Last night, in the gilded surroundings of the Attlee Room in the House of Lords, we hosted a gathering in aid of our Christmas campaign, which this year runs in conjunction with a wonderful charity called Space for Giants, which does extraordinary work in protecting elephants threatened by the ivory trade.
I should say that I have a particular fondness for elephants, having spent a little time with them in India, the country of my birth. For Hindus – even lapsed ones – Ganesha, with an elephant head, is the god of knowledge. These deeply intelligent mammals have come under constant attack in Africa. In 2011, more African elephants were killed than in any other year.
This newspaper shall be raising money to help combat that trade, and promote conservation in Africa. So there’ll be plenty of fascinating campaign coverage next week.
Another story that might make our front page is the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Thursday. Elsewhere in Fleet Street, headlines will reflect an emerging consensus about Britain’s economy – one that your newspaper won’t accept without a heavy dose of scepticism. That consensus suggests that Britain’s economy is recovering, and that the chances of a Tory victory at the next election rise in proportion with it. But here are four caveats.
First, while prices rise faster than wages, people get poorer. Second, the current optimism is driven partly by surging house prices in the South-east, which follow the cynical policy I call Help to Buy Votes. Third, despite all this apparent good news, Labour is still comfortably ahead in the polls. Finally, what is happening in Britain does little to address the historic economic changes affecting the middle classes caused by the rise of globalisation and new technology.
Things are rarely as they seem in politics. It’s our job to report them fairly, and analyse them for your benefit. This is a task that Patrick Cockburn excels at, and I want to end by giving him a public thanks.
This week, Patrick was named Foreign Commentator of the Year at the Editorial Intelligence Awards, in recognition of his outstanding work in the Middle East. No serious student of that region has failed to incur a debt to him, and nobody who has met Patrick has failed to be inspired by the fortitude and erudition he has brought to journalism over decades. His interview with Moqtada al-Sadr this week was a case in point.
We are very lucky to count him as one of our own. Have a great weekend.