Peter Oborne’s diary: My Pakistan cricket tour, and what the ‘no’ campaign needs

Plus: Labour’s leadership crisis, the Lib Dems’ fatal mistake, and the joys of life without Twitter

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

For the first time since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team six years ago, a Test match side has visited Pakistan. The Zimbabwe tourists, playing at the same Lahore stadium where the attack was mounted, were greeted with wild enthusiasm. Less well reported has been the fact that a team of English cricketers (including myself and Alex Massie of this parish) has been touring the Hindu Kush. We played in Chitral, Drosh, Ayun, Kalash and Booni. In these mountain areas many of our opponents were using pads, gloves and a hard ball for the first time. Still, we were overwhelmed, rarely losing by fewer than 200 runs in games which never exceeded 30 overs.

Our first match was at Langlands School, named after the legendary headmaster Major Geoffrey Langlands, who retired two years ago aged 94. Langlands, who took part in the Dieppe raid of 1942, has moved to Aitchison College, Lahore. Carey Schofield, a former foreign correspondent and Spectator contributor, is doing a remarkable job as the major’s replacement. Her school greeted us with a moving and generous reception before whacking us at cricket. Miss Schofield tells me she is crying out for funds, and Spectator readers with spare cash could do much worse than give some to Langlands school. Better still, they could go and see it for themselves. While in Chitral they can stay in Prince Siraj Ul-Mulk’s Hindu Kush Heights, one of the world’s great hotels.

At Mastooj fort in Upper Chitral mobile phones did not work. There was no internet, no Twitter, no social media. Everything worked better. We had time to look around us, to read books, to listen to the rush of mountain streams, to study the landscape, enjoy conversations, and wonder at the magnificent adventure that is life. In the evening we sat around a bonfire and looked at the stars.

On arrival back in Islamabad my Twitter feed started to work again. Nothing of any importance had happened in Britain. The Tories had announced yet another migration initiative. The contest for the leadership of the Labour party involves three tiresome former political researchers in their mid-forties. Labour does not have the slightest idea what it is for, and has no one of genuine gifts to lead it. Meanwhile David Cameron dominates the political landscape in the same way that Tony Blair did at the turn of the century. Given that Mr Cameron took over the Tory leadership in 2005 after three consecutive election defeats, with his party pretty widely written off, this is an awesome achievement.

Commentators are congratulating Liz Kendall, one of the Labour candidates, for ‘seizing the mantle of change’. This is a code word long favoured by modernisers. Insiders understand that it means leaving things just as they are apart from some public relations adjustments. Ed Miliband sought genuine social and economic transformation. The modernisers recognised this, labelled him an opponent of change, and destroyed him.

Appalling news emerges from New Delhi, which has suddenly withdrawn its application to be a world heritage city. This news is welcomed by developers desperate to destroy Edwin Lutyens’s bungalows and make giant profits by building high-rise blocks. Though not on the scale of the Isis destruction of the antiquities of Iraq and Syria, this is barbarism of a high order.

Charles Kennedy, whose geniality and quiet wisdom will be missed, was right about many things — in particular the invasion of Iraq. But history will conclude that he and his fellow Liberal Democrats made a fatal error when they threw their weight behind the European Union. The EU is an authoritarian, bureaucratic organisation which stands for everything liberals dislike. Had the Lib Dems become a Eurosceptic party they would not merely have stayed true to their principles. They would today be by far Britain’s largest political party.

On Monday night I spoke alongside John Redwood and the Ukip MEP Tim Aker at a Bruges group meeting in central London. Mr Aker was cheered when he argued that Nigel Farage must lead the ‘no’ campaign. This would be a disaster. It is true that Mr Farage has almost single-handedly reinvented British democracy. He secured 13 per cent of the vote at the general election, an amazing achievement. Almost all those voters are against Europe. The key task facing the ‘no’ campaign is to convince a further 37 per cent. Mr Farage puts many of those voters off. The ‘no’ campaign also needs several powerful women. At the moment it does not have any. Until this is remedied the ‘yes’ campaign is heading for a landslide victory.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Peter Oborne is an associate editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • Fried Ch’i

    The joys of life without twitter – you can say that again, good man.

  • Singularis

    The joy is further enhanced by losing your internet connection completely, something that often happens to me in deepest Cornwall. Bliss.

  • Brogan75

    So happy without Twitter. And I’m about todelete my facebook account after years. Completely pointless and incredibly risky, especially if you are not a liberal.

  • Dogsnob

    Star-gazing tip: move away from the bonfire.

    • Callipygian

      Leopard- and bear-surviving tip: not that far away from the bonfire.

      • Dogsnob

        Eeesh! Sod the stars. Back to the fire, the flask of Jamesons and renditions of Big Yellow Taxi.

  • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

    Never had a twitter/facebook account and never read them.What have I missed?

    • trace9

      Which – or ‘we’? – Life’s been confusing enough today..

    • DrWatt

      Nothing much.

    • Callipygian

      Nothing whatsoever.

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  • Roger Hudson

    I’m not a computer luddite, Computing MSc., retired IT manager etc., got Skype and Facebook but I never though Twitter (or ‘twatter’ as i call it) would be any use, its’s like panicy speaking without thinking first, for twats.

    • The Shambolic Skeptic

      So let me understand – you deride a service and snigger at the users and yet you’ve never used it yourself. You’re the twat.

  • rtj1211

    Given your analysis of the true motivations of Miliband and Kendall and the ‘modernisers’ treatment of them both, wouldn’t you agree that a logical conclusion of your attempt to destroy Farage’s role of leading the Out campaign is that you are a fifth column EUphile working at the Spectator and you would far prefer someone leading the out campaign who is entirely comfortable with the status quo remaining in place, whereas the genuinely radical Farage must be destroyed by the Establishment.

    Whether that is something to be proud on, perhaps you should ask your moral guidance counsellor…….I couldn’t possibly comment.

  • Callipygian

    no one of genuine gifts to lead it

    No one with genuine gifts would want to lead it. It’s a morally bankrupt, politically mistaken party and its more successful brethren flooded the 20th century with their victims’ blood. Let it die already.

  • Newton Unthank

    Labour does not have the slightest idea what it is for, and has no one of genuine gifts to lead it.

    Well, the problem is finding a politician on either side of the House with genuine gifts…

  • Never heard of Langlands before, but that is incredible.

    I don’t really buy this idea that the Out campaign “needs more women.” That’s the sort of silly token politics of the EU and we can’t beat it by emulation. The Out campaign needs a strong and compelling vision of Britain outside the EU. As things stand it’s not even clear whether the result of voting no will mean membership of EFTA/EEA or not, let alone what we could do differently outside the EU to improve our quality of life.

  • John Andrews

    Thank you for a brilliant article: perceptive and witty.

  • John Andrews

    I vote for Owen Paterson to lead the Out campaign. He combines personable charm with intellectual thrust.