Sex and Summitry: An IPE Valentine's Day

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/10/2010 12:00:00 AM
I was scrummaging for an appropriate post for today when my encyclopedic knowledge of useless political science factoids kicked in. The Evening Standard, one of the many tabloids you find here in London, was never one of my top reads--and still isn't. However, it has become one of the things I do read simply because it has changed its business model. It is now being distributed for free. The newspaper now relies purely on advertising-based as opposed to subscription- and newsstand sales-based revenue generation. Either at Victoria station (near home) or Holborn station (near work) at midday onwards during weekdays, there's sure to be a guy or gal handing out free copies of the aforementioned publication to us weary, ripped-off commuters. Circulation matters more now, obviously.

Unlike many other tabloids, though, the Evening Standard has designs on a higher-level demographic than your average Page 3 browsers. Aside from a pretty decent business section IMHO, you get the following article that had me chortling on the train home after work. Somewhat ingeniously, these scribes managed to combine salacious lowbrow fare (sexual infidelity) with high politics (international summitry) in Sex and summitry: the rise of the raunchy summit [!] As with most tabloid fare, the n=1 sample of Niall Ferguson--America basher, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali--glamorous "fatwa sex seducer" (just love these tabloid phrases) occasions a full-length article with the catchy graphic depicted here.

Now on to the beginning of this priceless article:
So now we know what it takes to remove leading public intellectuals from their studies and source-notes. Niall Ferguson, TV historian, neo-Conservative and heart-throb of the conference circuit, has left his wife for the terrifyingly glamorous feminist writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi Ali is hot property in every sense. Her campaigning against female circumcision, criticism of Islam and script for a film with Dutch director Theo van Gogh led to death threats. Van Gogh was assassinated in 2004, since when Somali-born Hirsi Ali has lived under police protection in the US. It is said that, in the manner of Salman Rushdie, she has a far better social life under the fatwah than most of us manage without one. She was pictured recently with Ferguson wearing a dress slinky enough to make the Imams faint. As the New York Magazine put it: "Sneaking around under the threat of jihadist militants is undoubtedly way hotter, especially if you're as awash with self-regard as Niall Ferguson. Right now theirs is the most important and thrilling sex life ever."

Anyone who still adheres to the outdated notion that the Left have all the fun in bed and the Right turn in monogamously with a copy of The Wealth of Nations take note - you clearly haven't spent any time on the international Conservative circuit in the past few years. Hirsi Ali is an esteemed fellow of the American Enterprise Institute - the robustly Right-wing think-tank, sceptical of climate change - who regularly accuses the West of appeasing radical Muslims in the wake of 9/11.

Ferguson is at the heart of a network of high-rolling Conservative historians which includes Henry Kissinger. The father of realpolitik was not averse to romantic liaisons and once asked Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador, to call off his KGB observers overnight as they disconcerted his girlfriends.

Many of us remember 45-year-old Ferguson, incidentally Kissinger's biographer, as an attractive young Oxford don who lectured on the economic background of the First World War in tweed suits. He dwelt at the intellectual end of the fogey vogue, with a shoal of Sloanes sighing over his Scottish lilt. But his transition to international Casanova of the conference is still incredible.

His estranged wife, the former newspaper editor, Sue Douglas, puts some of this down to the pressure of the move to America in 2002 - to lecture in financial history at New York University (he's now at Harvard), a lifestyle in which intellectual ambition is combined with social networking.
And it concludes by listing the "seven sexiest summits" even if I wouldn't have thought of calling many of these as such:
Davos Snow, ski suits and so much power and money in one small place. Who to flirt with: American CEOs, Bill Gates, Gordon Brown (maybe).

International literary festivals Where authors go to lose their writer's block and other inhibitions - the Hay Festival is visiting Mexico, Lebanon and the Maldives this year. Try to snare Martin Amis.

Copenhagen/ Make Poverty History/ Next worthy cause There was plenty of copping off at Copenhagen. "We were stuck outside the ring of steel with nothing to do." Conference heart-throb: Ed Miliband.

Tory Spring conference, Brighton A-list candidates and FOCs (Friends of Cameron) mingle among the Lanes and trendy bars. Political bounty hunter's paradise. Aim to become Joanne Cash's new best friend.

Labour Progress summits If you're the other way inclined this is where twentysomethings go to plot life after Gordon. Nice-looking young men. Women in short supply. Top catch: next Labour leader but one.

Intelligence Squared Now established as the place where people with degrees go to exchange serious ideas and phone numbers on their voting cards. Top catch: Jemima Khan.

Lucerne Music Festival More relaxed, younger crowd than Salzburg in a romantic setting. Ideal for Hotel du Lac-style encounters, to the strains of Mahler. Top catch: latest brooding Russian pianist.
I'll bet you don't get this in the National Enquirer! Alas, even tabloids here in Britain are social climbers.