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Katy Balls

Are any of the party leaders ready to be PM?

Since Rishi Sunak called the election last week, Tory MPs have been in a state of discombobulation. ‘It’s an absolutely crazy decision,’ pronounces a minister, after seven days of chewing it over. ‘It is the dumbest thing that has ever happened.’ To most Conservatives, every aspect of the campaign has seemed eccentric, even self-defeating –

The TikTok stars taking on the Tories

‘Sorry to be breaking into your usual politics-free feed,’ chirrups Rishi Sunak in his first-ever TikTok video. He is awkward, understandably. TikTok is enemy territory for the Tories. What most users learn about the Conservatives is usually damning, from left and right. ‘I think the Tory party deserves to die,’ says Jess Gill, who with

The heyday of the gay guardsmen

In 1943 the music critic Desmond Shawe-Taylor placed an advertisement in Exchange & Mart offering a pair of trooper’s breeches for sale. A number of men replied, one asking ‘Have they been worn by a trooper or just yourself?’, while another observed: ‘It is always good to see the boys pulling themselves into tight troopers

Putin’s purge of his top generals

In the past month, Vladimir Putin has had five top generals arrested on corruption charges. More are likely to follow in what looks like a gathering purge by the Federal Security Service (FSB). ‘There is a fierce clean-up under way,’ a source close to the Kremlin told the Moscow Times last week. ‘There is still

Could Ozempic bankrupt the NHS?

The NHS spends around £6.5 billion every year treating obesity. People who are overweight cost the health service twice as much as those who maintain a healthy weight. Half of all cancer cases are linked to obesity and being severely overweight significantly increases the risk of other conditions, such as diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.

Hell is a rented garden

For the past few years, I have been a joyful Chelsea Flower Show attendee. Every May, my phone’s photo album usually becomes stuffed with pictures of plants: variegated borders in shades of white and purple, hostas bursting from decorative pots, cornus trees providing shade over ground cover of miniature geraniums. I obsess over dahlias, clematis

The moon matters to China

China’s Chang’e-6 moon mission was launched on 3 May. It reached lunar orbit a few days later and began waiting for sunrise over its landing site on the moon’s far side. Chang’e-6 is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon and it will land on Sunday in a crater called Apollo – an ancient

Can the Tories avoid the fate of Canada’s Conservatives?

As the Conservatives edge closer to disaster in the general election, the hunt is on for a historical comparison. Tony Blair’s dispatching of John Major in 1997 was mild compared with what polls say could be in store. Those wondering how bad it could get should look to Canada in 1993, when a Conservative-majority government

Notes on...