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Is it too late to save the “Northern Powerhouse”?
I hope not! For I love the north of England, and George Osborne was absolutely right when he was chancellor to promote the importance of the northern cities. For a start, northerners always seem a lot warmer and friendlier than those in the home counties. When I was young, I had a girlfriend from the Wirral: she was quiet and appreciative, beautiful and down to earth. Across Yorkshire, I would pine every season to shoot at Gunnerside, Garrowby and Mulgrave. At the latter we would enjoy the best fish and chips for lunch from nearby Whitby, on whose beach Dracula was washed ashore. And then there are, of course, those extraordinary Brontë sisters.
So I love the north and it is stupid of southerners not to pay more attention to all that is beyond the Watford Gap. If nothing else, I find the accents of Mancunians, Brummies and Scousers utterly charming, even if, now and then, I have no idea what they are saying. My most abiding memory of the north is when friends from the Unite union and I raised money by walking the 60 miles from Liverpool to Morecambe Bay where, in 2004, 21 Chinese cockle pickers perished in its tide, whose echoes I still hear today. It was a most poignant occasion for me to remember my compatriots, and so I hold dear in my heart a great deal from the north, and I hope they power away their house.
Would you recommend that a young man take ballroom dancing classes?
There is no man on earth who is more elegant than Fred Astaire when he dances. His bones seem to bend with the music, his limbs meandering effortlessly in and out of the staves. For this reason alone, I think all men should try to learn ballroom dancing, or at least master the basic steps of the waltz, the cha-cha and the jive. After all, dancing is very much a tribal activity and good exercise to boot. Perhaps at school, children ought to be taught to dance as part of the syllabus — better than social studies or graphic design. And we would then appreciate all the more the extraordinary Billy Elliot and the ballet, as well as the maddeningly enjoyable Strictly Come Dancing.
How do you respond when someone says “we must have lunch sometime” with the sincerity I associate with my friend Sir Alan Duncan?
He did indeed ask me for lunch last time I saw him, and he hasn’t been heard since. Next time, I will say, “Let’s fix a banquet Caligula would have been satisfied with”. He is bound to be puzzled and ask why. I would then say, “Don’t worry: it ain’t going to happen, just like the lunch you promised.”
I am chairman of a large British retailer. For six years I sucked up to Dave but got nothing in the way of an honour, not even an MBE. Do I now have to start all over again with Mrs May? What incentive is this for me to use company money to do charitable things, attend breakfasts at Number 10 and write letters to newspapers?
You seem rather desperate, therefore you should continue your oleaginous approach. Your sheer determination is not intrinsically a bad thing, although for gongs nowadays, you need independent people, preferably salt of the earth rather than grandees, writing in to recommend you. Gone are the days when a nod and a wink in the corridors of power would suffice. So start sucking up to your staff and cut down on your tortuous receptions, dinners for fancy networking. I guarantee you will get many more nicer people being nice back to you, instead of fewer people who are not so nice, and do not bother saying anything nice to you.
Why do Americans use Prince, Duke, Earl and Count as given names while claiming to be classless?
Because Americans are confused about who these people are, although they know such titles are attached to important people and feel that using them will enhance their own standing. The last Duke of Marlborough once struggled to pass through US immigration because the officer couldn’t fathom what his surname was, and tried calling him Mr Duke, then Mr Marlborough and eventually Mr Duke of Marlborough. There was another clash of cultures when the duke went through customs and was asked how much cash he was carrying. “It’s none of your business,” Marlborough replied. He was nearly arrested.
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