View to a Grylls

SO were you watching the Tory party conference? Did you see the oh-my-God-did-that-really-happen bit in all its excruciating, toe-curling, jaw-dropping glory? Could you actually believe your eyes and ears? Me neither. I mean what was Bear Grylls thinking going up on stage dressed as a Boy Scout?

Well, it turns out he did have a reason: he is Chief Scout, a post he has held since 2009. But given that length of tenure he should be very well acquainted with the small print in the handbook, and in particular with Rule 14.1, which states: “Members of the Movement in uniform, or individuals when acting as representatives of the Movement, must not take part in any party political meetings or activities that endorse any particular political party or candidate.” There you go. Plain as day.

Loading article content

Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who it's hard to believe has ever done much in the way of bob-a-jobbing, was quick to point this out. “The Scouts' rulebook says members shouldn't take part in political events while in uniform,” he noted. “Bear Grylls seems to have broken those rules. But since Theresa May finds herself in the political wilderness perhaps she wanted him close at hand.” Boom, boom.

Robert Peston was a little more succinct and, blessedly, didn't try to score any cheap points. “Bear Grylls at Tory conference in 'non political' capacity, to promote the Scouts,” he tweeted. “Bit odd”.

Grylls's appearance at the conference on Tuesday was intended as … well, I'm not quite sure to be honest. This is what he said, though, after he'd tried his best to get the delegates on their feet to do a few stretches: “I am not here as Bear Grylls. I am here to champion young people desperate for a voice. If I was prime minister, and I could make a relatively small investment in scouting, that £50 million would be the best money I’d ever spent. Truth.”

Grylls has been seen on television drinking his own ****. With this appearance, you had to wonder if he was taking the **** too. Truth.

Monk business

THERE is a tide of Buckfast Tonic Wine washing over our sweetie shops and convenience stores, and a war going on in an effort to stop it. Well, not quite. But sort of.

First up, we had Buckfast Easter eggs, an unholy confection we brought you news of earlier this year. In case you've forgotten, these items were being sold online by an off-licence based in Northern Ireland – or they were until the company which bottles and distributes Buckfast, J Chandler & Company, took action and called in the Trading Standards officers. They destroyed the stock using special blowtorches or a special crusher or whatever other special device is best suited to the safe disposal of Buckfast Easter eggs. “It’s David versus Goliath,” complained Derek Brennan, the brains behind the Easter egg scheme, employing a Biblical metaphor which won't have gone unappreciated by the people who ultimately “own” Scotland's other favourite tipple and who sent in the blowtorch/crusher-wielding officials – the Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon.

Now we have Round Two of the battle and it comes in the shape of Buckfast Flavoured Creams, which are being sold by esteemed sweetie makers Ross's Of Edinburgh. A spokesman for the company told the Edinburgh Evening News that it was all part of a plan to bring Ross's into the 21st century “by introducing flavours that the younger generation would relate to and recognise like Buckfast or Banoffee Pie”.

I'll leave it to you to decide what that says about the culinary habits of Scotland's millennials, though the company stresses that there is no alcohol in the sweeties. “We have a lab that prepares these flavours for us,” said the Ross's spokesman, “and we obviously replicate the existing flavour.”

Anyway, the monks themselves have now become involved, describing production of the sweeties as “highly irresponsible in our view” and adding: “Products which are accessible to children should not be produced using the flavouring of any alcoholic beverages.”

Fair point? Maybe. But I await with interest (and an empty cone and a poised flake) the advent of Buckie'N'Tunnocks Snowball-flavoured ice cream.

Ta ta Twitter

HAVE we reached peak social media and if we have, who's going to tell Donald Trump he's, like, totally unfollowed? Let's leave that chore to Sean Spicer or Anthony Scaramucci or whoever hasn't been fired yet as White House communications director. As for the other bit, evidence is mounting that it's true and that more and more young people are giving up on Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and the rest.

According to a survey of state and independent schools in England undertaken by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), a clear majority of young people say they have experienced online abuse, agree that it makes them feel less confident about themselves, do think they may be on the verge of an addiction, and do feel their friends gave a false view of themselves on social media. So basically everything their parents have been telling them since P5.

The upshot? Almost two-thirds of those surveyed wouldn't mind if social media had never been invented and 71 per cent admitted to going “digital detox” in order to get away from it, at least for a while. For Chris King, HMC chair and headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, the survey results are “the first indications of a rebellion against social media”.

Bring it on, I say. Let's encourage the rest of you kids to stop staring at your screens and instead do the things your parents used to – like play conkers, collect football stickers, learn to solve a Rubik's cube without looking at the internet and hang around telephone boxes drinking cider.

What do you mean, "What's a telephone box?"

Eton trifles

ONE of the benefits of an Eton and/or Oxford education – besides the fact that you'll walk into RADA and never get jailed for stabbing someone – is a wide vocabulary containing many ornate and splendiferous insults, and an overweening confidence in your ability to deploy them when you get up in front of a microphone at, say, the Conservative Party conference.

There is a poster boy for this dubious skill and, though I'd hate to spend time in any room that had his face Blu-tacked to its walls, we have to give credit where it's due: he is Boris Johnson, the man who once described Jeremy Corbyn as a “mutton-headed old mugwump” and an “Islingtonian herbivore”.

Johnson was at it again last week and once more he had JC in his sights, describing the Labour leader as having a “vole-trousered air” and being a “superannuated space cadet”. Now, the last bit I get and, to some extent, agree with. But what on earth does “vole-trousered” mean and even if we can work it out, in what way can you have a “vole-trousered air” about you?

Quentin Letts, Bo-Jo's cheerleader-in-chief in the Daily Mail, didn't care a jot, trumpeting about his man's “zest for the English language” in a column last week. He was even moved to have a go himself, hailing the galvanic effect Johnson had on the Tory crowd – more galvanic than Bear Grylls anyway – and taking a pot-shot at all those previous speakers who had indulged in what he called “glumbucketry”. Or perhaps that should be “lumbucketry”, to use the joke minted last week after a letter fell off the Tory slogan during Theresa May's speech.