Featured articles


Johan Norberg

The Covid trap: will society ever open up again?

The great pandemic of 2020 has led to an extraordinary expansion of government power. Countries rushed to close their borders and half of the world’s population were forced into some sort of curfew. Millions of companies, from micropubs to mega corporations, were prohibited from carrying on business. In supposedly free and liberal societies, peaceful strollers

The problem with fast-tracking vaccines

You have to admit it, Operation Warp Speed is a good moniker. It’s the name for the American interagency programme, initiated by the Trump administration, to produce 300 million doses of a safe vaccine for Covid-19 by January. Who couldn’t get behind this all-hands national effort to defeat the virus and end the pandemic, excitingly

Downside’s downfall: the dissolution of a monastery

The monks of Downside Abbey in Somerset elected a new abbot last Thursday, according to sixth-century rules laid down by St Benedict. The next day, they sent an email notification saying they had voted ‘to make a new start and to seek a new place to live’. It was a shock to those who know

The science of tennis grunts

The cancellation of Wimbledon this summer deprived fans of their annual exercise in moralising. There is one topic SW19-goers love to complain about every year: the grunting sounds that players emit as they hit the tennis ball. Maria Sharapova, who retired in February, was called the Queen of Screams. Her grunts were once recorded at

Government jobs don’t have to be in the capital

Boris Johnson has put a huge amount of stock in persuading reluctant civil servants to return to their desks in Whitehall. His campaign this week to get more people back to the office was tinged with the suggestion that those who were slow to return might be in danger of losing their jobs. This divided

Pilgrimage in the age of pandemic

To complete the Hajj is the pinnacle of Islamic worship, required once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey. In its 1,400-year history, the annual pilgrimage has been cancelled dozens of times, by wars, political strife and pandemics. As I found out when I made the journey, it is a

Why people have sex in graveyards

The oldest churchyard in Torquay is being used by people openly having sex and sunbathing nude in broad daylight. This was how it was reported in the local newspaper, of course — ‘broad daylight’ is a phrase that is only ever used by subeditors trying to make things sound more depraved. (Who sunbathes except in

Notes on...

The bliss of proper bread

I cannot claim the gift of prophecy, but early this year — before lockdown panic-buying and the warnings of a dire wheat harvest causing bread price rises — I became a bread-maker. I dug around on the internet for a good recipe for sourdough, and found one padded out with the usual bloggery and waffle.