Last Saturday night (or rather the first hour of Sunday) I was doing the papers review with Sunny Hundal of the leftist blog Liberal Conspiracy on BBC Radio Five Live. That’s the Stephen Nolan Show, although Nick Conrad was standing in for Stephen on this occasion. I was confidently expecting a right old ding-dong, and I was rather alarmed and disappointed (as I guess were the producers) when on issue after issue we found ourselves broadly agreeing.
Things started well enough. I picked up a story from the Telegraph about Al Qaeda terrorists convicted in the UK, who were appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. Predictably, Sunny was saying that Britain had signed up to international treaties, and that therefore these terrorists had the right to appeal to Strasbourg. I was arguing that while they may have rights, those rights had already been considered and upheld in a British Court.
I take the same view on this as Enoch Powell, who said “I hold that man to be a traitor, who appeals over the heads of Her Majesty’s judges to foreign courts”.
But we also dealt with the issue of tickets to the Paralympics for disabled people, who have been obliged to use business-rate phone lines and have experienced great difficulties. We agreed that this was unfair and unacceptable, though I was more prepared to give the organisers the benefit of the doubt, and attribute the problem to cock-up rather than conspiracy.
We agreed that Neil Armstrong was a great man, and that we regretted his passing, although Sunny had some doubts about spending so much money on space research when there were so many pressing needs on Earth. This prompted what I thought was one of my better lines: That’s as if the King of Spain had said to Columbus “We really need to refurbish the drains, so we can’t afford to have you go and discover America right now”. (Actually I said “King of Portugal”, but history was never my strong suit)
We discussed Prince Harry’s little contretemps in Las Vegas, and agreed that young men liked to party, and that there was little point in a show of righteous indignation. We also agreed that we must have a free press, although I added that it would have been nice if the Sun had had the good taste and good judgement to refrain from publishing the offending photographs. I pointed particularly to the story in the Sunday Express suggesting that Harry’s father Prince Charles might be more sympathetic than some commentators expected, given his own youthful experiences.
Of course the GCSE exams and grade inflation came up, and again we agreed that it was hard on pupils who had been marked down relative to those who took similar papers six months earlier. Beyond that, I took a positive line — that at last someone had got a grip of grade inflation and was introducing some order to the system, after years in which it seemed mandatory for politicians to crow about “best ever results”. Sunny took what I though was a rather curious line, suggesting that the political imperative now for Michael Gove was to say the opposite — that results are now so bad, that schools must be compelled to to become Academies, against their better judgement! For me that was a conspiracy theory too far.
It’s scary, all this agreement. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age. This morning I found myself agreeing with Tim Yeo (Ugh!) on the need for more airport capacity in the South East, and later I was agreeing with ultra-greeny Lib-Dem MEP Chris Davies on the right-to-die (in the Tony Nicklinson case). And I absolutely agree with Nadine Dorries about Louise Mensch. How far will this outbreak of consensus go, I ask myself?