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WHO knows? We still can’t be sure of Covid’s origins

Could Covid-19 have originated from a Chinese lab accident? When the virus was first identified, many pointed out that it was close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It sounded like a conspiracy theory. But it’s all too plausible. And there are questions that the long-awaited report by the World Health Organisation leaves unanswered. Only

Has the vaccine cured my long Covid?

Everyone has their own Covid-19 story, and here’s mine. I caught it in Marks & Spencer in late March last year, when 200 clearly deranged panic-buyers set about stripping the store of its every last ready meal. Web designers grasping the last known packet of Our Best Ever Prawn Cocktail, estate agents fighting over the

‘Spiritual but not religious’: the rise of consumerism in church

I was raised Christian and the more I’ve thought about it, the more curious something about my upbringing seems. My church was constantly denying it was ‘religious’. By any objective social–scientific measures, the community was decidedly religious. Maybe we weren’t that organised (there was no website), but we recited historic creeds, we submitted to the

The new opposition: an interview with Ed Davey

When Boris Johnson sought to extend the government’s emergency powers for another six months last week, he faced little opposition in the Commons. Rather than fight for parliament’s right to scrutinise the government, Keir Starmer told Labour MPs to vote with the Tories. There was only one party of opposition: the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey,

How should we tackle vaccine hesitancy?

As Britain celebrates its vaccination success, we’re in danger of missing something important. A great many people have been offered the vaccine, but have turned it down — and we hear very little about them. No. 10 briefings trumpet the numbers vaccinated in the past 24 hours but are silent on the numbers who have

The troubling history of Mormonism

The new three-part Netflix series Murder Among the Mormons is attracting big audiences, and deservedly so. Finally someone has made a major documentary about Mark Hofmann, the squeaky-voiced Mormon nerd who was both the most brilliant document-forger in history and a psychopathic murderer. In the early 1980s, the young Hofmann manufactured a series of documents

What Mormons like me really believe

As one of the 200,000 British members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my heart doesn’t leap when I hear about a new documentary made about us. Such films tend not to be flattering. But here’s the puzzle: if our faith is really based on nonsense, why is it growing? Why would

Britain’s travel ban brings risks of its own

No one knows for sure how many cars are on the road without insurance. The Motor Insurers Bureau puts it as high as one million, and a good number of these won’t have a valid MOT either. Come to think of it, many such uninsured cars without MOTs are likely to be in the hands

University challenge: conservatives are now the radicals on campus

On the letters page of the Sunday Times last month, the presidents of the Royal Historical Society and the Historical Association were among the signatories to a letter boldly headlined ‘History must not be politicised’. They were incensed by a rumour that government funding might be cut for the Colonial Countryside project, which looks at


The joy and suffering of writing a book

Spring is coming. There was snow in the garden till last week, here in Canada, where I have been spending this strange winter. But today the sky is shining blue and the sunshine is soft and warm. I guess this is what Easter is really about. Rebirth. I have spent months without going farther than

Notes on...

Is the adder slithering towards extinction?

In early April, when the chiffchaff sings its drab little song in the leafless hawthorns, something is stirring in the dead bracken. Having spent the winter months underground, one of our most fascinating creatures slithers into the weak spring sunshine: the adder. The emerging adders haven’t eaten for six months, but food is not on