My finest hour

A decade on, the scam I exposed is stronger than ever

Every journalist dreams of the scoop that will make his name. Ten years ago this month I finally got mine – but I’m still not altogether sure it was worth it. On the upside, my story went viral, got me a much bigger audience – from the the United States to Oz – and established my spiky, edgy reputation for in-your-face contrarianism. On the downside, though, for every ardent fan it made me it probably lost me a couple more: ‘But he used to be so funny and clever. Now he’s just one of those anti-science, climate change denier cranks…’.

You can search a whole lifetime for a scoop but when it comes, it often comes unbidden. Mine dropped into my lap when I was sitting at my desk one morning, wondering what to write next for my Telegraph blog, when I noticed an interesting story starting to break on the Watts Up With That? website. All I did was top, tail, adapt it and popularise it by giving it a bit of snark, context and spin. Then I nicked the title from a commenter called ‘Bulldust’ (an Aussie, as it happens). Et voilà! Climategate was born.

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I’m taking inspiration from an ancient Athenian

How sorry I felt for the poor man who died this week stuck up a 290ft chimney in Carlisle despite desperate attempts — helicopter; cherry-picker — by the emergency services to rescue him. We’re so used to the idea that no matter how precarious or remote our plight — be it stranded kids deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand or tourists who’ve had their feet bitten off while snorkelling in Australia’s Whitsundays — those amazing emergency services will get us to safety in the end. It comes as quite a shock to be reminded that survival isn’t always inevitable.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

If we do get a good Anglo-American trade deal, we should thank Trump’s mother

Plus: why BBC1’s Dublin Murders is a much better bet than BBC2’s The Name of the Rose

Praise be to Mary MacLeod Trump. [Photo: The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images]
Praise be to Mary MacLeod Trump. [Photo: The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images]
In an uncharacteristic fit of almost-robustness, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has said she is ‘open-minded’ about scrapping the BBC licence fee and replacing it with a Netflix-style subscription service. Good idea. What would we actually miss if we didn’t subscribe?

Not an awful lot in my view. Some people cite David Attenborough’s nature documentaries but I certainly wouldn’t now that they have become so obtrusively propagandistic. The problem with the BBC isn’t — and never has been — lack of talented filmmakers, wildlife camera crews, presenters, actors, writers or production teams. It’s that, from news to drama, the BBC’s woke politics now subsume and corrupt its entire output.

How I plan to win a Bafta


I’ve nearly finished my latest screenplay, Drift.

It’s a reimagining of a British imperial atrocity which took place in Natal in 1879 and was subsequently made into a disgracefully jingoistic 1964 movie, and despite its problematic subject matter — the bad guys won — I reckon it will be a shoo-in for an award at the new-look, diversity–compliant Bafta.

Idris Elba will play the Michael Caine role, obviously; I’m thinking Lenny Henry as Lieutenant Chard, and the cast of Top Boy as the various VC-winning NCOs and men of the 24th of Foot. The Zulus will all be played by actual Zulus because anything else would be cultural appropriation, but one Impi will be in a wheelchair and another will be entirely transgender to emphasise their stunning bravery.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Pure, undiluted genius: Succession reviewed

How could TV about boardroom skullduggery possible be quite this involving and exciting?

I have never ever watched a TV series I have enjoyed more than Succession (Now TV). There’s stuff I’d put in the same league, maybe — FaudaBabylon BerlinBand of BrothersUtopiaGomorrahBreaking BadThe Sopranos, and so on — but absolutely nothing beats it. It is, quite simply, a work of pure, undiluted genius.

Which wasn’t what I expected when my friend Toby recommended it to me a few weeks ago. ‘It’s about this media dynasty, a bit like the Murdochs. And the kids spend their whole time scheming and competing as to which one is eventually going to take over the company from the bullying patriarch Logan Roy,’ he said. This all sounded a bit grown-up, earnest and worthy to me.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

At last, the TV-hogging space invaders have returned to university

‘Hands up which other university parents are bloody glad to have got rid of their lumpen, food-gobbling, space-invading kids…’

When I tweeted this the other day having just dumped my offspring at Durham I got accused of being a bad father. But I don’t think I am. A bad father wouldn’t have been labouring in the dark at 12.30 a.m. getting the car packed for the long trek north. A bad father wouldn’t have forked out so liberally and uncomplainingly for all those things they spring on you when you arrive — 30-odd quid for the week’s JCR induction entertainments; 25 quid (50 if you’d been naive enough to buy new) for a gown they’ll probably only wear about twice…

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Gloriously un-PC: Ronan Bennett’s Top Boy reviewed

Is the drug/gangs genre the last island of authenticity and candour on TV?

The boys are back in town: Kane Robinson as Sully and Ashley Walters as Dushane in Top Boy. Credit: Chris Harris/Netflix

Sir Lenny Henry, the former comedian, is wont to complain to anyone who’ll listen that there isn’t enough ‘diversity’ on TV. Really, he should watch Top Boy (Netflix). Apart from the odd token walk-on whitey — skanky crack addicts, nasty immigration officers — it’s wall-to-wall BAME casting opportunities. The protagonist, Dushane (Ashley Walters), is black. So are all his friends, family and associates (his mandem, as they are colloquially known). So, mostly, is the urban music soundtrack, the work of various grime artists curated by the show’s co-producer, Canadian rapper Drake.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Letting China join the WTO was the worst decision the West ever made

It’s not often that you come across a book that completely transforms your understanding of the world. Just recently I’ve read two. One, Tom Holland’s Dominion concerns the debt we all owe — not just vicars and popes but atheists and social justice warriors — to Christianity’s revolutionary (and frankly still shocking) message that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. The other, China, Trade and Power by Stewart Paterson, is about a seismic event in 2001, three months to the day after 9/11, which shook the world to a degree few remotely comprehend.

Almost none of us is familiar with that epochal moment, yet it changed everything and explains everything: the Blair/Brown spending bubble; Australia’s prosperity; Mexico’s gangland hell; the 2008 crash; the rise of Donald Trump; Momentum, Antifa and the only problem with communism being that it hasn’t been tried properly yet; Brexit; your smart phone; protectionism; the price of houses; the crowds at Bicester Village; the riots in Hong Kong…

Read the rest in the Spectator.

With these documentaries, the BBC has lost any claim to impartiality

Its treatment of the Nazis, and of George Soros, shows that the channel is no longer interested in objectivity.

Camp Commandant Hilmar Wäckele at Dachau Concentration Camp in BBC2’s Rise of the Nazis Credit: BBC/72 Films/Lukas Salna
Because the rise of the Nazis is a topic so rarely mentioned these days, least of all in schools, the BBC has produced a helpful three-part explainer of that title (BBC2, Mondays) showing why the story of Hitler is even more relevant today than it was in the 1930s.

Back in the day, the BBC might have been content to strive for an objective take on the subject, perhaps with a voiceover by Samuel West and lots of period footage. But the danger of that approach, the BBC has since realised, is that it runs the risk of viewers making up their own minds what to think. Some of them might not be aware, for example, of the obvious parallels between Hitler, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Brexit and, to a lesser extent, Michael Gove.

How to beat the autumn blues


You know that awful, gnawing, depressing feeling you’ve got right now? The one that notices how shockingly early the sun is setting and how shabby and played out and autumnal the borders are looking and how listless and flat everything feels what with no holidays to look forward to and the house empty of kids? The one that groans at the thought of all those uncompleted tasks and the mountain of hassle and nose-to-the-grindstone grimness which must be negotiated, somehow, between now and Christmas?

Well, I hate to say this but I haven’t got it. For possibly the first time in my life since my parents shipped me off to that horrid, spartan boarding school I called Colditz, I’m experiencing early September without the faintest urge to want to kill myself. I’m not thinking back wistfully to those calamari in the taverna by that secluded inlet or the fat, red ripeness of those Italian tomatoes or the azure stillness of the Mediterranean on that first morning dip because this summer hols, for once, I didn’t do any of that stuff.

Read the rest in the Spectator.