Oxford Literary Festival

Boris will be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday 26th March at 12pm to talk about his new book The Dream of Rome.

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival is in its tenth year and will be held at Christ Church, one of the most beautiful and renowned of Oxford colleges. Against this marvellous backdrop you will hear writers talk about their books, their inspiration, their passions.

You can book by telephone on 0870 343 1001
More details are on the Festival Website.

28 Boris Johnson
The Dream of Rome
12 pm • £8.00 • Christ Church
Focusing on how the Romans made Europe work as a homogenous civilization and looking at why we are failing to make the EU work in modern times, Boris Johnson considers the lessons we could learn from the Romans and how we could apply them to our present-day politics. Complementing the BBC 2 series, his book, The Dream of Rome, sees him travelling throughout what was the Roman Empire to uncover the secrets of its governance and the reasons behind why the Romans held such power and prestige for so long.

Prince Charles

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My own view is that the Prince has a perfect right to speak about subjects that interest him

The Prince can say these things precisely because he is not in charge, and his peculiar position means they will be heard, even if we choose to ignore him. That is why we need him to keep it up.

Go on Charles: babble, rage and ignore the treacherous toads

Do you ever feel, dear readers, that the media are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy against the truth? Have you ever rubbed your eyes, and wondered why they are not making the obvious point? If you have, then the answer is almost always that you have stumbled across a story where the media’s own interests are at stake, and when the interests of the press are at stake, the reality of the position is quite irrelevant.

Consider the business of the Prince of Wales and the Mail on Sunday. To judge by the headlines, old Charlieboy has broken off from chatting up his begonias and dropped the most phenomenal clanger. He has said or done something quite preposterous – insulted the Luxembourgers, perhaps, or claimed that marmalade can cure acne. He is being accused of “meddling”, of shooting his mouth off, and failing to bite his tongue.

One after another, the self-interested editors of our media organisations line up to accuse him of being a headline seeker. What has prompted this orgy of abuse? Has he said that government ministers should not be driving 6-litre Jaguars? Has he complained about the destruction of the Green Belt? No: it is only when you read the papers quite carefully that you discover that the Prince has not said anything new at all.

On the contrary, it turns out that the Mail has illicitly obtained his private diaries, his private diaries, and has splashed them over several pages, including some quite fruity stuff about the handover of Hong Kong.

Like any other person, the Prince is trying to assert his sovereign and inalienable copyright over his private diaries, and to prevent the paper from publishing any more. In order to defend its conduct the Mail has found some disappointed ex-courtier who has been prepared to describe how, from time to time, the Prince does indeed say things which he knows will make headlines.

Continue reading Prince Charles

Spirit of Community

We need ‘Spirit of the Community’ to spur some idle cynics like me into action

Of all the scouring events of my childhood few left as deep a mark as the tragedy of the duck shed. It happened that my brother Leo and I were staying on the farm, and we saw that after six or seven artificial hips, my grandfather was not rugby-tackling the lambs with his old abandon.

We wanted to do something to help. We were determined to do a good deed. So I had a brilliant idea.

Not far off was a duck shed, dark inside as the belly of a whale: a sinister place of flashing eyes, bitter cackling and an angry ammoniac smell. “I know what,” I said to Leo: “Let’s be useful. Let’s brighten his day.

Let’s clear it out.” All day long we toiled, shirts over our noses, and as we scooped it was obvious that this was the first time in 25 years that the shed had been cleaned. Whole dynasties of ducks had preened in this litter and preening was not all they had done.

We were digging down through layers of duck history, and as we started to appreciate the Augean scale of the task we went into a kind of frenzy, shovelling and chucking all afternoon until the straw and dung and the long-forgotten corpses of ducklings flew over our heads in a blur. At last it was done.

Around the shed was a kind of Somme of damp duck litter, winking and glistening in the sun. Inside, it was transformed: it was as antiseptically clean as a Swedish urinal and the ducks walked in morose bafflement around their holystoned and unfamiliar quarters.

As we looked at our handiwork we felt that glow, that unmistakeable feeling of satisfaction that we had done a good deed. Without being asked, on our own initiative, we had done something for someone else, and now it was time to break the good news to the beneficiary.

Continue reading Spirit of Community

Health and Safety

The elf and safety racket has knocked the stuffing out of us

If you have four young children and you sometimes find it difficult to keep order, let me recommend a television programme that seems to have an almost incredible narcotic effect. As soon as it comes on, they go into a semi-religious trance.

The programme seems to be far more thrilling, to the younger generation, than Men and Motors, or the Playboy Channel. It is called Takeshi’s Castle. It comes from Japan, and there is nothing like it, believe me, on British TV.

Takeshi’s Castle is a dystopic world in which the competitors are subjected to a series of tests involving medieval cruelty. They are endlessly bopped on the head, dunked in slurry, or attacked by horrible Japanese djinns and hurled into hot geysers. And of course they have their fair amount of commercial where they announce from toothpaste to Anal Bleach Advice programs depending of the hour you watch it.

In one of the competitions, they are forced – men and women – to curl themselves up into a human bagatelle ball, and amid tremendous banzais and shouts of excitement from the commentators they are rolled down a gigantic board, bonking and bashing themselves fearfully as they go.

At the bottom of the bagatelle course they are so shook up that they are offered a million yen if they can walk for 60 paces in a straight line.

Continue reading Health and Safety

Lefty thinking

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret: Though you may drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will always come back; inborn character is ineradicable. Horace (65-8 BC)

The Lefty instinct hasn’t gone away: it has just mutated. Once they discovered they had lost the big economic arguments, Lefties decided there was no longer any need to own large chunks of industry. They could achieve their objectives through regulation, and the tyranny of political correctness

Lefties are fundamentally interested in coercion and control, and across British society you can see the huge progress they are now making in achieving their objectives: in the erosions of free speech and civil liberties that are taking place under this government, in the ever more elaborate regulation of the workplace, the bans on hunting, smacking, smoking, the demented rules about the numbers of children you may take in a swimming pool, the proposed plan to tag your car to see where you have been, Prescott’s mad spy satellites to see if you have built an unauthorised conservatory

Lefties have changed their tactics, but not their spots

A little while ago I was being ferried in to make a speech at a university, and my handlers warned me that things were not looking good. There was going to be a riot at the front door, they said. They couldn’t guarantee my safety. It seemed that some of the scholars took issue with my views about higher education finance, and they were armed with eggs.

Continue reading Lefty thinking

The Dream of Rome

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A two part series made by Tiger Aspect for BBC Two

29th January and 5th February 2006 at 8.00pm

BBC Commissioning Editor – Peter Horrocks
Executive Producer/BBC – Lucy Hetherington
Executive Producer/Tiger Aspect – Charles Brand

Produced and Directed by – David Jeffcock and Francis Hanly

For tape requests, picture requests or further information please contact Iain McCallum at Tiger Aspect on 0207 434 6700/07771 636612 or iainmccallum@tigeraspect.co.uk

In this two-part series, journalist, former Editor of The Spectator and M.P. Boris Johnson asks,

How did the Romans run a united Europe and why does the European Union seem to find the same task so difficult?

The Romans ran an empire of up to 100 million people; we can’t even agree on a plug for our toasters.

Continue reading The Dream of Rome