred not to drink, but enjoyed the odd cigar’, as if this was of interest. The Times now makes a point of giving the name and occupation of every child of the deceased — Gavin is a chartered accountant, Kathy is an events organiser etc. This may sell more copies among family and friends, but it isn’t journalism.

The other day, I entered the office of a large company and was asked my name by security. I showed my card because this can be quicker than spelling it. The man on the desk, who was white and British, looked at my first name and asked, ‘How do you pronounce that?’ Since there is only one known way of pronouncing ‘Charles’ in English, I wondered if he was illiterate, but decided he could not be, since his job involved looking up lots of names on lists. The only remaining explanation is that common, traditional names have been so widely replaced by things like ‘Unique’ or ‘Stardust’, that he simply had not heard it before.

The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion hands out £1.1 million each year to a holy man or woman and is thus the most valuable prize in the world. Being holy, the unfortunate winner must — though the rules do not state this — give it all away. (One half-hopes that some previously blameless monk will blow the lot on wine, women and cigars.) In St Martin’s-in-the-Fields on Monday, we gathered for this year’s ceremony. The winner, Jean Vanier, a Canadian, joined the Royal Navy during the war. He left it after a few years, studied theology, and became interested in mental disability. More than 50 years ago, he set up a tiny community in L’Arche, his house near Paris, where the mentally handicapped came to live with him. L’Arche now has 147 houses across the world, and 1,500 support groups. The guiding principle is that the strong need the weak. ‘May those who are disabled, and those who think they are not, help each other’, is how Vanier’s sister, Thérèse, put it. Vanier is a big, impressive, gentle man. He has an unusual way of speaking which is like the waves of the sea. Rather than moving in a linear way, he repeats himself with variations and developments — big waves and small ones, surprising splashes of humour, constant movement, reaching his audience from something vast. ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord.’

The only silly thing about this moving occasion was that the invitation said ‘Business attire required’. Vanier has spent his life among people unfamiliar with the phrase and effectively excluded by the concept. He wore his usual plaid shirt and fisherman’s jacket. Come to think of it, that is his business attire.

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  • Margot

    1. The Hunting Bill was passed 2. A majority of the population neither want it repealed nor want it talked about any more – they are fed up with something being dragged up every few months which is of interest on the pro side to only a small proportion of the population and on the con side to a majority which just want it put away forever. Replace Hunting with Cock Fighting and Bear baiting and Dog Fighting and it might possibly enter the pro population’s heads what is the majority’s attitude to it. The hunting pros are viewed by most with abhorrence but they don’t seem to be able to get this into their heads. ISIS have got a better image! Flogging a dead horse was never more apt. And if we’re talking of votes, as many would never vote Conservative in a million years whilst there is any talk of repeal as there are those few who would vote on the slim chance of it being even discussed again. Move on!

    • davidshort10

      It’s comments like this that move me from the Tony Blair position – ‘I don’t care either way but the Party wants it’ – to being pro-huniting and how sick is it to say ISIS, who simultaneously behead multiple numbers of people and film it, have ‘a better image’ than the hunting pros?

      • Margot

        It’s called hyperbole and is often used to get a concept over where there is a risk of there being little comprehension – as there might be in this case where pros are coming up with the same arguments again and again – arguments which have been rejected by the majority of the population and which they are fed up to the teeth with hearing. Cameron has an extremely vociferous minority who vote Conservative as that is their only hope of dredging up the hunting issue again – so he has had to make a token gesture. That gesture could well lead to civil unrest and cost an inordinate amount of money and time

        • AgZarp

          Civil unrest over fox-hunting?

          • Margot

            As there was prior to the Ban.

          • blandings

            A few goons attacking people isn’t civil unrest Margot

          • dalai guevara

            Time to dig out this old gem:

            You have been chasing a mere scent
            for over a decade now. No fox.

            You have been chasing a notion,
            the shadow of a fox.

            From pretence to pretending.
            How sad that your game is now over.

    • twowolves

      Your wrong Margot. I live in the countryside and I’m watching a population explosion amongst Foxes wipe out a whole swathe of other species. Yes there could be culls but there aren’t because 1) they cost money 2) the council is full of people like you who think furry predators are cute. The natural predator to the Fox was wiped out by man centuries ago and its our job to maintain the ecology now. Grow up.

      • Margot

        But even if you approve of their goings on, hunts are not the answer – so can’t really see what you are saying. Perhaps some other way is needed to control foxes, though this is debatable, and perhaps you can suggest something. Have written under Rod Liddle’s article how where we used to live the hunts would breed foxes and import them when needed – hardly controlling them. Whether I think they are cute and furry is irrelevant – I don’t incidentally – but I do think they are sentient beings and not there to satisfy anyone’s blood lust. Calling on me to grow up is pretty well giving up on the argument front. We had foxes near us last year that had been causing some havoc and they were shot and the farmer put extra security in – not been back since and no need for funny clothes nor breeding replacements for anyone’s jolly day out!

        • Nick

          The fact that you refer to “funny clothes” and using the word “jolly” underlines my impression that you don’t give a stuff about hunting per se but dislike it because you perceive it to be something enjoyed by “toffs”. In an age where celebrated artists and comedians wear dresses and high heels, I don’t see why people shouldn’t dress in hunting pink if they wish. Actually, I think it looks rather smart.
          And I just do not believe that hunts breed or bred foxes for supply. I just don’t. If you can prove me wrong I shall join the League Against Cruel Sports.

          • Shorne
          • Margot

            The ‘funny clothes’ reminds me of the dress to impress style adopted by ISIS when chopping off heads. I have come across two hunts (yes, hunting foxes) fairly recently and there were a considerable number of almost straw chewing yokels there so I’m not under the impression that hunting is on a par with James Bond at the roulette table – although you seem to be. I used the word jolly sarcastically, there being nothing that most people would view as jolly in hunting. Actually I would agree with you that the hunt can make quite a sight – as long as they’re doing drag hunting. If they’re after foxes, as the two I saw recently were, then they are a cause of horror to most people.

          • Nick

            I’m fully aware that there are plenty of “straw chewing locals” (is this you being sarcastic and daring again?) who support hunting – that’s the point. I don’t hunt myself but in my corner of Sussex it is very popular across the social spectrum and people from all walks of life follow and enjoy it mounted and on foot.
            I remember at the time of the Countryside March a number of commentators were suggesting that it was well-attended only because the squires had instructed their serfs to turn up on pain of losing their tied housing. Interesting outlook.
            And do tell – when you see a hunt in full cry, do you stop them to ask if they’re chasing a fox or a scent so that you can decide whether to feel inspired or outraged?

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Your continuing conflation of hunting with black-clad Muslim psychopathic religious maniacs is tendentious and grotesque. In a free society, what you assert “the majority” to believe about hunting should not matter a damn, since a tyranny of the majority is as deplorable as that of some individual despot.

          • dalai guevara

            Boys, will you pipe down. How do Canadians hunt rabbits? Do they perform hare coursing, rabbiting or beagling even? No, they get a shotgun out.

            Now apply this *remarkable* technique (wow! how novel) and go for the English fox if you believe pest control was indicated. End of. Job done. Nature preserved. Animal killed humanely. Tick that box. And God darn it, shut up the idiots who know nothing about anything yet post inconsequential cow poo on these pages.

          • Malcolm Stevas

            You must have missed the key thing about this whole, er, “debate”: it’s about political liberty and the freedom of the individual.
            Re your curiously random reference to Canadians and rabbits, I’ve hunted in Canada a few times: they’re relaxed, hospitable, and have a common sense approach to hunting that tends not to include neurotic sentimentality about fluffy bunnies or other critters.

        • Shorne

          I grew up on a farm and when we had problems with foxes my Dad wanted nothing to do with hunting them with hounds, he and my grandfather ( a one-time gamekeeper) shot them, like this
 watch from about 3.00 (footage may distress some people).
          30 or 40 couple of hounds with attendant riders and followers charging about upsetting the stock and churning up crops and taking hours or so to maybe kill one fox, which would be instantly replaced by another one taking over the territory, was and remains the least efficient method of control. The Burns Enquiry into foxhunting which preceded the Act found this to be so. I would add that the League Against Cruel Sports claimed that the Burns Committee had too many members drawn from the Hunting community.

          • Margot

            Exactly – and this is what happened near us recently. A farmer had difficulty with a fox and shot it and upped his security. No problems since.

        • twowolves

          You’re just dressing your prejudice as principal, its transparent. “Perhaps some other way is needed” is not a solution and a solution is required.

        • Sean L

          Ludicrous. The number of ‘sentient beings’ killed by hunting dogs is infinitesimal compared with those slaughtered by the food industry having been reared in atrocious factory farms. To oppose hunting on the grounds of animal welfare is like being against armed violence while banning catapults.

          • Margot

            So it’s ludicrous to say that the hunts are controlling foxes if they’re only killing one a year or such. As for factory farming etc – since when did two wrongs make a right. Wouldn’t imagine there were many bears killed in bear baiting so maybe you should call for its return in the name of ‘freedom’ – it must have been popular with a lot of people.

          • Sean L

            But hunting isn’t wrong, that’s my point; whereas factory farming is. I’ve yet to hear anyone talk of bear baiting in the name of anything other than you…

  • In2minds

    Who benefits from the Chuck and Gerry handshake, equal blame here?

    • Hood

      Certainly not Jean McConville’s children.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    Peace benefits apparently. I hope Charles washed his hands afterwards.

    • victor67

      Its mutual remember he was Commander in Chief of the Para’s who murdered their own citizens in Derry and Belfast. The British State also were complicit in the murder of the solicitor Pat Finucane who was a close friend of Adams.
      The reality is like the other protagonists the British state cannot claim any morality in that dirty colonial conflict.

  • WFB56

    The Foreign Office once again proves that it is not fit for purpose. Whether in Ireland, Iraq or in downplaying the Commonwealth while praising the EU.

  • paul

    it was the hunts wot won the election if you replace the H with a C !!!!

  • justejudexultionis

    I and millions of freedom-loving individuals throughout this country are looking forward with great anticipation to the day when the irrational, immoral and anti-democratic institution of monarchy is finally banished from these islands and replaced with the superior system of free republican government on the Swiss, German or American model.

    • Baron

      You have a long wait before you, justejudexultionis you ready for it?

  • John Steadman

    Windsor – Adams – obscenity.

  • dalai guevara

    Dealing with the Irish question appropriately could, constitutionally, affect its Westlothian counterpart which is of course, ultimately, an English one.

  • Baron

    The right take on the handshake, Mr. Moore, but not on the outcome of the election.

  • Callipygian

    Charles should have said what his heart no doubt counselled: ‘No, I won’t do it’.

  • mikewaller

    Moore takes one-eyedness to a new level. He has a point of view and nothing else counts. Regarding Prince Charles and former members of the IRA, an intelligent person could spend pages considering the pros and cons. For example, when I was a school we told with some pride of transformation of General Jan Smuts from Boer guerrilla into pillar of the British Empire. Regarding the final phase of his guerrilla career, Wikipedia has this to say:

    “To end the conflict, Smuts sought to take a major target, the copper-mining town of Okiep. With a full assault impossible, Smuts packed a train full of explosives, and tried to push it downhill, into the town, where it would bring the enemy garrison to its knees. Although this failed, Smuts had proven his point: that he would stop at nothing to defeat his enemies.”

    Had Moore’s stance been adopted, the man who commanded British troops in Africa during WW1 and finished up in Churchill’s war cabinet in WW2, would, instead have been no more than a social piranha. Of course, I have no such hopes of Adams et al, but it does suggest that one has to be somewhat more reflective in such matters than Moore is capable of.

  • Abie Vee

    18 dead British Soldiers at Warren Point? Bogside Massacre? 27 unarmed civilians shot, 14 killed outright, by out of control rampaging paras.

    Now then, you foolish old man, do see where such reactionary tripe as yours as yours gets us? Nowhere. We have no option other than to move on. Well done Charlie Windsor… to the back of the class Moore!

  • john

    I do not believe Charles has any right to “represent” Britain. We have elected officials to carryout international policy – the unelected Windsors represent only themselves.

  • Isage000

    I’m in the Hastings and Rye constituency and I never heard anything from any pro-hunting group. Not that it would have helped anyway- I voted UKIP because Amber Rudd is too much a tame A list Cameroon sycophant and gullible green, although she has tried to help our fisherman actually catch fish.

    On the somewhat related environmental/energy policy madness – my congratulations to Charles Moore for joining the GWPF Board of Trustees, where a vestige of sanity prevails.

  • Quite_a_good_read

    Is now a good time to mention there are no decent photographs of Margaret Thatchers New Biography by Charles Moore