You haven’t a prayer with the new atheists

As if the Guardian were not already preachy enough, it has signed up an actual preacher to write its leaders and op-eds. The Rev Dr Giles Fraser resigned as a canon of St Paul’s in sympathy with people camped on its doorstep for whom I think the kindest word is “troubled”. His departure puzzled his colleagues, who had detected beneath his right-on sound bites a Trollopian eagerness for preferment. They were wrong. Giles is now a professional hack, and he has used his first big article to suggest that the Occupy movement may “revitalise traditional Christianity”.

Of all the delusions nurtured by Left-wing Christians, perhaps the loopiest is that anyone under the age of 40 gives a monkey’s about their opinions. Let me spell this out for ex-Canon Fraser (who, like his former boss Richard Chartres, is jolly keen on his “Doctor” title, though unlike the bishop he at least has a proper doctorate).

Chartres could don mitre and nose-peg and ordain the Occupy protesters as priests of the Church of England and it still wouldn’t revitalise Christianity. England’s few remaining churchgoers have lost any sympathy they had with the smelly fanatics, who yesterday locked boy scouts out of their London headquarters so they could squat in it.

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David Miliband: the sniping and self-pity of a truly feeble man

British history offers a precedent for a craven, emotionally enfeebled chap called David being supplanted by a younger brother with a public speaking problem. The sadness for Ed Miliband – apart from having no Lionel Logue – is that, unlike George V, he cannot exile his sibling to foreign parts for the rest of his days (though how dashingly nerdsome this David would look in a Governor of Bermuda’s hat!).

This week, Milibandroid the Elder has mostly been playing Knock Down Ginger, and the sense of déjà vu is overwhelming. It never varies. He charges up to the door and boldly rings the bell, but at the first sound of footsteps from within, he scuttles away and hides in the bushes sucking his thumb.

The pattern was set in the summer of 2008, when David wrote a barely coded article in the Guardian – well, it wouldn’t have taxed the folk at Bletchley Park – justly lacerating Gordon Brown. The moment it was greeted as the challenge to the PM’s authority that it certainly was, off he scarpered, denying any such intent.

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Fred Goodwin: a modern-day knight made to suffer a medieval punishment

The United States Constitution is one of the few really great documents ever compiled by politicians. It is crisp and short and clear, and it is on the side of the citizen rather than the state. I keep it by my desk.

Just after the news that Fred Goodwin was to be stripped of his knighthood, I happened to be riffling through it, and my eye fell on this sentence from Section 9: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed”. A Bill of Attainder was a device of the powerful in pre-modern England. If the King and his government decided that they did not like someone, they would get him “attainted” (which means “stained”) by Parliament. The Bill would punish him for some supposed offence without giving him the chance to be heard in court. It stripped him (and sometimes his descendants) of his lands and titles. It was a political device.

An ex post facto law, of course, is a law that enables someone to be punished for an offence which, when committed, was not an offence. It is therefore blatantly unjust, and also, often, political.

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Qatar Royals paid £158.4m for Paul Cezanne painting

The sale beats the previous record of £88.7 million paid for Jackson Pollock’s No 5, 1948, in 2006.

The other four pieces in Cézanne’s post-impressionist series, painted in the early-to-mid 1890s, are held by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Courtauld Institute in London and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

Victor Wiener, a leading art appraiser, said: “You take any art history course and a Card Players is likely to be in it. It’s a major, major image.

“Now everyone will use this price as a point of departure. It changes the whole art-market structure.

The work was bought late last year from the estate of George Embiricos, a Greek shipping magnate. The amount paid to acquire it was disclosed yesterday in Vanity Fair magazine.

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Egypt: Violence spreads to Suez as five die in fresh clashes

Two people died in Cairo of tear gas inhalation today as clashes between police and protesters in the city raged on. Clouds of tear gas blanketed the road to the interior ministry, where police faced off against protesters.

Last night a soldier was killed outside the interior ministry, scene of a demonstration by thousands of football fans and pro-democracy activists.

Two more were killed overnight when police opened fire on a protest in Suez city, at the southern end of the Suez Canal, bringing the total death toll since the stadium riot to five.

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Homs ‘massacre’ leaves 260 dead

The Syrian government denied involvement in the violence, blaming “armed gunmen”. Television stations showed images of bodies on the ground and buildings destroyed in a city turned into a war zone.

The grim toll, if confirmed, would mark the bloodiest day of the 10-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with the United Nations Security Council to vote on Saturday on a resolution condemning the repression.

Protesters stormed Syrian embassies in Berlin, Athens, Cairo, Kuwait and London as the Syrian National Council opposition group called on the world to act to end a brutal campaign which activists say has killed at least 6,000 people since March.

“Assad forces randomly bombed residential areas in Homs, including Khaldiyeh and Qusur, which resulted in at least 260 civilians killed and hundreds of wounded, including men, women, and children,” said the SNC.

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