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Well I for one loved Panama. Not the traducing of the Prime Minister’s late father, nor the latest attempts to turn British public life into a morass of financial prudery, but for the reminder of one of the only beautiful things in politics — its unpredictability. No sooner had David Cameron cleared his desk to make the case, undiverted, for the EU when — wham! — an obscure leak from an offshore fund started alarming world leaders. The following week it was the turn of the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale. Doubtless he started the week looking forward to an untrammelled focus on BBC Charter renewal when before he knew it — bang! — he was on Newsnight explaining how he had been unaware that one of the many ladies he had been stepping out with was a dominatrix. Perhaps it was always like this. But the speed of the modern world does make political life like trying to govern in the midst of a perpetual meteor shower.

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It is Homer Simpson, I believe, who is credited with the observation, “Actors — is there anything they don’t know?” I wondered about this when Channel 4 had me on to discuss the migration crisis opposite Juliet Stevenson. She, of course, wanted more people — on this occasion specifically children — from Calais to be brought into the UK. My role was to be the baddy saying “no”. Actually, my position was a little more nuanced than that, but it evaded Ms Stevenson, who narrowed her eyes at me whenever I talked and turned out to be a fine purveyor of the verbal sideswipe. At the end she was clearly furious and wouldn’t even walk out with me. Why such hatred, I wondered.There is always something saddening about these encounters. Actors store up vast public goodwill by being in films and thus famous. Anyone who stands against them seems somehow to be committing an act of bad manners. I quite liked Truly, Madly, Deeply, but feel this should in no way commit me to the cast’s political views.

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Self-serving in a supermarket the other day I was reminded of a problem of modern capitalism — not just that one ends up serving oneself, but that people who work in such shops have zero stake in them. When I got to the till the purchase information of the previous customer was still up on the screen. I couldn’t work out what it meant. When the surly attendant turned around it suddenly became clear to us both that the earlier man had walked out without paying. In a voice resonant with lack of concern the attendant said, “He got away with it.” Should I chase him, I asked. I think I could recognise him. “He got away with it,” the man repeated before pressing some buttons and turning away. It has become normal for shop staff to feel no need to persuade you to buy, but it is a bigger problem when they do not mind being robbed.

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