How to lose more friends and alienate more people
This used to be the busiest time of the year for me. If you do anything in public life — even something minor like running a free schools charity — you get asked to do a lot of things at Christmas. More if you pop up on telly occasionally. Last year, I must have attended at least a dozen carol services, and did a reading at most of them. I spoke at Christmas parties, gave after–dinner speeches and opened fairs.
And the nativity plays — don’t get me started on the nativity plays. I managed to limit myself to eight in 2017, but it’s usually more. I never cease to wonder at all the parents, up on their feet, filming the entire performance on their phones. Are they really going to inflict that on the grandparents on Christmas Day? All two hours?
But this year, nothing. Not a single invitation. Following my defenestration from public life, whereby I lost five positions, including my full-time job, I have been surgically removed from every VIP list. No Christmas cards either. It’s quite impressive in a way. I always assumed that no one ever checked these things. Some of the cards I used to get were redirected from an address I haven’t lived at for 20 years. But evidently someone checks — or word comes down from on high. Such are the costs of being targeted by a Twitter outrage mob.
My fall in status has been vertiginous, like the plot of a Tom Wolfe novel, but I can say, hand on heart, that it isn’t all bad. Yes, yes, there’s the money — or lack of it. I’ve always supplemented my income by doing freelance journalism, but it’s only now that I’m relying on it entirely that I realise just how difficult it is to make a living from being a hack. When I wrote my first piece for a national newspaper in 1985 I was paid three times as much as I get for an article today. Poor Caroline has had to take a part-time job to keep the wolf from the door. If interest rates go up, or Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister and introduces a property tax, we’ll have to sell the house.