There is a great scene in the HBO comedy Veep, in which Selina Meyer, the US vice-president played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus, sets up a “symposium on race” in order to make her look more serious and concerned. As she is introduced one by one to the individual panel members, Meyer makes a heart-sinking discovery. “Why are they all white?” she gasps under her breath.
Meyer must surely be the patron saint of the United Nations, which this week elected Saudi Arabia to its women’s rights commission, dedicated to women’s equality and female empowerment. In Saudi Arabia women are banned from driving cars, and at any age are legally required to have a male guardian to make all their decisions for them.
It is not clear which Saudi individuals will be attending commission meetings at the UN to discuss women’s rights, but the overwhelming likelihood is that they will be of the male persuasion, with women perhaps being allowed to attend, but in a separate room. And there will in all probability be solemn, relativist talk about women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia existing in the spiritual sense of modesty, submission to men, not being allowed to drive, and so forth.
As they announce all this, the row of men is going to look like a painting by René Magritte.
The posh prescription
A recent medical study supports the idea that a daily glass of red wine is really good for you. Hooray! Indulgence is great. Oh, wait. Another study suggested that a daily can of diet soft drink can triple your risk of suffering a stroke. Oh no.
So I was all set to bin my Diet Cokes and get down to the off licence to stock up on Châteauneuf-du-Pape – all in the cause of my health – when it was put to me that these health stories are meaningless. The medical effects they describe are statistical “bystanders”, non-causal patterns that are not about physiology or diet, but social class.
A daily glass of red wine appears to work, because the sort of person who drinks a daily glass of red wine a day is the sort of person likely to have property, a good job, less anxiety, and a greater inclination to go on walks in the Lake District. A daily can of diet soda appears bad because the sort of person with that habit is less likely, statistically, to have property, job and carefree walks in the Lake District.
These factors are coyly airbrushed out of these studies in favour of the apolitical subject of “diet”. But you can’t just have someone in a white coat pointing at you and saying: “Just … be more posh!”
Donald the Dalek
Officials preparing for Donald Trump’s state visit to this country in October, with all the trimmings, are reportedly having to keep events mostly on the ground floor in each building he visits, because of the US president’s alleged bathmophobia, or fear of stairs.
How exactly he and his wife, Melania, expect to get into the gold carriage for their ride up The Mall without using steps is a mystery. Perhaps a hydraulic platform, accessorised with the royal crest and Trump Hotels logo, will gently elevate the president and first lady to their picturesque conveyance.
But as we saw when Theresa May went over to the White House in January, Trump needs some reassuring. Perhaps, just like the young Queen Victoria in her pampered princess days, the president will need his hand to be held as he walks down stairs in various palaces.
Until now, it was only the Daleks who feared and hated stairs as much as Trump does.