High life

High life | 30 June 2016

The two most beautiful words in the history of the world, in any language, are ‘Molon labe’, the accent on the second syllable of both words, the ‘b’ pronounced ‘v’ in the second. These two little words were the laconic answer of King Leonidas of Sparta to the offer made by the great Persian king

Low life

Low life | 30 June 2016

On referendum day, my mother leaned on my arm for support and we walked slowly and carefully up the steps of the village hall, wondering if this was to be the last time either or both of us would be voting in a national plebiscite. Here again was the paper ‘Polling Station’ poster pinned to

Real life

Real life | 30 June 2016

We fled Balham after the result, having been outed as the only Leave voters in Lambeth. The builder boyfriend and I packed our possessions into the Volvo and headed for the safety of a friends’ house in Hampshire. ‘Come on, quick, leave the bloody third pair of wellies, just bring the essentials,’ said the BB

More from life

Long life | 30 June 2016

The Brexit vote has thrust this country into chaos. It has left it with neither a government nor an opposition and no clear purpose in the world. And if our country has been freed from the control of interfering continental bureaucrats, as the Brexiteers wish, the likely price of this achievement is the United Kingdom’s

Labour: my part in its downfall

A few weeks ago, I took part in a debate at the Cambridge Union about the future of the Labour party. I argued that a combination of factors, such as the decline of Labour’s working-class support, the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s near-universal backing for the EU, meant that Labour would struggle to

Wine Club

Wine Club 2 July

Much has been written about the tip-top quality of the 2015 clarets, the en primeur campaign of which is in full swing, and there are indeed some absolute belters to be had, but at a price. And while a fine vintage in one region rarely guarantees a fine vintage in another, 2015 was a glorious

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 30 June 2016

Q. The setting was dinner for 16 at one of Europe’s most civilised houses. Sitting on the right of the guest of honour (sixty-something) was a blonde beauty (twenty-something) who stared into social media on her iPhone for the entire first course. The crime was compounded by the light from the iPhone focusing on her


A summer evening with Cameron

Journalists are chronic exaggerators. Strong words are always being thrown away on trivial events. ‘Whitehall was shocked last night as a bitter new row broke out…’ Translation into truth-speak: ‘There was a certain amount of interest in some quarters of Whitehall yesterday as an exchange of memoranda between the department of string and the ministry

Mind your language


‘One referendum, two referenda,’ chanted my husband. ‘No, no, it’s a gerund. The English plural is referendums,’ interrupted Veronica, red in the face. It’s odd no one can agree — not about the politics, but about the word. Part of the trouble is that it’s newish, never used in English before 1817. Since then, like

The Wiki Man

A game of chicken with the electorate

I have worked in advertising for 28 years. In that time I have seen many briefs for communication campaigns, but none contained the line ‘It is important to insult the target audience, or at least treat them with barely disguised disdain.’ So I wonder whether the referendum result might have gone the other way had