Emily Hill

Help! I’m trapped in a leasehold flat

Generation Rent, we are always being told, are fed up of having to pay ‘dead’ money to their landlords. The rate of home ownership among 35- to 44-year-olds plunged from 74 per cent in 2003 to 56 per cent in 2019. But no one should think they will necessarily be better off, or feel more in control of their destiny, if they succeed in taking the plunge and buying a home. They could end up like me. Notionally, I have become a home owner by virtue of buying a one-bedroom flat in an ‘affordable housing’ scheme in Wandsworth, south London. Yet I feel more like a serf who must pay

Banning journalists won’t solve Man United’s problems

Manchester United, a mess of a club on and off the field, has come up with a novel solution to its growing problems: banning journalists from asking its manager questions. The club has blocked a number of high-profile sports reporters from attending a press conference with Erik ten Hag ahead of Wednesday’s match against Chelsea at Old Trafford.   The banned journalists include Sky Sports’ chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol; Samuel Luckhurst, the chief Manchester United correspondent at the Manchester Evening News; Rob Dawson of ESPN, and David McDonnell from the Mirror. It remains unclear whether the ban applies for just one press conference or for all future briefings with the manager until

Bridge | 9 December 2023

As someone who gets anxious quite easily when faced with difficult bidding decisions (have I done too much? Or not enough? Will my partner be angry?), I admire players who just do what they feel is right without worrying. A refusal to be cowed by your opponents, or nervous about your partner’s reaction, is a great quality in bridge. One of the most confident and fearless players I know is Artur Malinowski, the manager of TGRs. If ever an auction demonstrated it, it’s this one from the recent World Bridge Tour teams tournament in Copenhagen – definitely a contender for my favourite hand of the year. Playing against the brilliant

Is it really un-Christian to listen to social media gossip?

‘Let’s get out of here,’ I whispered, almost in tears, as the priest finished his horrible homily. Standing at the altar in front of a stained-glass window showing Jesus with his arms outstretched, this priest was telling us all off for what had happened in Dublin, three hours’ drive away. I suppose we expected a bit of a lecture, going by the speeches about Palestine that we had been subjected to in previous weeks. We did so want to fit in by going to Mass, which had been noted by our Irish neighbours as a good thing. The priest told us how un-Christian we were being for listening to social

Lloyd Evans

The new status symbol of the super rich: headlice

To help out friends, I sometimes collect a boy from his primary school near Sloane Square. This part of London boasts the most expensive homes in Britain and the local families are served by a crop of ultra-pricey schools. The best known, Hill House, was founded in the 1940s by an eccentric army officer, ‘the Colonel’, who replaced the traditional blazers, caps and ties with a uniform of soft shoes, breeches and cravats inspired by George Mallory’s climbing kit. The Colonel’s wife chose the colours – red, brown and saffron – and the pupils became a local landmark as they marched along the King’s Road to play games at the

Gareth Roberts

Why Nella Rose was booted from I’m a Celeb

Farewell Nella Rose, second to be voted out of the jungle on the 2023 series of I’m A Celebrity…  As always, it’s hard (at least for a soft-hearted chump like me) not to melt and mellow when an evicted campmate returns to the real world via the recivilising medium of an Ant and Dec exit interview. And, though I can hardly believe it, Nella was my favourite campmate on day one.   Her decision to stir the pot by moving Sireix from chef duty to washing-up – out of pure spite for his criticism of her – was astonishingly selfish At the start the YouTuber seemed lively, funny, and refreshingly unconcerned

Nella Rose

What fiction can teach us about terrorism

The first decade of this century, following Al Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in September 2001, was something of a golden age for films about terrorism, a spate of them following in quick succession. In the light of Hamas’s 7 October mass-killing of innocent Israelis, it’s interesting and informative to watch one or two again – and see how the nature of terrorism changes little. We get the terrorist as preening popstar, surrounded by women, whose every act of violence is like the release of a new album A good place to start is Antonia Bird’s The Hamburg Cell (2004), which tells the story of the

Brendan O’Neill

The chilling link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

Isn’t it remarkable how similar anti-Zionism is to anti-Semitism? The latest proof of an intimate link between these two ideologies comes from Philadelphia. There, last night, a baying mob gathered outside a Jewish-owned restaurant to accuse the owners of being complicit in ‘genocide’. Guys, the 1930s called, they want their bigotry back. Last night’s protest was a genuinely vile affair. Actually, ‘protest’ is far too grand a name for this kind of gathering. It was more like a mini-pogrom, the noisy harassment of a restaurant for its sin of being founded by a Jew. The restaurant is called Goldie. It is owned by Mike Solomonov, an Israeli-born, Pittsburgh-raised, award-winning chef. ‘Goldie, Goldie, you

Ian Williams

How China weaponises its cuddly giant pandas

So Yang Guang and Tian Tian are on their way back to China. Rather like a pair of high-profile celebrities, the giant pandas travelled in convoy to Edinburgh airport this morning, with every detail of their last days in the UK scrutinised in dewy-eyed detail. They’re not travelling business class, not quite, but they do have specially constructed metal crates apparently complete with sliding padlock doors, bespoke pee trays and removable screens so the keepers accompanying them can check on them during the flight. ‘I think they’ll be fine. I’m sure they’ll have a safe journey,’ said Rab Clark, the zoo’s blacksmith, who built the crates. Arguably the giant panda,

Sam Leith

Newsnight’s fate is a bad omen for the BBC

Newsnight, we learned last week, is losing ten minutes off its running time, more than half its staff including its entire reporting team and is dropping its investigative films in favour of cheap ‘n’ easy studio-based debates.    The BBC’s news supremo Deborah Turness calls it ‘an important BBC brand’, but said ‘we’ve made the decision to reformat Newsnight as a 30-minute late-night news-making debate, discussion and interview programme’. She hasn’t quite taken the old captive bolt gun to it yet, then, but this sacred cow is definitely mooing anxiously as it makes its way down the slaughterhouse gangplank.   Newsnight has gone from being a must-watch to being the most missable programme on television I hate to say it, but: fair

Fraser Nelson

The thinking behind Rishi Sunak’s common sense Net Zero approach

Rishi Sunak has a new approach to Net Zero, defining himself against ‘zealots’ and acknowledging the side effects of proposed green taxes. He’s replacing the old, often hyperbolic precautionary-principle logic and bringing in the language of tradeoffs: stressing the importance of democratic consent and the futility of green taxes that voters will not accept and are likely to rebel against. The Prime Minister has just taken his case to the UN ‘Cop’ Climate Summit in Dubai and his short speech deserves more attention than it has received. The standard form, in such events, is for leaders to try to outdo each other in ‘dark green’ jeremiads and say ‘we’ must

Are people with Alzheimer’s being denied justice?

My mother, aged 75, has advanced Alzheimer’s. This is heart-breaking enough – she is now at a stage where she has terrifying visions, and keeps asking me, her only son, where her son Mark is. But twice in the past five years we have been denied justice in cases where people were suspected of taking advantage of mum because of her vulnerable state.  Until last October, mum was able to live with a modicum of independence with the help of care from a local authority team. Support workers came to visit twice a day, helping her with everyday essentials such as cleaning, eating, and shopping, and mum developed a real rapport with the team.

In defence of a ‘British culture’

From time to time, a would-be edgy Tweeter or columnist will shock us all by stating or suggesting that the boring white people who until the last third of the twentieth century made up almost the entire population of the United Kingdom, have no real culture to speak of. There is a twofold implication to this rhetorical ploy: that indigenous Britons should fall on their knees in eternal gratitude for the hitherto unknown liveliness and dynamism of the various diaspora communities who have made their homes here, and also that the demand that newcomers integrate into our way of life is meaningless because there is nothing into which the new

Putin’s ‘loyalty cards’ are a new low for his regime

Loyalty cards in the West are used by supermarket chains to influence our shopping habits. They are fortunately absent from our politics, and we can freely speak our minds about public affairs, history and morality. In Russia it is different. The Russian TASS news agency reported on Wednesday that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has prepared a mandatory ‘loyalty agreement’ for all foreigners entering Russia. Our supermarkets do not demand a personal declaration of loyalty, and our governments make no such requirement of visiting foreigners. But travellers to Russian parts will run into as yet unspecified trouble if they are thought to engage in ‘distorting’ the record of Soviet people

Why Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song is one of the strangest books ever

The 2023 Booker winner, Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song, is a vastly admirable book, but there is something deeply odd about it: it is a novel about a dystopian coup that takes down Ireland’s ‘liberal democracy’, not about the dystopian coup that was actually happening at the time it was written. By definition, most novels are stories rendered from imagined events, set in the past, present or future. But there are occasional examples that are fictionalised accounts of real events – almost always, by definition, from the past, and rather contradictorily termed ‘non-fiction novels’ – as well as imagined vistas from the future – almost always dystopias, most famously, George Orwell’s 1984.

Julie Burchill

The parasitic poisonousness of Omid Scobie

I don’t remember exactly when I first read about the ancient courtier role of Groom of the Stool, but it’s a fascinating business. Here’s Wikipedia to explain:  ‘The Groom of the Stool was the most intimate of an English monarch’s courtiers, responsible for assisting in excretion. The physical intimacy of the role naturally led to his becoming a man in whom much confidence was placed by his royal master and with whom many royal secrets were shared as a matter of course. It is a matter of some debate as to whether the duties involved cleaning the king’s anus, but the groom is known to have been responsible for supplying

The problem with climate protesting clergy

Received wisdom suggests that you would not expect a vicar to disrupt Divine Worship. Now, anybody who’s worked with the clergy up close will know that in this case, as in so many areas, received wisdom is wrong. Still, there was shock in news outlets and on social media this week when a gaggle of Christians, including clerics, disrupted Evensong at Chichester in the name of climate action.  Those clergy involved think they’re the children of the revolution when actually they’re the Primrose League Their general propensity for mischief aside, there should be absolutely no surprise at all that clergy were involved in this very particular protest. Clerics are predominately

When did publishers stop caring what their readers actually want?

It was easy to choose books for my young nieces and nephews this Christmas. First, I ruled out stories about boys who think they are girls, girls who dream of having their breasts removed, and pet rabbits unhappy at being misgendered. Then I rejected books telling toddlers how to be anti-racist and older children how to be allies to their black classmates. Feminist manuals on women who changed the world, all of which feature at least one woman who was actually male, went the same way as history books that divide the past into tales of victimised black people and evil white people. Worthy tomes about climate change, rising sea