The Spectator's Notes

Justin Trudeau is far more pointless than Donald Trump

16 June 2018

9:00 AM

16 June 2018

9:00 AM

‘Trudeau or Trump?’ was a choice which Theresa May, with unusually ready wit, evaded in Parliament on Monday. No doubt I am in a minority, but I feel that, of the two, Mr Trudeau — the G7 host at La Malbaie — is the more absurd figure on the world stage, being just as vain as the President and far more pointless (if you doubt me, compare the two men’s tweets). In the same parliamentary statement, Sir Vince Cable asked ‘What is the point of the G7?’ It is part of President Trump’s subversive skill that his actions prompt people to ask such questions. There is no need for such annual meetings, and the whole concept of the G7 is out of date anyway — with the European Union heavily over-represented — because of the shift of economic power in the world. The original idea of a ‘summit’ was that it was called for a specific reason, so that the relevant heads of government could sort out a major problem. Now it has degenerated to the globalists’ equivalent of the ‘Season’, with the G7, climate conferences, etc playing the roles of Henley and Ascot. The bland communiqués which gloss over reality do more harm than good. The ‘initiatives’, in which participating nations compete to invent programmes, take our money and bypass our democratic power. By contrast, what has just happened in Singapore was undoubtedly a summit, and undoubtedly matters. Trump or Kim Jong-un? Weird if the answer turns out to be ‘Both’.

‘He looked as if he was wearing a pink frock,’ said Kate Guthrie when I rang her to ask after her husband. She was referring to the hue of the bruises on Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, who slid from his horse at the Trooping the Colour on Saturday, probably after fainting. The bruises were the effect of his cuirass on impact. I rode with Charles Guthrie from Knightsbridge Barracks a few years ago, and he told me then that it is no joke carrying all the metal that his uniform as Colonel of the Life Guards demands. Last year, after he had fallen seriously ill in Thailand, the Queen forbade him from taking part in the parade. This year, he said he was well enough and she asked the Knightsbridge riding-master to get him fit. Prince Philip did not stop riding on formal occasions until he was 81, and the Queen herself still rides her Fell ponies every week, aged 92; so possibly Guthrie, who is a mere 79, felt he must keep up with the Windsors. He is, as Kate, who tried to stop him, says, ‘a stubborn old bugger’. In the parade itself, a groom noticed he did not look well, but Guthrie insisted on continuing. When he slipped off, his dear horse stood perfectly still and made no trouble. No one said, ‘Is there a doctor on a horse?’, but there was — the doctor of the Household Cavalry — who prompted dismounted, inspected Guthrie, skilfully removed his jackboots (it is a well-known hazard of going to A&E in riding boots that they cut you out of them, which is fatal to the welfare of the boots, rather than pulling them off) and accompanied him in the ambulance to St Mary’s, Paddington. The good news, as I write, is that Lord Guthrie probably has nothing worse than a broken collarbone. He is sitting up and giving orders.

Recently Jon Thompson, the head of HMRC, claimed that Brexit customs changes would cost £20 billion. After Briefings for Brexit produced a study questioning this amazing figure, HMRC admitted double-counting £6.5 billion. The FT, which had made so much of the original horror story, did not report the correction. What are we to think of our next tax bill?

From the terrace of our house, we get a good view of the fields across the stream. At present, the gates of three fields are open and, for some days now, about 30 cows have been moving restlessly back and forth through them. The cause is a bull, who has been put in among them, presumably with sexual intent. He chases and chivvies the cows. Sometimes they run towards him together, sometimes away. We have christened him Harvey Holstein. For the avoidance of doubt, I should add that Mr Holstein denies all charges.

Thinking of bulls, I really will miss Paul Dacre when he steps down as editor of the Daily Mail. There have been times, I must admit, when I have attacked the Mail’s grotesque behaviour and stupefying hypocrisy, but the following are good and true points to be made about Paul. 1) He fully, properly edits, and his proprietor has the sense to let him do so. 2) He values good writers, and pays them accordingly. 3) He is brave, especially in not minding the disapproval of polite society; and this courage has enabled him to crash around in the china shop of political correctness at a satisfying decibel level. For us in Sussex, there may be a compensation for Paul’s departure. One of the large estates he has acquired by standing up for the ordinary people of Middle England over so many years lies close by. Now that he has time on his hands, I hope we shall see more of him.

The death of Mary Wilson last week brought back happy memories of her poems, the first collection of which sold 75,000 copies in hardback. As teenagers in the 1970s, we used to declaim them with, I am afraid, satirical intent. Unfortunately, I cannot find the family copy of Selected Poems, but I suspect they deserve more serious study as the work of a thoughtful, religious and rather lonely woman. The titles tell one something of this — ‘You have turned your back on Eden’, ‘If I can write before I die’, ‘The Virgin’s Song’. The only lines I can call to mind are a final couplet, ‘And all night long, like heralds of the dawn,/ The Chinese geese are honking in the park’. These words used to make us cry with laughter, but now they seem poignant — an image of the Prime Minister’s wife lying awake in Downing Street, her quiet but proudly provincial spirit trapped in the wasteland of Westminster politics.

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