A week ago, I thought it just possible that the information which was leaking out about Jennifer Arcuri was more likely to bring Boris Johnson down than the Supreme Court announcement that he had lied to the Queen about his reasons for proroguing parliament. It seems that the tory press don’t object to legal and constitutional impropriety, particularly since they think, without evidence, that it is politically motivated, but they do like sleaze because it sells papers. So, I am not sure that the story of Johnson sneaking off in the afternoon to the apartment of a 24-year old volunteer to have what he describes as technical discussions is going to go away; particularly as she was very handsomely compensated with massive sums of public money for her new start-up business, which turns out not to have been in IT, as was originally suggested, but now appears to have involved the arrangement of events for members of the American alt right. Even Johnson, who has a well developed knack for brushing off impropriety, is surely going to find it hard to demonstrate that he followed due process in paying a pole dancer £100,000 of public funds.
I have already done a post about the beautiful book produced by Hoxton Mini Press about East London Homes and I have now been sent a link to the book, which includes the spread of our dining room and the portrait – we like it – of the two of us, both taken by the photographer Jon Aaron Green:-
Until recently, I have thought that the common comparison of what is happening in Great Britain to Germany in the early 1930s over-melodramatic and somewhat far fetched. But having now watched the BBC’s three-part series on The Rise of the Nazis, I am less sure. There are so many points of comparison, all of them troubling: a sense of political and parliamentary turmoil, which allowed a minority party to seize power; an angry and discontented population looking for what they considered to be strong leadership and national prestige, seduced by promises of increased national wealth; hostility to parliament and a manufactured hostility to the rule of law; a lazy, but articulate leader effective at sloganeering. It all happened so fast by the appeal to the violence of the streets against the institutions of state. Rampant demagoguery, surrounded by arrogant and complicit cheerleaders who mindlessly repeat the leader’s message. The programmes were presumably intended to be disturbing. They most certainly are.
I have just been to a talk about the benefits of Instagram in finding out about jewellery, which gave me the opportunity to admire the wonderful carving in the coving of the Court Room, which survives from the second version of the seventeenth-century Hall, presumably a product of the rebuilding by Edward Jerman after the Fire of London in 1669:-
As the garden moves into its autumn phase, I have been particularly impressed by the fat and overblown daturas, known for good reason, as The Devil’s Trumpet:-
And the Japanese begonias, which the Wynn-Jones from Crûg found in Japan:-
This long read piece in the New Statesman tells one almost more than one needs to know about Dominic Cummings and his intellectual formation. Two things stand out: that at Oxford, he was a pupil of Norman Stone, who was a clever, radical Tory anarchist, who was also a well-known drunk, which could perhaps help to explain Cummings’ tendency to wander round the Commons with a glass in his hand and always arrive at work so late and so disheveled. The second thing is the amount of time he spent in Russia in the mid-1990s, where he will have witnessed at first hand and perhaps enjoyed the breakdown of civil society and the way it could benefit a small number of oligarchs who later helped to bankroll his Vote Leave campaign. Clever, undoubtedly, but corrupt as well.
The front page of the Times today quotes a senior cabinet minister warning of the possibility of a ‘violent popular uprising’ if a second referendum overturned the result of the first. Immediately afterwards, Dominic Cummings is quoted as saying, ‘We are enjoying this, we are going to leave and we are going to win’. The said cabinet minister is then quoted saying that ‘it only takes a couple of nasty populist frontmen to inspire people’. The conclusion is obvious. We have two nasty populist frontmen and their plan is to inflame public opinion and encourage the threat of violence. Only the Times is too pusillanimous to say so.
Our copy of East London Homes: Creative Interiors from London’s East End has arrived, a book which documents and records the amazing variety of interiors in east London, some purely and austere modernist, but most creative freestyle, mixing old and new, full of potted plants, the product of London’s creative economy and the work of architects, photographers, furniture dealers and stylists, mostly young. We’re in, with beautiful photographs which make even my study look nearly tidy. It’s been produced by Hoxton Mini Press who have done so much to investigate the social life of East London through photographic books. A good Christmas present, I think.
I was encouraged this afternoon to watch the 16mm. black-and-white film shown in the Weston Gallery at the RA. It’s by Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone and depicts the taking down of the casts which used to be in the old Architecture Room at the Royal Academy Schools, but are now in store pending the re-development of the Schools. The film is deliberately ghostly, interlaced with Blinky Palermo removing casts in the 1960s and alongside it are examples of the casts themselves, including a Corinthian capital from the Pantheon:-
And half an Ionic capital, cast from the north porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis:-
I have been asked what I meant in describing my sense of ‘the loss of the purest pursuit of knowledge across frontiers’ on entering the portals of the Warburg Institute. I realise that the wording of my comment may have been ambiguous. What I meant is that owing to a lifetime of working in museums, I have been not been able to spend the time as I would once have liked devoted ‘to the purer pursuit of knowledge, as represented by the Warburg. By chance I have been reading the letters that Kenneth Clark wrote to Gertrud Bing this morning in which he mourns the fact that, when the Warburg came to London, he had ‘looked forward to spending a considerable time at the Institute working on the Classical Revival, but I find myself more and more forced into a life of action’; or the same thought over twenty years later, ‘I have feelings of particular piety for the Warburg Institute, and I much regret that I have not taken advantage of its presence in England in the way I hoped to do. Partly through what is known as public work, and partly I suppose because I have not been able to keep down the buried actor in me as well as Warburg did’. I feel much the same, leave aside the actor bit.