Now I know why so many people hate me. It came to me in a flash during dinner with a group of bright, articulate, well-balanced sixth-formers from Roedean girls’ school. I was banging on in my rabid right-wing way about the importance of free markets and the shortcomings of feminism and suchlike when I happened accidentally to vouchsafe that the proudest achievement of my life had been teaching my children to read. And it was as if, all of a sudden, I’d waved a magic wand and sprinkled myself in fairy dust. The mood softened. You could almost see the thought bubbles above the girls’ heads, saying: ‘Aaah!’ and ‘Gosh maybe he isn’t, like, so totally evil after all.’
‘Blimey!’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s where I’ve been going wrong!’ And a plan began to form in my head. My wife has long been telling me that I need to find ways of stopping people thinking I’m such a grade-one Berkshire Hunt, and my Roedean experience confirmed it. Clearly, from now on, I would have to attend all my speaking engagements accompanied by a puppy. With a lovely blue ribbon round its neck. And dozens of photos of me changing my kids’ nappies and helping old blind ladies across the road. And a fund of anecdotes, like the time I spontaneously invited a party of Congolese orphans with leprosy to come and join me in the jacuzzi. (‘Oh, never mind all the floaty bits, kids. These warm soothing jets are the least you deserve after the hell you’ve been through!’) And a T-shirt with a big smiley face on with the caption: ‘Oh. By the way. I’m really NICE.’
No, not really. In fact the conclusion I drew from my Roedean experience was the exact opposite: that in future I will try even less hard to make people like me at public speaking engagements. I think it’s time we on the right fought back against the tyranny of nice; time we told it like it is, without prettifying our arguments with love-me-do asides about how many kittens we saved from drowning this week, and without trying to show our audience how reasonable and balanced we are by conceding that our ideological opponents have the occasional point.
Read the rest in the Spectator.