Daniel Finkelstein

Oh what a beautiful building

By Daniel Finkelstein, September 21, 2010

When I was a boy, they built some shops round the corner from my house. They looked like rather a good thing to me. But what did I know? I was only a boy. And I was biased in any case, since the new stores provided one of the few places I could go without crossing a road.


Beware of chain-letter blight

By Daniel Finkelstein, August 12, 2010

The Judaic Studies programme of the University of Kentucky offers a course designated as "History 323: The Holocaust". I found this out last week for a rather odd reason, and I thought you would like to know.

Every so often over the past three years, you see, I have been receiving emails about the teaching of the Holocaust. Perhaps you have, too. And I have been ignoring them. But now I realise that perhaps I shouldn't have.


Peace is for those who want it

By Daniel Finkelstein, July 15, 2010

Three days before he left office, President Bill Clinton received a message of congratulations from Yasir Arafat. "You are a great man," Arafat told him. But Clinton was having none of it. "I am not a great man," he replied. "I am a failure. And you made me one".

President Clinton has always been very clear where he believes the blame lies for the failure of the Camp David peace talks that took place 10 years ago this month. Arafat, and the Palestinian leadership, Clinton believes, missed a golden chance when they rejected, out of hand, the deal they were offered by Ehud Barak.


Will a Jewish template work?

By Daniel Finkelstein, June 3, 2010

It can't be on Israel again - they'll have had plenty of that. And the general political stuff won't work with this audience. We can take questions on that, but that's all. Why don't we go down the charity route?


Analysis: Gove is a rock to which British Jewry can cling

By Daniel Finkelstein, May 13, 2010

In 1852, the Duke of Wellington gave Lord Derby's first government its nickname. The by then very deaf Duke had the names of the new cabinet read out to him at his club and bellowed "Who? Who?" as he was told of each member.

Thus was born the "Who? Who?" administration. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have just formed the "What? What?" administration.

In the space of a few days, the whole of British politics has been transformed and observers have been struggling to understand what it means. Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith in the same Cabinet. What? What?


Extremism comes in crowds

By Daniel Finkelstein, April 22, 2010

Have you ever heard of group polarisation? Here's how it works. A small group of you are sitting together watching the televised Prime Ministerial debate. One of you thinks Gordon Brown is doing well and you're not convinced by the other two. Soon you are laughing at every Nick Clegg and David Cameron answer. The one member of the group who hates Brown begins to see his merits. By the end of the evening, you've all gone Browntastic.

Then you see the poll. Much of the rest of the world thinks Clegg won. And there's a group at work who watched and gave the gold medal to Cameron.


Free speech is still important

By Daniel Finkelstein, March 11, 2010

I am sorry, but I can't". With these six words, Robert MacKenzie, Professor of Political Sociology at the London School of Economics, changed my life.


Please file under 'pending'

By Daniel Finkelstein, January 28, 2010

To: Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families
From: Daniel Finkelstein
Re: Jewish school admission policy

● I thought you might find it useful if I prepared a memo for you on Jewish school admissions. I realise that we talk often about these sorts of things, but I thought it couldn’t hurt if I sent you a note of the kind I used to draft, as director of the Conservative research department for members of the Shadow Cabinet. It is an irony, of course, that in those day you were the Times journalist and I the politician.


Labelling as sop to boycotters

By Daniel Finkelstein, December 17, 2009

‘The British government is opposed to any kind of boycott of Israel” says a spokesman for the British Embassy in Israel. Yeah, right. What do you think I am mate, an idiot? (Don’t answer that.)


Tories' Euro links make sense

By Daniel Finkelstein, November 5, 2009

In the late 1980s, when I was still in my 20s, I was sent on a diplomatic mission. I failed. And it wasn’t only because I am not the diplomatic type.

I was sent to Luxembourg, you see, by former Foreign Secretary David Owen to investigate the possibility of the Social Democratic Party (by that time tiny) joining the European People’s Party. The EPP, the group of Europe’s Christian Democrats, was meeting to agree upon its programme and I spent a couple of days meeting its key figures. Then I sat down with party officials and we got to the point.


Cameron’s neo-con heritage

By Daniel Finkelstein, October 1, 2009

I call it his “Heir to Irving strategy”. Not its conventional name, I admit, but I think it fits.

I am not the first person to notice that David Cameron’s conservatism is not what we have been used to from the Conservative Party.

His talk of community, of voluntary action, of civil society; his attempts to explain why he is a progressive; his insistence that there is more to life than money; his emphasis on the need to lift people out of poverty. They seem odd themes for a Tory.


It is right to expose Wiesenthal

By Daniel Finkelstein, August 20, 2009

‘Simon Wiesenthal’s reputation is built on sand. He was a liar and a bad one at that. From the end of the war to the end of his life, he would lie repeatedly about his supposed hunt for Eichmann as well as his other Nazi-hunting exploits.

“Wiesenthal would also concoct outrageous stories about his war years and make false claims about his academic career.”


Calling Jews Nazis is offensive but not racist, and should be allowed as part of a debate about Israel

By Daniel Finkelstein, July 23, 2009

I have recently begun a campaign (my grand name for writing a post on my blog) against the misuse of the prefix “pre-”.

I noticed that private hire cars now appear on the streets with a London Transport sign and the words “pre-booked only”. I have tried pre-booking a cab, but always just end up booking it instead. Pre-book, pre-order, pre-prepared. It is pre-preposterous.


Analysis: What David can learn from us

By Daniel Finkelstein, June 25, 2009

Here’s why most politicians accept speaking invitations: they are asked by someone they know and they don’t think quickly enough of a reason why not.

But when you are Leader of the Opposition, accepting a speaking invitation is a big deal. Not just for you; there is also your speech writing team, your press office and your physical advance team who check that you are not about to walk past a shop sign saying F Raud and Sons, and aren’t sharing a platform with someone who gives money to the BNP.


I can see why people voted BNP

By Daniel Finkelstein, June 18, 2009

It was well past two o’clock in the morning and I had been sitting on a hard, small stool for more than five hours. I couldn’t put my feet down properly on the ground, nor could I stand up, because I was live on the BBC European Election results programme. At any moment, someone might ask me why I thought Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party had found favour among Slovaks. Things couldn’t get any worse. And then they did.


All religions are not the same

By Daniel Finkelstein, May 14, 2009

Here’s the argument. I will lay it out for you as simply and as swiftly as I can. I am a Scientologist. Well, no better than a Scientologist. Religions are man-made, and there is no reason to favour their claims to moral authority or special protection. And what demonstrates this is our attitude to new religions.


Who runs Israel doesn’t matter

By Daniel Finkelstein, April 7, 2009

It seems like an age ago, and I suppose in a way it was another age, but watching President Obama in London last week reminded me of the previous occasion when a new US President visited the city for the first time.

George W Bush was not then quite the villain for the left that he subsequently became. And even though liberals weren’t that fond of him even then, there was a feeling of a new era and some hope attended his visit.


Sailing: Welcome to nappy valley

By Daniel Finkelstein, April 2, 2009

I have to take it on the chin. If God decided to have another go with that flood thing, He wouldn’t pick me as Noah. I don’t think that it is so much because of my moral failings, which are many. It is more that he would correctly calculate that I would be rubbish at the helm of the Ark.

I’ve always admired Noah. All those hours at sea with the animals fighting like cats and dogs in the back.


Medical journal made me ill

By Daniel Finkelstein, March 5, 2009

Dear Editor of the British Medical Journal,

I have just taken delivery of your February 28 edition and have, as usual, been enjoying its contents. There were two compelling papers on the “Effectiveness of nurse delivered endoscopy” and you entertain your readers also with a meta-regression analysis of randomised controlled trials on the association between change in high density lipoprotein and cardiovascular disease morbidity.

Oh, and you devote more than seven pages to complaining that Jews send you too many emails.


Israel itself is their real target

By Daniel Finkelstein, January 29, 2009

When HL Menken was editor of the New Yorker, he hit upon an excellent way of dealing with the huge number of letters he received every day. Whatever the correspondent said — praise, complaint, advice, insult — he or she would receive the same reply: “Dear Sir (or Madam), You may be right. Yours HL Menken”.