13 SEPTEMBER 1997, Page 55

High life

A brave man


bummer of a week. A bummer of a year, in fact. First Jimmy Goldsmith, then the Princess of Wales and finally Mother Teresa. If this isn't the end of an era, I don't know what is. Even here, in the dear old Speccie, things ain't what they used to be. 'Low life' is gone and I'm not sure if `High life' works without it. I was planning to give a ball to celebrate 20 years of 'High life' this autumn, and had decided to give it at the Ritz during the second week of October, a date convenient to all the own- ers and editors I have worked for — plus a few special friends. But there have been too many deaths of people I liked and I think I'll wait for next year. Perhaps by next spring there will be a privacy act and a real reason to give a bash.

That is the bad news. The good news is Lord Spencer's eulogy of his sister. Never has a man got it so right as Charles Spencer did last Saturday. Rumour has it that a royal or two were displeased. Mind you, it is just a rumour, but if it's true then it's just too damn bad. What Spencer said should have been said long ago and, far more important, something should have been done about it.

I have never met Charles Spencer, but if I ever do I shall treat him in the manner brave men deserve to be treated: with respect. In fact, when was the last time an English aristo acted like a man rather than a mouse? His personal intervention in dis- inviting the tabloid vermin to the funeral was even more remarkable than his enor- mous break with tradition in mentioning the way his sister had been treated by her royal in-laws.

The disinvitation of tabloid scum only proved that Buckingham Palace still does not get it. What in hell were those fools thinking of when they invited the slimeballs in the first place? Does one invite Pol Pot to the funeral of his victims? Better yet, how can people like Piers Morgan of the Mirror and Phil Hall of the News of the World — men whose leprosy of the soul is reflected in their grotesque faces — be asked to sit among normal, moral and nice people inside the house of God? All courtiers should be fired for this titanic gaffe alone.

The hypocrisy, the spite, the big lie will, of course, go on. Prince Charles shows Tsar Nicholas-like naivete when he asks the press to give his two sons some space. Whom does he think he's addressing? Offi- cers and gentlemen? People like Morgan and Hall are as bad, if not worse, than the paparazzi who did not bother to telephone that an accident had just taken place their mobile phone records show it — but went on shooting the dying. They are worse because of their hypocrisy. The paparazzi at least take their chances on their bikes.

And talking about taking chances, the man who did a hatchet job on Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, must be enjoying her death. After all, his menda- cious book might sell a copy or two among those who don't know what a snake he is. Which brings me back to the words of Lord Spencer: 'Genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.' Mother Teresa was a frail, with- ered lady who spent her long life living with the sick and the destitute, giving them kindness and caring, inspiring others to do the same. She had no resources of her own to give other than her love. Christopher Hitchens has spent his life massaging the very powerful and very rich, always pre- tending to be the common man, when in reality all he did was to please those he deemed powerful. His contrived self-abase- ment is known but to a few. He chose to write a book against the saintly Teresa obviously because her genuine goodness is like the sign of the cross to his evil.

Paul Johnson has been asking for a law to curb the sleazeballs for a long time. Republicans have seen a window of oppor- tunity to attack the monarchy via Princess Diana's death. Blair could disassociate himself from the vermin by ramming through a draconian law to put the liars and inventors out of business for good. But I shall not be holding my breath.