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LONDON — For me, the best part of Simon’s diary comes in the last paragraph where he mentions an old pal of mine. Grattan Kirk is what you’d described as a grizzled executive. He has looked after major portfolios at big companies – CEO at JD Group which he left in 2013; then a top post at Tiger Brands – so could be regarded as seriously overqualified in his new role running the modestly sized Exclusive Books. More important than all that, of course, is that as a staunch West Ham United fan, like yours truly Grattan has been through the emotional mill for decades. So to see him shrug off a gang of wanna-be book-burning bullies is pretty much par for his course. More surprises in Simon’s inimitable weekly column. Just like we’ve come to expect. – Alec Hogg
By Simon Lincoln Reader*
I spent most of the flight from London to Cape Town thinking about the extraordinary incident involving Britain’s greatest living philosopher that cost the latter his job.
Sir Roger Scruton was advising the Conservative government, in an unpaid capacity, about how best to safeguard Britain’s architectural heritage given the merciless crusade of contemporary property developers. It’s a big deal, like the philosophers who were seconded by the Norwegian government the moment that country realised the extent of its oil deposits (on paper at least, in 2014 every single Norwegian became a Krone millionaire, thanks to the success of its sovereign wealth fund underpinned by its oil industry and its guidance).
But last week Sir Roger was unscrupulously sacked from his position by James Brokenshire, Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Sir Roger heard about his dismissal from a family member whilst he was in Paris. James hadn’t bothered to call.
It’s a depressingly familiar encounter. Sir Roger agrees to be interviewed by a left wing magazine (The New Statesman) under the pretence of discussing his published works. As the magazine’s sometime wine columnist, the request isn’t remotely odd, despite his conservative positions. However, the journalist dispatched by The New Statesman, George Eaton, is one of these black-lives-mattering, social justice-ing “activist journalists” uninterested in truth-telling, and thus misquotes Sir Roger in what appears to be a deliberate, pre-orchestrated smear. James, who is one of many reasons why the Conservative party is no longer conservative, does not investigate the actual content of the interview – let alone the context – and dismisses Sir Roger without telling him first. George then celebrates his own foul deceit by posting a photograph of himself on Instagram, drinking Champagne from the bottle, captioned: “the feeling when you get right wing and racist homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government advisor”.
What was actually said in the interview? The misquotations involve two of the most emphasised fault lines in contemporary western culture: “Islamaphobia” and George Soros’ relationship with Hungary (Sir Roger also briefly explored the subject of China’s Communist Party).
But I have a feeling that until George releases the tapes of the conversation, we won’t know and that George’s dishonesty might in fact be far worse than the selective editing and announcements. Like the coward who fired Sir Roger, George has not disclosed when – or indeed if – he will release the tapes, and has gone into hiding, presumably now conscious of the terrifying afterthought that (as a journalist) he may no longer be worthy of the trust prospective subjects would seek.
Whilst in Cape Town, I purchased Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s “Gangster State” from Exclusive Books in the Waterfront. His writing has improved since his previous work about the Guptas, and his excruciating exposure of arguably the most hated man in the country is meticulously researched.
But what George has done in London echoes across the world, to Cape Town: why give people like Ace Magashule unwarranted ammunition to deny allegations? Why submit to Donald Trump’s persistent condemnations? In seeking to advance his ideological positions, gain more woke status and popularity, George has literally pissed over the work of his contemporaries across the world, not just in Europe but in people like Pieter-Louis, Jacques Pauw, vastly more accomplished and talented than he is.
But full marks to the CEO of Exclusive Books, Grattan Kirk, who apologised for the disgraceful decision to initially cancel the Cape Town launch of “Gangster State” after the Johannesburg launch was violently interrupted by a group of incoherent peasants, no doubt organised by some other branch peasants aligned to Ace.
There was some talk about “resource scarcity” involving the SAPS, but this was rubbish: all parties were just spooked by the events that unfolded in Sandton. In an environment of heightened political agitation, it takes more guts than ever from corporates to apologise. It’s comforting to know that a jewel of South African retail is in the hands of a brave dude.
- Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London