Stephen Glover: We can't expect our columnists always to predict the future

Does it matter if columnists make incorrect predictions? Most people would probably say it does. I wonder. Two of my favourite columnists in the whole world are Anatole Kaletsky and William Rees-Mogg, both of which gentlemen I happen to know slightly. I devour their pieces in The Times. I am the Oxford representative of the Lord Rees-Mogg fan club, and would be honoured to undertake the same role for Mr Kaletsky should a vacancy ever arise.

But even I have to concede that both of my heroes' prophetic gifts sometimes fail them. Mean-spirited souls point out that Mr Kaletsky's crystal-ball gazing during the credit crunch has sometimes gone awry. For many months he was inclined to look on the bright side. As late as 14 July he was asserting that "since the beginning of the year conditions in the real economy have been unambiguously improving."

When at the beginning of September Alistair Darling suggested our economic circumstances might be compared with those of 60 years ago, Mr Kaletsky reproached the Chancellor for "a basic ignorance of economic facts and figures". Since then Anatole has turned gloomy, even apocalyptic, though there are still flashes of optimism.

The economy is his usual beat, but he is perfectly happy to read the runes in other areas, such as American politics. In March, he urged Democrats to choose Hillary Clinton because "Mr Obama is much more likely than Mrs Clinton to be defeated by John McCain." If Mr Obama wins, I suppose it will be possible to say that Hillary might have done so by an even bigger margin.

As for William Rees-Mogg, he once told us that Colin Powell would stand for the US presidency. For at least a decade he has been predicting another Great Depression. During that period average personal wealth has soared. The world's economy has boomed. Now that we tremble on the verge of a slump, one could say that if his timing has been a little suspect the broad sweep of his prophecy was correct.

To the complaint of carping critics that these columnists' predictions are sometimes confounded, my response is: so what if they are? Both Anatole Kaletsky and William Rees-Mogg (nicknamed "Mystic Mogg" by Private Eye) have an irrepressible urge to tell us what is going to happen. If they were careful and calculating machines, writing arid, cautious pieces for the comment pages of The Financial Times, they would not be so free with their prophecies. They would also be far less readable.

Only a fool would read a columnist to discover what is going to happen since none of us can read the future. The qualities I look for in a columnist are wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, wit and humanity – all of which Mr Kaletsky and Lord Rees-Mogg have in abundance. The columnists I dislike are those smug, humourless know-alls who are forever hinting at their easy access to the powerful. Irwin Stelzer is doubtless right about everything, but my heart always sinks a little when I see his byline.

The columnist Henry Fairlie is remembered for the brilliance of his writing, not for having wrongly predicted that Jimmy Carter would beat Ronald Reagan. In an ideal world, Mr Kaletsky and Lord Rees-Mogg would perhaps curb their passion for forecasting, but they will remain my heroes even if they don't. My prediction is they won't.

Is ‘no comment’ the answer for BBC reporters?

Writing last week about the enormous power the BBC accords to Robert Peston, I mentioned his brilliance as a reporter and an analyst/commentator.

An interesting question is whether BBC reporters should be commenting at all. Thirty years ago they gave you the news. Now they give you the news, and tell you what it means. Sometimes they don't even bother to give you the news.

Can one remain objective as a reporter if one wears the hat of a commentator?

One's credibility is likely to be threatened. Nowhere is the tension between reporting and commentary more fraught than in the blogs written by some BBC reporters.

Last week Mr Peston's blog suggested, perhaps a little crowingly, that Thatcherism is dead. Maybe it is, but should the BBC's business editor be saying so?

Mr Peston's blog is a very good read, but, like all such BBC blogs, its form chips away at the Corporation's remit to be objective and neutral.

Neil makes sure The Spectator keeps firmly to the party line

Most people very reasonably believe that The Spectator is a weekly magazine. There is increasing evidence to suggest that it is, in fact, a front for a bizarre sect that renews itself by throwing ever more outlandish parties.

Barely a week passes without some new Spectator bash. Tomorrow the magazine is having "an autumn evening party" at its offices in Westminster, in association with Hyde Yachts. Perhaps once guests have drunk their fill of champagne and are stuffed full of canapés, they will sail upriver with a happy Andrew Neil, the magazine's chief executive, at the tiller.

On 17 November, The Spectator has what it describes as "a prestigious black tie dinner" in the Royal Hospital Gardens, for which guests are required to pay a mere £149 each. ("Prestigious" is a word that until recently would have been banned from the magazine.) You can meet "glittering contributors", some of whom, such as the BBC's Emily Maitlis, appear to have rather little to do with The Spectator. Its editor, Matthew D'Ancona, and Mr Neil will be the hosts of what might be characterised by over-literal folk as a "cash for access" dinner.

Perhaps the most sought-after invitation is to a party at Brown's Hotel in London on 2 December, called "Politics meets Style", which celebrates the "combined 200th anniversary" of The Spectator and GQ magazine. It turns out that The Spectator is 180 years old, and GQ 20. Why they should celebrate an anniversary together is mysterious enough, but if you are addicted to throwing parties I suppose any excuse will do.

The Sir Toby Belch determined to transform The Spectator from a magazine into a party organisation is Andrew Neil. In 180 years, no man has done so much in so short a time to change the culture of the magazine.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn