At first, it seems to make no sense. Britain is in the middle of the worst economic crash in recorded history, with a Chancellor who is famously keen on low taxes, spending control and sound money. But Rishi Sunak this week presented a Budget that seems inspired, in parts, by Labour’s last manifesto. Debt surging to £2.8 trillion. Public spending up by a quarter in a year. And taxes: soon going up. Corporation tax, freezes to the personal tax threshold.
Israel has the world’s attention, becoming the first country to achieve mass vaccination. What it does now may be followed worldwide. The first big development has been the use of immunity ID cards which give vaccinated Israelis access to gyms, indoor restaurants and — soon — holidays in Greece. Britain is preparing to follow suit, with Michael Gove considering UK vaccine certificates ahead of the great unlocking on 21 June.
There’s an ever shorter period now, it seems, between the emergence of any new medium and its energetic use for promoting hatred. And no one can accuse the young fans of militant Irish republicanism of not keeping up with the times: the proliferation of ‘IRA TikTok’ is a case in point.
The video-sharing network has inspired growing numbers of Irish-American and Irish youth — often those with ‘Up The Ra!’ in their TikTok profiles — to post clips of themselves clad in balaclavas, posing meaningfully with a fake gun, or mimicking planting a bomb by throwing a backpack under a car and racing away.
The French ‘grand’ journalist Éric Zemmour is among the most watched, provocative and frequently prosecuted writers in the country. He is now contemplating a piratical presidential challenge that could blow open next year’s presidential election.
A poll last month conducted for the news magazine Valeurs Actuelles says that Zemmour could win 13 per cent of the votes in the first round of the French presidential election.
A lot of nonsense is being written about Dilyn, the adorable Jack Russell owned by Boris and Carrie, a lookalike for my dog, Perry, now nearly 16. Is Dilyn the currently subdued Boris’s alter ego, one journalist wondered. We read that Dilyn allegedly humped Dominic Cummings’s leg, and at Chequers ‘mounted’ a stool made from the hide of an elephant shot by Teddy Roosevelt. He also peed on an aide’s handbag after she arrived at Downing Street for a meeting.
Buy when there is gunfire on the streets, goes the old adage. But could this be a case of the right time to buy being when there is, well, hardly anything happening on the streets?
Few investments have been as hard hit by Covid-19 as commercial property in central London. As shops and restaurants have been closed, and office staff made to work from home, landlords have struggled to collect their rent. In the six months to September, for example, Shaftesbury, which owns 600 buildings in the West End including 1.
For the past few weeks there’s been a 7 p.m. curfew in Barbados as part of what the government calls a ‘national pause’ (lockdown, essentially). I’m actually grateful because it’s been manic lately. The excitement started with the visit of Captain Sir Tom Moore in December. I was commissioned by a golfing group called the ‘Sandy Lane Swingers’ to write and perform a song, ‘Marching on to Victory’, at a charity lunch. It’s a jaunty tune, composed by my co-writer Jeremy Limb, with a singalong at the end.
Even before the first census was made in 1801, the plan was regarded with fear, hatred and ridicule. And this year, on 21 March, households have another chance to mock, embrace or ignore the census.
When parliament debated a bill in 1753 for an annual census, Matthew Ridley, MP for Newcastle, warned that his constituents ‘looked on the proposal as ominous, and feared lest some public misfortune or an epidemical distemper should follow’.