Naming the best columnist in Britain is like naming you’re the best Beatles song: it varies, depending on what kind of mood you’re in. But who would deny that Matthew Parris is in the top three? The quality of his writing is, itself, enough to put him into the premier league but that’s just part of the art. What sets Matthew apart is his sheer range, and his originality. You never know what he’ll be writing about, whether you’ll agree with him, or virulently disagree. Most columnists join arguments; Matthew Parris starts arguments.
My cover story for this week’s magazine is inspired by his superb last column about why it’s good to sneer at posh boys. Social mobility is a ‘zero sum game’ he said: to help the poor up, you need to knock the rich down. He was writing about Matthew Hancock’s latest plans to screen for poshness, which he sees as a welcome shift in policy: it’s time to make the privately-educated feel ‘sheepish’, he says, about their privilege. I couldn’t disagree more: I’m a meritocrat, and while I’m all for levelling up I also think people should only be judged on their ability. My magazine cover piece is here, and we discuss in the podcast for this week’s magazine.
Also in this week’s podcast: do our kids need to toughen up? Yes, says Claire Fox in her Spectator article this week in which she warns that we’re training the next generation to be thin-skinned, censorious and entitled. But for all we’re puzzled by the safe spaces and campus censorship which appear to be rife in our universities, are we the ones who have helped bring it about by mollycoddling our youngsters in the first place? Claire is joined by Tom Slater from Spiked, who is the author of Unsafe Space. Claire tells James:
‘There has been a range of trends in social policy which have trained young people to believe words can damage and harm them. We’re rearing people to think words are harmful and they won’t be able to cope. And the whole culture is one in which safety trumps all else – protecting young people from all the terrors of the world. Those terrors can be anything from sugar, to global warming to paedophiles around every corner.’
With the EU referendum coming up, should we Brexit for the sake of our four-legged friends? That’s the argument put forward by Camilla Swift. She argues that being in the EU leads to a situation where British money is spent on rearing Spanish bulls for bullfighting. But Keith Taylor, a Green MEP and president of the parliament’s animal welfare group, says the EU boosts animal welfare. Keith and Camilla join James on the podcast to debate.
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